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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Sunday - October 06, 2013

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

QUESTION:

We have St. Augustine in our front lawn. There are some patches where the grass has entirely died but mixed in with the dead areas are little clumps of living grass. It seems to be spreading throughout our lawn, slowly but surely. My husband has checked for grubs but found none. I'd love to send you a picture, if that is possible. Thanks for any advice!!

ANSWER:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown; in your case, Travis County, TX. Stenotaphrum secundatum (St. Augustine grass) is native to Africa and is therefore out of our realm of expertise.

We can, however, give you some unsolicited and perhaps unwelcome advice. Lose the lawn. On August 12, 2013 the New York Times ran an article: Arid Southwest Cities Plea - Lose the Lawn. We suggest you read it.

Specifically on the subject of St. Augustine grass, it sucks up water like a sponge, is susceptible to a number of insects and diseases, and is expensive to maintain. More and more of our correspondents are telling us they are so over lawns. Please also read this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on the same subject, and follow some more links in it. We realize we are repeating the same message over and over but everyone who watches the evening news on television knows that the weather report is going to include pictures of our shrinking lakes, which represent shrinking water supplies in Austiin. All of us long-time Texas gardeners share the hope that the next season will be a rainy one and break the drought. All us lifelong Texas natives know that it ain't necessarily so.

Think how smug and far-seeing you will be when the order to shut off the outdoor faucets permanently comes out and you already have a pleasant outdoor environment that does not need sprinkler systems.

 

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