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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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Thursday - May 02, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Xeriscapes, Diseases and Disorders, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Dying non-native St. Augustine grass from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Although we all know St. Augustine grass is not a good thing, I am stuck with it and am trying to save areas that appear to have take-all fungus. I have done much reading online and have tried peat moss in the areas of dead and dying grass to no avail. Do you have any other suggestions?

ANSWER:

From a previous Mr, Smarty Plants answer:

"More and more, we are encouraging gardeners to move away from grass or formal lawn, especially in drought-stricken Texas, and more especially, shady lawns. Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer that might point you in some good directions. From another Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

We would suggest you consider putting something else beneath those trees and perhaps embark on a process of xeriscaping. From eartheasy, here is an excellent article on Xeriscape. Obviously, you do not have to do every single thing suggested for xeriscaping, but you can start small and work your way up. Without knowing exactly what else is going on in your garden, we would suggest covering the offending roots and bare ground with a nice layer of mulch. Please read our How-To Article Under Cover with Mulch.

A good quality shredded bark mulch will make a nice cool surface for the ground, sheltering the tree roots from heat and the sun, discouraging weeds from sprouting and preserving moisture in the soil. It will tend to scatter or decompose, sinking into the soil and making it healthier, over time, but it's an easy fix to spread some more on the area. And it doesn't have to be mowed. We had one letter from a homeowner this week that said they were so over grass, and we feel, in this hot, dry climate, that may be a very good idea."

Since Mr. Smarty Plants only deals in native plants, we really can't help you with the fungus. If you live in an HOA that mandates a certain percentage of grass and/or St. Augustine you may have to see if you can get an exception. Spending time and money on a non-native that is probably not going to survive anyway doesn't help anyone. If you are having these problems others around you probably are, too. If you have at least 5 hours of sun on the lawn area, please read our information on Habiturf: The Ecological Lawn.

 

 

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