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Wednesday - December 15, 2010

From: Mount Pleasant , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grass-planting time in Mt. Pleasant, TX
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We are new to Texas and just finished building a house. The builder wants to seed the grass now (December). Will it germinate or will we have to replant in spring?

ANSWER:

Did your builder tell you what kind of grass seeds he is going to sow?  I suspect it is not a native grass and is one of the non-native rye grasses (Lolium spp.)—cool season grasses ready to germinate and grow rapidly through the fall and winter. There are warm season grasses and cool season grasses. Warm season grasses germinate in the spring and, since they are heat and drought tolerant, are generally green throughout the spring and summer.  They  begin turning brown in the fall and remain so throughout the winter.  Cool season grasses germinate in the fall and are green and growing throughout the winter and spring, but die back in the heat of summer. We do NOT recommend rye grass—Lolium perenne (perennial rye grass) or Lolium perenne ssp. multiflorum (annual rye grass)—because it is invasive and responsible for massive reduction of native wildflowers along roadsides.  Additionally, it is allelopathic (kills or inhibits the growth of other plants) which gives it a competitive edge.  There are a few cool season grasses native to northeastern Texas but they are generally slower growing than the non-native rye grasses.  They will do the job, but they won't be the lush green crop produced by the non-native rye grass. 

If your builder wants to sow Secale cereale (cereal rye) rather than rye grass, this would be a good time to sow since it is a cool season grass.  Like rye grass, cereal rye is non-native, but it is not invasive.  It will grow and hold the soil and can be mowed before it sets seed or be ploughed under to add nutrients to the soil in the spring when it is time to plant the warm season native grasses.  It could be used as a onetime measure to hold the soil until the native grasses are established. Warm season grasses, once established, would hold the soil through the winter.  You can find seed at Native American Seed in Junction.

I assume you are ultimately looking for a suitable grass for a lawn.  We recommend Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) as a native turf grass for your lawn.  It is a warm season native grass and its seeds should be sown in early spring when the soil temperature has warmed a bit. It will work where there are at least 6 hours of sunlight per day and the soil isn't sandy.  Please read our How to Articles, Native Lawns:  Buffalograss and Native Lawns:  Multi-species for information on planting and maintaining a native lawn.

If your lawn area has some shady spaces, sedges can be used as an alternative groundcover.  Here are a couple that would work in your area:

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge)

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)

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