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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 is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - July 30, 2007

From: Austin , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Invasive non-native Bermuda grass in lawns
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello Mr. Smarty Pants. My yard here in southwest Austin is the only lawn with Bermuda Tif 419 grass. I am surrounded by neighbors with St. Augustine. I upgraded to this hybrid Bermuda for a number of reasons - its high rate of recovery from heavy traffic, its lower water needs, and in my opinion, superior look and feel. (If it's lower water needs is true, I think that is something people in Texas should be looking at!) But anyway... which of the two grasses (Tif 419 or St. Augustine) would overrun the other, being they are right next to each other? Will pounding in a metal or fiberglass divider help keep them separated? Thanks for your wisdom!

ANSWER:

To begin with, neither Bermudagrass of any kind nor St. Augustine grass are native grasses. Both were imported as lawn grasses and Bermuda (which comes from Africa, not Bermuda), in particular, has become an invasive weed in both lawns and flower beds, especially in the South. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we recommend natives because they require less water and are more adaptable to the extremes of weather we experience. However, we also fully understand that many neighborhoods expect or require neatly mowed lawns and no native grasses will tolerate that kind of treatment.

Traditionally, landscapers have told customers that if the St. Augustine is properly watered and fertilized it would crowd out weeds. In actual experience, we have found that not only Bermuda grass but other weeds (which probably ARE natives and, therefore, pretty tough) can certainly thrive in a St. Augustine lawn. Because of the way grasses spread, both by above-ground stolons and below-ground rhizomes, metal or fiberglass dividers would probably be a waste of time and a nuisance when you mow. Your neighbors may not be thrilled that your Bermuda grass is invading their St. Augustine lawns, but in actual practice, the two grasses can co-exist pretty well. The St. Augustine will be stronger in the shade, and the Bermuda in the sun.

 

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