Create a Native Habiturf Lawn
THROUGH YEARS OF RESEARCH, the Wildflower Center developed a mixture of native turfgrass species, Habiturf®, that works well in dry regions of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. Currently, it is available as seed.
Habiturf is a dense and attractive native turf. It is soft to the touch and comfy on bare feet. It establishes quickly and, best of all, conserves precious resources once established. Our research shows it compares favorably to non-native turfgrass species in its ability to thrive with minimal watering and mowing.
Habiturf is a mix of Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (curly-mesquite). These native grass species need less mowing and watering and also replicate shortgrass prairies. Although the turf is a mix of grass species, these grasses have almost identically shaped leaves and color and produce a great-looking, even-textured, dense lawn that does well in full sun. In the growing season Habiturf® needs at least 6 hours of direct sun (see below for growing instructions). Habiturf is not suitable for high foot traffic areas, but fine for most yard lawns.
How to Install
Before you get started, here are a few things you definitely need to know:
- Habiturf requires a minimum of 6 hours of full sun during the growing season.
- Habiturf requires less water to maintain, but needs water to get established.
- Habiturf will need thorough and consistent weeding to get things started.
- Habiturf requires 6 inches of non-compacted, very well-drained soil.
- Habiturf is not suitable for high foot traffic areas — but fine for most lawns.
- Habiturf is low maintenance — it is not NO maintenance.
Find a sunny, well-drained spot with no moist areas. Through extensive field-testing, we know that Habiturf requires at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day during the growing season. Habiturf is not suitable for shade. If you have less than 6 hours of direct sunlight, consider other groundcover alternatives, such as Carex spp. (sedges) and Calyptocarpus vialis (horseherb).
A well-textured, very well-drained soil is essential for the establishment of deep roots and the long-term success of your Habiturf lawn.
- Rip, till or disk your soil to at least 8 inches (the deeper the better).
- Incorporate 1/2 inch of living compost with a low nitrogen and low phosphorus content into the top 3 inches of your prepared soil.
- DO NOT use tree bark, wood shavings or mulch, as grass will not grow in this.
- The soil surface should be finished to a fine granular texture and free from large stones.
- For every 1,000 square feet of lawn area, you will need three to four pounds of seed.
- Spring is the best sowing time once soil temperatures warm up (day time temperatures constantly above 85°F).
- Cast seed by hand or with a hand-cranked seed broadcaster.
- Rake seed into soil and press with your feet or garden roller to ensure good contact.
- Seed can be sown later in the growing season but will require more water; avoid sowing in late fall and winter (October through mid-March).
Irrigating and Weeding
- After sowing with Habiturf seed, the lawn area should be irrigated daily for the first 10 days, or under very hot, dry or windy conditions, for the first 15 days.
- Then, for the next month, it will need two soil-wetting (top 4 inches of soil) events per week.
- Then, for the remainder of the growing season (March – November), it will need two soil-wetting (top 6 inches of soil) events per month.
- In prolonged drought (say over 6 weeks in summer with no rain) irrigate (if allowed) once every 5 to 6 weeks. This will not trigger “green-up” but will keep the dormant turf alive.
- Remove weeds as they appear, before they become too established and go to seed.
- Mow only in the growing season, no later than mid-October.
- A 4-inch cut produces attractive, dense turf that resists weeds and light to moderate foot traffic.
- A 3-inch cut or less will damage your lawn’s health and will encourage weed invasion.
- Not mowing at all during the growing season will produce a longer turf (8 inches or so) with lower density. This may be acceptable depending on how you use your lawn.
- Allowing the grass to seed out once a year will help insure against drought, heavy foot traffic and weeds.
- After mowing remove half of the thatch produced that could shade out grass seed.
- As with non-native lawns, make sure adequate nitrogen is added during establishment — any sign of chlorosis (yellowing) or weak plants should be dealt with as soon as possible.
- For high-use lawns with children and/or pets, or on freely-draining soils, top dressing with a low-nutrient, living compost or compost tea in the fall plus aeration with a garden fork helps.
Warning about Weeds
- If you do not prepare the soil adequately, your lawn will suffer and you will get weeds.
- If you mow too often and too short, you will get weeds.
- If you over water, you will get weeds.
- If you over fertilize, you will get big weeds.