A mix of native turf grasses makes a great lawn: Less mowing, less watering, and less weeding.
Americans love their lawns. But most of them are non-native grasses like St. Augustine that succumbs easily to pests and disease, or bermudagrass that needs constant mowing and can be invasive, or Kentucky bluegrass that needs a lot of water. Non-native lawns require a lot of time and money to keep that 'velvet carpet' appearance which most of us enjoy. As a solution, Wildflower Center ecologist Mark Simmons has been leading research on a mixture of drought-adapted native grasses that cut down on mowing, watering, weeding and feeding. These fine-leafed species grown together form a dense lush lawn that takes less effort to maintain a lawn of mixed native turf grasses than a non-native lawn.
The study published in the science journal Ecological Engineering draws from knowledge that America's native grasslands include many turf grass species already adapted to our climate and able to coexist as a stable plant community. Put together in a multi-species mix, these native grass species can provide the same appearance and function as non-native monocultures, without requiring a massive input of weed killer and watering, and with much lower rates of mowing.
The HABITURF® grass mix is currently available for sale online from the Wildflower Center Store and may also be purchased from Douglas King Seeds. All of your purchases from the Store benefit the research and educational programs at the Wildflower Center.
The results from the Wildflower Center study have shown that the native HABITURF® seed mix outperforms Bermudagrass in terms of rates of establishment, thickness of the turf, mowing rates and weed resistance (see example graphs below).
Once established it only needs watering twice a month and can tolerate up over 50% shade. The grasses in the mix are prevalent in the Great Plains of North America, including Buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides), blue grama, (Bouteloua gracilis), and curly mesquite (Hilaria berlangeri) and others. Some other species in the current mix may be replaced in the future as we learn what works best for other areas in Texas and expand our study to consider alternative native seed mixes for use in different regions of the country.
The grass mix HABITURF® may be obtained from Douglas King Seeds. An article on how to prepare install and maintain this native lawn can be found here.