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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - February 07, 2012

From: Wimberley, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Planting, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Reseeding a dead lawn in Wimberley TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our new house had a sodded lawn that now appears dead. There remains a layer of sandy soil as a part of the sodding process. Is there a way to reseed these existing slabs of sod and what process would I need to follow. The lawn is basically shady/partial shade. I believe the original sod was bermuda or bermuda mix grass (now dead). Deer eat almost everything in our area incl. autumn sage, crown-of-thorns, cotoneaster, lambs ears, and ate the existing grass. Thanks for your advice.

ANSWER:

First, as we often do, we want to answer a couple of questions you didn't ask. If the existing grass was bermudagrass, it is a non-native listed as one of the most invasive weeds in the south. The other thing about bermudagrass is, it doesn't grow well or at all in the shade.

Next, on to the question of "who ate the grass?" Did you ever actually see deer grazing on the grass? Deer are basically browsers, preferring nuts, fruits and new young foliage to grasses, which grazing animals, like cows, will eat. This article from the Arkansas Game and Food Commission What Do Deer Eat? discusses deer eating habits and includes this sentence:

"Unfortunately, pasture plantings of fescue and bermuda grass have replaced many good native deer food plants."

When they say "unfortunately," it is because their audience is hunters who wish to attract deer, but it clearly indicates that deer don't do bermudagrass.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is all about the use of plants native not only to North America but also to the area in which the plants are being grown. The Center has recently developed a very fine native lawn grass called Habiturf that is a low water use that does very well in Central Texas. Please read our How-To Article on Habiturf, which includes information on how to plant and care for it. For more information, see our research results on Native Lawns.

To get back to your original question, no, we don't think you can just sprinkle seed over the existing dead sod. If only it were that easy. Another How-To Article in our arsenal is Native Lawns: Buffalograss. Buffalograss is one of the constituents in Habiturf, and its instructions on preparation of the soil and planting is the best we have seen.

 

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