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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Tuesday - February 05, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Xeriscapes, Groundcovers
Title: Grass installation with plugs from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

As much as I would love to use the seed mixture you suggest for Austin, I am not physically able to do the needed prep and was unable last year to get a professional. No one would even call me back when they learned what I wanted. Is there any grass I can install myself with plugs that is good for Austin? All I have now are weeds. My yards was totally ignored for many years before I bought the house. The Zoysia ads are enticing..

ANSWER:

We can definitely sympathize with you on grass installation; it can be very hard work, and a lot of maintenance. We are going to suggest that you forget the lawn and convert your space to a xeriscape. As we mentioned, lawns can be labor and maintenance intensive, costing a lot of money for water and fertilizer just to keep them alive.

First, let's deal with those weeds, which are no doubt going to contest mightily for the space with your grass or whatever you plant. From About.com Landscaping, here is an article on Solarization: An Easy Method for Killing Weeds. Although this sounds like a lot or work, we assume you are not dealing with dead trees or large shrubs, just a weedy space. This is a fairly complex solution, needs to be done in the summer when it's hot enough to fry the weeds and the roots, and isn't attractive while it's underway. But you will then be able to start with a clean slate, more or less.

From Bob Beyer, Travis County Master Gardener, here is an article on Dry Climate Landscaping.

We realize that all of our suggestions sound like a lot of work and expense, but they are all things you can do gradually, replacing the (hopefully dead) weeds with decomposed granite, and small beds of succulents or other plants that do well in our climate. The point is that grass of any kind is going to be difficult to plant, difficult to pay for the water to maintain it and difficult to keep alive in Austin.

 

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