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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 - June 10, 2014

From: Fayetteville, AR
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Advice about buffalo grass lawn in NW Arkansas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am determined to grow a native buffalo grass (bouteloua) lawn in Northwest Arkansas. My question is this: I am considering mixing an annual rye into the bouteloua seed mix for the purpose of quick, temporary growth. My thought is the annual rye will help the slower-germinating bouteloua seeds stabilize. The annual rye should die off and allow the bouteloua to thrive. Any ideas? Thanks LBJWFC! You guys are terrific.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants loves compliments!   Thank you!

Now consider this—if you plant the annual rye and it blooms to make seeds, those seeds are going to fall on your lawn and next spring will sprout to form more annual rye year after year.  In addition to that, the rye grasses (Lolium spp.) are not native to North America and are considered "invasive" in many areas.  Also, since they are "cool season" grasses, they are not likely to come up well at this time of the year.  Please see the answer to a previous question about using them for lawn turf. 

Next, I think you need to visit the USDA Plants Database to look for the distribution of Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) in Arkansas.   On the USDA Plants Database page for buffalograss you can click on Arkansas on the map to see that Washington County is not included in its distribution.  If you click on Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, you will see that none of the counties in those states that are near northwestern Arkansas show buffalograss there. I suspect your average yearly rainfall (45.51 inches/year according to US Climate Data) is high enough that weeds are going to out compete the buffalograss and it would be a constant struggle to maintain an attractive turf.  So, I can't in good conscience recommend that you to try to grow buffalograss in northwest Arkansas.  However, if you haven't read our How to Articles, Native Lawns: Buffalograss and Native Lawns: Habiturf™ – Ecological Lawns, I recommend that you read both articles. 

The University of Arkansas Department of Agriculture has an article, Choosing a Grass for Arkansas Lawns, that includes an assessment of two native grasses—buffalograss and Kentucky bluegrass—for Arkansas.  Unfortunately, the grasses that they rate most highly are non-natives. 

There are a couple of possibilities for native lawns that are likely to thrive in Washington County, Arkansas.   First of all, there is Poa pratensis (Kentucky bluegrass).  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.  You can also read the assessment by the University of Arkansas Department of Agriculture mentioned above.

You might also consider using sedges.  Here is an article by John Greenlee from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden "Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape".  Here is another article from Organic Gardening about using sedges as lawns and here are some sedges that occur in Washington County, Arkansas:

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)  Here is more information from Illinois Wildflowers.

Carex retroflexa (Reflexed sedge)  Here is more information from Plants Delight Nursery in North Carolina and Blooming Advantage in Oregon.

Carex albicans (Whitetinge sedge)  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Carex crinita (Fringed sedge)  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Carex flaccosperma (Thinfruit sedge)  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Carex granularis (Limestone meadow sedge)  Here is more information from Illinois Wildflowers.

 

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