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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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Thursday - September 28, 2006

From: Wimberley, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Watering, Drought Tolerant, Turf
Title: Environmentally friendly and drought resistant alternatives to St. Augustine grass
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

As a member of the planning committee of our property owners association in Wimberley TX, we are researching ways to make our landscape environmentally friendly and drought resistant. We have 60,000 to 70,000 sq. ft. of St. Augustine that has to be watered, along with landscaping plants. Where do we start? Is there anyone who could come out and take a look at the property and help with this plan?

ANSWER:

First, I suggest that you replace as much of your turf area as possible with wildflower meadows. With a careful selection of native grasses and spring-blooming, summer-blooming and fall-blooming wildflowers, you can create an area that is attractive year-round and requires a minimum of water and care. See the article, "Wildflower Meadow Gardening", in our Native Plant Library.

For those areas that must be maintained as turf, there are native alternatives to St. Augustine grass. Again, in the Native Plant Library, see the article, "Native Lawns", with instructions on how to install and maintain a buffalo grass lawn. Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) requires little water or mowing and thrives in sunny areas. Another possibility is a sedge (Carex spp.) lawn. Of the five sedges named in the article, "Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape", Meadow sedge or Texas Hill Country sedge is native to Hays County. Another sedge native to Hays County that should do well is Cedar sedge (Carex planostachys). Sedges grow well in shade.

The Kerrville Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas has an excellent list, Native Plants for Landscaping in the Texas Hill Country, with notes on size, rate of growth, deer resistance, and cultural requirements for each plant. The list offers recommendations in several categories of plants, including: Grasses, Vines, Ferns, Tree and Shrubs, Perennial Wildflowers, Annual Wildflowers and Cacti and Succulents.

Our National Suppliers Directory lists "Landscape Professionals" in your area who specialize in landscaping with native plants. You might also contact the Hays County Extension Office to get information about the Hays County Master Gardeners Association who might be able to assist you.

 

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