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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 - October 02, 2012

From: Smithville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Drought Tolerant, Turf
Title: Drought-resistant and grub-resistant grass for Smithville TX
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I want a drought resistant grass for a sunny area that is also resistant to grubs. I have lots of grubs but want a healthy soil of good microbes. Any ideas? Zoysia, Buffalo? I noticed that Tech Turf requires grub killer every spring. I want to get away from the chemical products as much as possible.

ANSWER:

The City of Austin's Grow Green Earth-wise Guide to Lawn Problems lists St. Augustine, bermuda, zoysia and buffalograss as being susceptible to grubs.  Their recommendations for controlling them includes mowing high and doing effective watering.  They recommend a non-chemical method for getting rid of them by applying nematodes to feed on the grubs.  You can read an article from Texas A & M AgriLife Extension "White Grubs in Texas Turf Grass" that gives more information on controlling them without the use of pesticides including the use of nematodes and the use of spiked shoes for aerating the soil.  Both methods have claims of eliminating as much as 50% of the grubs.  It sounds as if you are sure you have grubs.  This article from TAMU and the one from the City of Austin tells you how to test for them.  The City of Austin article also tells you symptoms of other lawn grass diseases that can be confused with a grub infestation.

Of the grasses you mention in  your question, only buffalograss is native to North America.  Since the mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is "to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes" our recommendation for a turf/lawngrass would only be native grasses.  Specifically, I would recommend you plant a mixture of native grasses developed at the Wildflower Center called Habiturf™.  Habiturf™ is a mixture of Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (Curly mesquite grass).  Even though buffalograss is susceptible to grubs this mixture of three short native turf grasses has many advantages over non-native turf grasses including the ones you mention in your question.  The major advantages are that after it is established it requires very little water, infrequent mowing and no fertilizer.  You can read our How to Article, Native Lawns:  Habiturf™ – The Ecological Lawn on how to install and maintain it.  Douglass King Co. in San Antonio carries Habiturf™ and Native American Seed in Junction carries a similar mixture called Thunderturf.  You can use the fall and winter to prepare your lawn for planting the grass seeds in the spring since you will need to remove other grasses and any weeds growing in the site.  Native American Seeds has an article, Planting Tips for Native Grasses, that suggests a method to get rid of the old vegetation and prepare the soil for the new seeds.  Be sure to watch the video on the Habiturf: Ecological Lawn page.

 

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