By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Buffalo grass is low maintenance and tough as a turf grass. The plant is a perennial native to the Great Plains from Montana to New Mexico. The grass spreads by stolons and was first used as a turf grass in the 1930s. The plant has a history of being expensive and hard to establish but planting buffalo grass from the newer cultivars have minimized these traits. With a few buffalo grass planting tips, you will be on your way to an adaptive and flexible lawn.
Buffalo grass is native to North America. What is buffalo grass? It is the only native grass that is also useful as a lawn grass. Buffalo grass lawns are warm season turf which are drought tolerant with better cold resistance than other warm season grasses. The grass is quite tolerant of a range of conditions and establishes with seed, sod or plugs. As an extra bonus, care of buffalo grass is minimal and mowing is infrequent.
As a wild plant, buffalo grass is an important range and pasture plant used by native and domestic grazers. It is a warm season grass that goes brown and dormant in fall when cold temperatures arrive and only awakens in spring as the air and soil warm up. Its busiest growing period is between May and September.
The plant forms a fine turf with bluish green color 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm.) high. The blades are slightly curly and the flowers are both pistillate and staminate. Plants root at internodes on the stolens. Buffalo grass lawns are very adapted to low moisture areas. Newer cultivars are resistant to weeds and require even less watering than the traditional buffalo grass.
The ideal time to sow buffalo grass is in April or May. You may start it from seed or sod. Sod is generally made up of female plants to keep the spiky male seed heads from making an appearance. Seeded lawns will have both male and female plants.
Broadcast seed at the rate of 4 to 6 pounds (1.8-2.7 kg.) per 1,000 square feet. With good moisture, this rate will achieve good cover in just a few months. Plugs are planted on 6 to 24 inch (15-61 cm.) centers, 2 ½ inches (6 cm.) deep. Sod must be moist before it is rolled out.
A crucial buffalo grass planting tip is to keep any area, whether it is seeded, plugged or sodded, evenly moist as the grass establishes, but avoid sogginess.
This is a low maintenance turf and over babying it will actually cause it to lose vigor. Fertilize in spring with 1 pound (.5 kg.) of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Feed the turf again in June or July with the same rate.
Water needs are minimal. The grass needs just a moderate amount of moisture per week. Mow once per week to a height of 2 to 3 inches (5-7.6 cm.) for a healthy lawn.
Because buffalo grass is not a thick turf, it tends to get weeds. Use a weed and feed at fertilizing time and hand weed when possible to remove competing pest plants.
This article was last updated on
Richard L. Duble, Turfgrass Specialist
Texas Cooperative Extension
Text and images copyright © Richard Duble.
Native lawns in Texas often display the fine, curly, blue-green leaves of buffalograss, curly mesquite, grama and needlegrasses. Of these, buffalograss produces the most uniform and attractive turf.
Buffalograss, Buchloe dactyloides , is a perennial grass native to the Great Plains from Montana to Mexico. In Texas, it is commonly found from South Texas to the Texas Panhandle but is rarely found on the sandy soils in the eastern part of the state or in the high rainfall areas of southeast Texas. It is one of the grasses that supported the great herds of buffalo that roamed the Great Plains. Buffalograss also provided the sod from which early settlers built their houses.
Buffalograss is, perhaps, our only truly native turfgrass. Its tolerance to prolonged droughts and to extreme temperatures together with its seed producing characteristics enables buffalograss to survive extreme environmental conditions. Overgrazing and, in the case of turf, over use or excessive traffic are the pressures that lead to the deterioration of a stand of buffalograss.
Buffalograss spreads by surface runners, or stolons, and seed. It forms a fine textured, relatively thin turf with a soft blue-green color. It does not possess underground stems, or rhizomes. Buffalograss is also destroyed quite readily by cultivation. For these reasons, it can be readily removed from flower beds and gardens.
Description . Buffalograss is a low growing, commonly only 8 to 10 inches high, warm season perennial grass. Individual leaf blades may reach 10 to 12 inches in length, but they fall over and give the turf a short appearance. Buffalograss has a stoloniferous growth habit, curly leaves, and both staminate and pistillate flowers. Staminate (male) plants have 2 to 3 flag-like, one-sided spikes on a seedstalk 4 to 6 inches high. Spikelets, usually 10, are 4 mm long in two rows on one side of the rachis.
Pistillate (female) plants appear very different from the staminate plants. Pistillate spikelets are in a short spike or head and included in the inflated sheaths of the upper leaves. The thickened rachis is woody and surrounded by the outer glumes. The glumes together with the lemma and palea form a bur-like enclosure for the mature seed.
Both male and female plants have stolons from several inches to several feet in length, internodes 2 to 3 inches long, and nodes with tufts of short leaves. Plants often take root at the node and produce new shoots. Each plant propagates vegetatively its own kind, and only rarely are both male and female flowers produced on the same plant. Commonly each kind of plant is found in patches some distance apart.
Female Plant (left), male plant (right) bur or seed (insert)
As buffalograss and curly mesquite are both low growing, stononiferous grasses with curly leaves, some difficulty may be encountered in distinguishing them. If the grasses are not in flower, they can be identified by their nodes and internodes. Nodes of buffalograss are smooth, and those of curly mesquite are villous. Also, the internodes of buffalograss are quite short (less than 3 inches) while those of curly mesquite are quite long.
The production and utilization of buffalograss is hampered by poor germination of the seed, or bur. It has been suggested that poor germination is due to the mechanical restraint imposed on the embryo by the tough enclosing outer glumes. The fact that seed extracted from the bur readily germinate is cited as evidence of inhibitor substances in the glumes that delay germination of the seed.
Adaptation and Use . Buffalograss is found throughout the Great Plains from Mexico to Montana. In Texas, buffalograss is commonly found from the south central region westward to El Paso and north to the High Plains and Rolling Plains. It favors the heavy clay soils in moderate to low rainfall areas. Buffalograss is rare in the sandy soils of east Texas and the high rainfall areas of southeast Texas.
When buffalograss is planted in high rainfall areas or when it is irrigated and fertilized, bermudagrass and other weedy grasses invade a stand of buffalograss. Buffalograss is best adapted to low rainfall areas (15 to 30 inches annually) or areas that receive thorough, but infrequent irrigation.
Buffalograss is not adapted to shaded sites or to sites that receive heavy traffic. Also, under intensive management bermudagrass and other more aggressive grasses tend to replace buffalograss in the lawn.
Roadsides, school grounds, parks, open lawn areas, golf course roughs and cemeteries are good sites for buffalograss in central, west and north Texas. Buffalograss is particularly well suited for sites to be planted to bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers since it produces a relatively open, thin turf and requires little mowing. It is the ideal grass for those wanting a "native" landscape.
Establishment . Buffalograss can be established from seed (burs) or sod. Buffalograss established from seed develops into patches of male and female plants, with the male plants producing the seedstalks that may appear unsightly in lawns. When planting buffalograss vegetatively, female plants are generally selected since they do not produce the taller seedstalks. Prairie and 609 buffalograsses are female plant selections released by the Texas andNebraska Agricultural Experiment Stations in 1990. They produce a more dense and uniform turf than common types. Prairie and 609 buffalograsses must be established from sod or sod plugs.
When planting seed, seed treatment, seeding rate and date of seeding are important considerations. Treated seed, seed chilled at 5 to 10 degrees for 6 to 8 weeks or treated chemically to break dormancy, have a much higher germination rate (80% to 90%) than untreated seed (20%). For spring and summer plantings, treated seed should be planted.
April and May are the best months to plant treated buffalograss seeds as temperatures are favorable and moisture is generally adequate. With irrigation the planting date can be extended into July and August.
Fall plantings of untreated buffalograss seed are also successful, but maximum germination does not occur until the following spring.
Treated seed planted in May will germinate in 7 to 10 days if moisture is adequate. Without irrigation the seed will remain dormant until moisture is favorable. Seed planted in dry conditions without irrigation should be drilled inch into a well prepared seedbed. Seed broadcast on the surface may germinate when little or no subsurface moisture is present to sustain the young seedlings.
Seeding rates may range from less than 0.5 pounds of seed per 1,000 sq. ft. to 4 to 6 pounds, depending on the method of planting and the time available to obtain a cover. Seeding rates are generally much higher for broadcast seeding on the soil surface than for that drilled in rows into the seedbed. Buffalograss seed drilled in rows at 10 to 20 lbs. per acre will produce a complete cover in one growing season with favorable moisture conditions. With no irrigation, broadcast seedling rates of 1 to 2 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. may require several seasons to develop a complete cover. In contrast, broadcast seeding rates of 4 to 6 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. will cover in several months with adequate moisture.
For sites that cannot be irrigated during establishment, recommended seeding rates would be 0.5 lb. per 1,000 sq. ft. if drilled and 2 to 4 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. if broadcast. If irrigated, areas could be planted at ° the rate recommended for nonirrigated sites. All of the seeding rates are for planting treated seed in late spring and summer for lawns, golf courses or other well maintained areas of turf. Roadsides, parks and other low maintenance areas can be planted at 10 to 20 lbs. of seed per acre.
Fall plantings using untreated seed should be at rates of 2 to 4 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn or turf area. Significant germination should not be expected until the following spring or summer when moisture is favorable.
Buffalograss can be established from pieces of sod or sod plugs not less than 2 inches square. These should be planted on a well prepared seedbed in about 18-inch rows. Plants can be spaced anywhere from 6 inches to 2 feet apart, depending on how quickly a complete cover is desired. The closer they are spaced, the sooner the ground will be covered. In digging up material for planting care should be taken to keep the roots moist as the plants die very quickly when the roots get dry. When planting, dig a hole deep enough to set the plants in so that the grass is above ground level. If the pieces of sod are covered with soil, they will die. The soil should be packed around the plants. Planting is best done in moist soil or where irrigation is available. The grass should be planted in early fall, spring or early summer, when moisture is favorable. Plants should be well watered after planting and as needed for several weeks, thereafter.
Management . Buffalograss is only recommended for low maintenance, low use turfgrass areas. It does not persist where use is intensive. Consequently, only minimum maintenance practices are required to keep a buffalograss turf.
Mowing height and frequency depend on the use of the site. In lawns, buffalograss can be mowed at heights of 2 to 3 inches. At the shorter heights weekly mowing may be required to keep a buffalograss turf.
On irrigated golf course fairways, buffalograss is mowed weekly at inch. Without irrigation, it is mowed only as needed at a 1 inch height. In rough areas on golf courses, buffalograss is mowed only as needed at the heights between 2 and 3 inches.
Buffalograss does not need fertilization, but it will respond to light applications of nitrogen. Nitrogen fertilization should not exceed 2 lbs. of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. per year. If bermudagrass is undesirable in the lawn, avoid nitrogen fertilization.
With irrigation, buffalograss will remain green throughout the spring and summer. One inch of water per week is adequate to maintain a green buffalograss turf. Without irrigation, buffalograss will turn brown and dormant during the dry summer months. As with fertilization, excessive water promotes bermudagrass encroachment.
Prairie Buffalograss Licensees
Crenshaw Turf Farms
P.O. Box 950
Contact: Kelly Hensley
H Bar H Turf Farms
Rt. 2, Box 10
Amarillo, Texas 797101
Contact: Amy Smith
Milberger Turf Farms
Rt. 1, Box 229
Bay City, Texas 77414
409/245-8175 or 245/7521
Contact: Arthur Milberger
Rt. 1, Box 68
El Campo, Texas 77437
Contact: Glenn Rod
Thomas Brothers Grass Company
Rt. 3, Box 487
Granbury, Texas 76048
Contact: Ike Thomas
Trinity Turf Nursery
P. O. Box 811
Pilot Point, Texas 76258
Contact: Doug O'Connor
Wharton Turf-Grass, Incorporated
Wharton, Texas 77488
Contact: Charles Davis
Till the top 2 to 3 inches of the soil with a tiller or a garden rake.
Pick up any rocks, branches or other debris that the tiller turned up.
Rake the entire seedbed to help level out high and low spots and remove any clumps of dirt larger than 1 inch in diameter.
Apply fertilizer to the area with a drop or broadcast spreader. Follow package directions for the amount of fertilizer to spread a typical application for new lawns uses 2 1/2 pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn.
We’ll talk about a few of the best grasses for homes with dogs in a minute, but first, we want to explain the characteristics that give these grasses an edge.
Some of the primary things you want to look for include:
Last Updated: August 6, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Matt Bowman. Matt Bowman is a Gardener and the Owner of the Tradition Company, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Since 2006, Tradition Company provides car washing, lawn care, property maintenance, pressure washing, maid services, firewood delivery, and Christmas trees. With over 20 years of gardening experience, Matt specializes in organic vegetable gardening and general gardening practices. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Georgia.
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Everyone wants a perfect lawn. What's better than looking out your front door and seeing lush, green grass? You don't need to be a landscape artist to have the lawn of your dreams. Whether you start from seed or sod, it all comes down to proper planning and good soil.
A special note to our Australian friends: The type of grass that Aussies refer to as Buffalograss is a completely different grass type than what is referenced on this page. What Australians refer to as Buffalograss is called St. Augustinegrass in the U.S.
All buffalo grass varieties spread by the production of stolons. Stolons are above ground stems that grow horizontally along the ground and root at the nodes forming new plants.
Buffalo grasses are dioecious- meaning they have male and female flowers that become the seed. Male plants form on long stalks and are impossible to miss. It is the first thing you notice with buffalo grass. Some people find the stalks objectionable. The female seed is hidden farther down in the grass. Varieties developed from the female plants will generally produce grass without visible stalks. The female varieties cannot be started from seed and must be planted as plugs or sod. It is the more sought after turf for home lawns.
Native grasses and the older cultivars are gray-green to blue-green in color. Their low density makes the older varieties less desirable for home lawns. Maximum growing height is about 8 to 12 inches and are used primarily as forage grass, ground cover for right of ways and hill sides, and as a prairie grass.
Below are a few considerations when choosing buffalo grass:
The main disadvantage is that its adaptation range is somewhat limited. The grass originated in the drier climate of the Great Plains states and will do best in areas with similar conditions. Therefore, its primary range will be in the western states starting in West Texas to California to the southern portions of Western Canadian Provinces. Moderate to high rainfall areas are generally not compatible with most varieties.
(The photo shows winter dormant buffalo grass.)
The growing season is somewhat short, especially for northern regions. It survives the cold by going dormant. Southern varieties that remain green longer into the fall are not as adapted for colder regions and will suffer winter damage. Varieties developed to go dormant more quickly into the fall have better cold tolerance and survive winters better.
It still remains that buffalo grass, even the turf-types will not become as thick as some other grasses. If you are looking to have a grass as thick as zoysia, for example, you should probably not choose buffalograss.
Different varieties will have different adaptation ranges, turf quality and appearance. Some varieties can handle the extremely cold weather of the northern plains and even into Canada. Others cannot. The best advice is to be sure you know how a variety will perform where you live to save yourself troubles down the road. Check with your County Extension Office for help choosing the best grass for your location.
Overview on Cultivars
Turf-type buffalo grass is fairly new to the market and research is still ongoing. The most recent varieties of buffalo grass can be considered a high quality lawn grass. Depending on the variety, colors will vary from gray-green to very dark green. Some were developed as a sports turf, including golf greens, while others were specifically developed as a high quality lawn grass. Below are a few of the most popular varieties.
"Texoka", "SharpвЂ™s Improved", and "Bison" Varieties: While these are improved seeded varieties, they are best suited for roadsides, right of ways, and as ground cover. They are not the best choices for lawns. They will not form the thick turf that most homeowners expect.
This was the first Buffalo Grass released as a true "turf grass" variety. It forms a beautiful blue-green turf. Many of the qualities are found in other varieties as well. Below are more Prairie characteristics.
The variety called 609 is an improved variety that makes a beautiful lawn. It was once the top buffalo grass variety, but other varieties have now surpassed it. It is used on golf courses to home lawns. It has many of the qualities of Prairie.
Much the same as 609 variety except 315 is better adapted for the colder northern states. Turf quality may be slightly better than 609.
Developed by the University of Missouri, at Columbia, Mobuff was developed for better cold hardiness than the popular Prairie or 609 varieties. Other characteristics include:
MoBuff, like most other varieties, is best suited for arid or semi-arid climates. Even though it was developed in Missouri to survive Missouri winters, Missouri can get a lot of rain and the grass tends to decline in wet years.
Important Note on MoBuff: The rights to MoBuff was purchased by Clark Brothers Seed Company in Clinton, MO. However, Clark Brothers is no longer in business, therefore, MoBuff is not currently in production. Maybe someone will purchase the rights and produce MoBuff again.
"Legacy" Variety (For Northern States)
Legacy has established the current top variety in northern states and southern Canada. It forms a thick, beautiful, dark blue-green turf. Below are more advantages of Legacy buffalo grass.
"Prestige" Variety (For Southern States)
Starts vegetatively, Prestige is the current benchmark for southern lawns. Prestige is similar to Legacy, (described above) but is slightly darker green in color. Its very fine, soft blades make an excellent lawn. Best adapted for lawns in southern and southeastern states, it will likely suffer winter damage in northern locations. Prestige will grow to a height of 4 to 6 inches.
Buffalo grass is well-known for its low nitrogen requirement. Mature grasses do well with two or three fertilizations of no more than 1 to 2 lbs nitrogen per year per 1000 sq. ft. However, newly seeded lawns or grass just starting from plugs will need slightly more until it becomes established. Lawns that are fertilized with 2 lbs will be thicker than those using only 1 lb of nitrogen. Click on the link for help understanding the numbers on a fertilizer bag and calculating fertilizer rates.
Low maintenance areas can be fertilized with one pound of nitrogen at green up in the spring. For high maintenance sports turf or for the best lawn quality, you should apply a second application in mid summer. Use a slow release summer fertilizer.
Organics are great for buffalo grass because of its slow release nitrogen and generally low nutrient content making if more difficult to over fertilize. In addition, most organic forms of fertilizer have a low burn potential and do not have to be watered in after application.
Over-fertilizing buffalo grass is well-known to weaken the plant causing it to decline. It is the same with over-watering. It is best to avoid the common mistake of thinking more is better when applying fertilizer.
The newest varieties form a thick turf, but older varieties tend to be less dense, so you can expect a certain level of weed problems. It is important to try to keep the weeds down until the grass thickens and matures. Application of a preemergent to prevent undesirable lawn grass seed and weed seeds from germinating is advised when starting from plugs. Do not use a preemergent if you are starting your lawn from seed or it can keep your buffalo grass seed from germinating. Post emergent broadleaf weed control can be used after the first cutting or as directed on the herbicide label.
Buffalo grass is a low water user that requires approximately .25 (1/4) to .5 (1/2) inch of water each week. Its water requirement is one third to one half that of other lawn grasses. In fact, over-watering will actually cause the grass to decline.
On the down side, its low water requirement can limit the adaptation range of this native species. Areas that receive more than 25 to 30 inches of rain each year may begin to see a decline in density. Some varieties may tolerate more water than others. Excessive moisture over a period of time may actually kill the grass. However, for these very reasons, buffalo grass is a perfect match for drier climates.
Starting a Buffalo Grass Lawn
Before starting a lawn from buffalo grass seed, it is best to prepare the soil first. Use this time to correct any soil or nutrient problems as stated on a soil test. Keep in mind that older varieties do not produce a thick turf that many homeowners are looking for. However, if your goal is to restore native grasses to your property, you should be fine.
If you want to completely change over to a buffalo grass lawn you will need to kill all the existing grass first. Products such as Rodeo or Round-up are non-selective and kill all the grass it comes in contact with. Hillsides are more challenging to establish quality grass. It is not always advisable to kill the current grass first on hillsides before planting. Bare soil is more susceptible to erosion.
Do not overseed buffalo grass with a cool season grass in the fall.
Spread from 1 to 6 lbs of seed in most situations depending on the variety, its use, and how quickly you would like it to fill in. Only about 1 to 2 lbs per 1000 sq. ft. are needed on hillsides. It may take a few years, possibly overseeding each year, to establish a good stand of buffalo grass.
For lawns, spread 4 to 6 lb per 1000 sq. ft. The buffalo grass seeds will need to be covered with ВЅ inch of soil for best results. It is okay to apply a starter fertilizer at the time of seeding, but do not use a fertilizer that includes a pre-emergent. It will prevent your lawn seed from germinating.
For sod, prepare and level the soil. Make sure you pick up any rocks, sticks, or other material before the sod is put down. Lay down sod carefully and use a lawn roller to help sod make good contact with the soil.
Until the roots on the sod start to grow, the sod will only receive water you give it, unless it rains. It is important to water lightly and frequently until the roots start to penetrate the soil. When this happens cut back on the frequency of watering, but irrigate deeply to promote deeper reaching roots.
If using plugs, place plugs in rows on 1 ft. centers being sure the roots are well covered with soil. The grass will begin spreading by producing stolons that reach out in all directions. It is recommended that you use a fertilizer with a pre-emergent mixed in after all the plugs have been placed. The preemergent will help keep wild grass seeds from germinating while the grass thickens. Be sure to water the plugs thoroughly. For the first couple of weeks until the roots develop further, make sure the soil doesnвЂ™t dry out too much, especially in high temperatures. Apply a slow release fertilizer equaling approximately one pound of nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft. For help understanding and applying the correct fertilizer amount, see Lawn Care Academy's Fertilizer Section.
A great thing about buffalo grass is that it requires less mowing than many other grasses. The maximum height for several turf varieties are in the 4 to 6 inches range, which means it is less likely to ever get out of hand. This means you will not have to mow but twice a month. You can take a longer vacation and not worry.
Sports turf varieties can handle low mowing down to 1/2 inch. These varieties are not recommended for home lawn. It takes experience and special equipment to prepare the soil so it is perfectly level and rock free. At only 1/2 inch tall even small rocks will become serious problems for mowers.
Most home lawns will do well at mowing heights of two or more inches. In addition, grass that is maintained at higher mowing heights develop deeper roots than low cut grass. Deeper roots are better able to handle heat and drought stress and require less frequent irrigation.
Buffalo Grass Disease Problems
Fortunately, Buffalo grass is relatively disease free, but occasionally can suffer from a few lawn diseases. The most common diseases encountered are listed below:
Brown patch is a late spring and summer disease. It requires temperatures above 80 degrees and high moisture to activate the disease. Areas of high humidity will experience the most problems. Try to refrain from watering in the late evening or at night where soils can remain damp all night.
The disease appears as semi-circular patches of dead or dying grass. The center of older patches may recover giving the patch a frog-eyed appearance. Close examination of the grass blades will reveal tan colored, irregularly shaped spots with purple margins.
The disease usually remains active as long as the environmental conditions continue, especially the humidity. If the humidity and temperature drops the disease progression will usually stop. Nitrogen in fertilizer will only fuel the disease. Avoid fertilizer applications if you suspect the disease and be careful not to over-fertilizer early in the season.
Click on the link for for photos of brown patch, its symptoms, and control of this and other Hot Weather Diseases
Summer Patch is a disease that affects the grass roots and crown. During hot, wet weather, if the disease pathogen is present, the grass can begin showing symptoms. Symptoms first appear as small circular patches of yellow-green to tan colored grass a couple inches in diameter. The patches may grow to a foot or more in diameter. As the disease patches enlarge they will often blend forming even larger patches. Like Brown Patch, the center of older diseased patches may recover giving it a frog-eyed appearance. The roots and crown of diseased plants are often dark. If environmental conditions remain, the roots and crowns of the grass will eventually die and rot. At this point the affected grass cannot be saved and it will die.
Summer patch is worsened in high pH soils. The soil pH in western states tend to be higher. You should be especially watchful for signs Summer Patch disease.
If you have had problems with Summer Patch before, do not apply any fertilizer during the late spring and summer months when the disease threat is highest. Applying excessive amounts of nitrogen can fuel the disease once it begins. Try to be accurate in the amount of fertilizer you apply.
Click on the link for photos, signs and symptoms of Summer Patch and other Hot Weather Diseases .
Leaf Spot and Melting Out Disease
Leaf Spot, formerly known as Helminthosporium Leaf Spot, is a cool, wet weather disease that begins in the grass blades. As the disease progresses it can move toward the grass crown, which initiates the second half of the disease- the melting out phase (crown and root rot).
The disease symptoms begins as tiny brown or black spots on the grass blades. The spots become larger as the disease progresses. The larger spots have tan centers with a purple to black border. Several spots will coalesce causing the blade to wilt and die back. The melting out phase will be a browning of the crowns and stolons that will eventually kill the grass.
Fortunately, disease progression usually stops as soon as environmental conditions that promoted the disease changes. An increase in temperature with drier conditions will usually be enough to stop the disease. If you suspect the disease avoid evening and night watering or frequent daytime watering. Instead, water deeply and less frequently. Avoid applications of quick release nitrogen fertilizers.
Click here for photos and help in diagnosing Cool Weather Diseases.
Buffalo grass Insect Problems
Buffalo grass is not bothered by many insects. Probably the most frequent damage will be from chinch bugs. Chinch bugs pierce the leaf blade and feed on the plant's juices. While feeding, they inject toxins into the plant. These toxins are actually what causes the most damage.
Damage from chinch bugs usually begins during hot, dry conditions. Damaged grass will turn yellow and then brown. Chinch bug nymphs are red with a white band, later turning orange and then black with white spots on adults. Adults are approximately 1/10 of an inch long.
Reducing the amount of thatch may help control chinch bugs. Apply an insecticide containing the active ingredient "bifenthrin" or look for other products labeled for chinch bug control.
Zoysia grass was imported from the Orient and has become one of the leading warm season grasses in the U.S. Click here to learn about this beautiful grass and tips on how to care for it.
St. Augustine Grass
St Augustine grass is a favorite hot weather grass adapted to the coastal and southern regions of the U.S. from Florida to central Texas. Click here for information on growth habits, maintenance and lawn care tips.
Centipede Grass - The Lazy Man's Grass
Centipede grass is a low maintenance, low fertility and slow growing turf grass that is adapted to the southern coastal regions of the U.S. Click here for detailed information on how to plant and care for this grass.
Common and Improved Bermudagrass
Bermudagrass is the most popular warm season grass in America. Read about the pros and cons of planting this grass, along with all you need to know to take care of your lawn.
Detailed Information on Cool Season Grasses
This pages is your starting point to many of the most popular cool season grasses, along with growth habits, fertilization, and more.
How Fertilizer Prevents Lawn Deterioration
Why is fertilizer important? This page answers that question and describes the basics of grass decline when left unfertilized. It also offers alternative steps for maintaining a healthy lawn.
Overseeding Lawns - Detailed Tips and Techniques
Complete instructions and techniques for overseeding lawns. Bermudagrass is the most frequently overseeded warm season grass. Find out how to do this as well along with the types of seed you can use.
Plant Growth Regulators
Plant Growth Regulators are just beginning to be discovered by homeowners. They are fantastic products with dozens of uses for everything from slowing grass growth to eliminating unwanted tree fruit. Click here to discover what you have been missing.
Watering a New Lawn
Watering a new lawn is very different from watering a mature lawn. When planting a new lawn, success will be greatly increased by learning proper watering techniques.
Lawn Winterization Tips and Techniques
Fall winterization is the most important time for fertilizing cool season grasses. Warm season grasses do not receive the same treatment. Find everything you need to know to winterize both cool and warm season grasses.
Lawn Moss and How to Control It
Lawn moss is a common problem in yards. However, its presence represents deeper soil problems that must be fixed or the moss will stick around. Find out what must be done to finally end your moss problems.
Dog Urine Damage on Lawns
We all love our pets, but dog urine can do a number on grass. There is hope. Find out what can be done to save your lawn and your pet too.
Here’s how to replace your thirsty lawn with a casual, easy-care meadow
Choose a grass that’s a natural for your area. These grasses can live on rainfall alone in their native Western ranges, and they need mowing just once or twice a year to keep tidy. Details and sources below.
Desert: Fine fescue, spring-planted buffalo grass, or blue grama.
Northern California and the Northwest: Fine fescue and hair grass (Deschampsia).
Rocky Mountain: Buffalo grass or blue grama below 6,500 feet fine fescue above. Plant all in spring.
Southern California: Fine fescue, spring-planted ‘UC Verde’ buffalo grass (along coast).
MEADOW GRASS PROFILES
Blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis). Native to the western Great Plains. A bunching perennial grass, it grows 1 to 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide. Stems carry flowers on one side only. Give it full sun, little water. Best in Sunset climate zones 1–3, 7–11, 14, 18–21.
‘Hachita’ Goes well with natives and perennials if you don’t mow it, it can become an artificial short-grass prairie.
Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides). Native from Montana to Mexico and east to Louisiana. Grows 4 to 8 inches tall has gray-green color in summer, straw color in winter. Turf varieties are selected for density and greener color.
Female selections (always vegetatively propagated) have flowers at the base, so you don’t see them. Male plants have flowers on top, so they look ratty to some, attractive to others.
Add a 3-inch layer of clean, weed-free topsoil rake smooth. Or germinate weeds beforehand and dig in compost.
When you start this from seed, it always contains a mix of male and female plants. Give it full sun or open shade, some summer water (gets summer rain in the wild). A good garden performer in zones 1–3, 10–11, 14–16, 18–24.
‘Prestige’ Good in mild-winter areas.
‘UC Verde’ Developed by the University of California, this doesn’t go dormant along the Southern California coast and in mild areas, but inland (Riverside, for example), its dormant season stretches from October to March.
There are several forms of fescue, including Arizona fescue, California fescue, and native western fescue some are sold by native turf specialists. The most commonly available fescues are listed below. One, chewings fescue, is a close European cousin of a native western fescue. You may also find hard fescue and sheep’s fescue, both of which are used as meadow grasses in the West.
Creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra). Native from Canada to Mexico on the West Coast, Canada to Georgia on the East Coast, Europe, and North Africa. Grows to 3 feet tall as a meadow grass, or can be mowed for use as a turf grass. It’s most drought tolerant when young as it ages, thatch makes it less so (dethatching corrects the problem). Give it full sun or partial shade, little to moderate water. Seed only. Does well in zones A2, A3, 1–10, 14–24.
Chewings fescue (Festuca rubra commutata). Native to Europe, this grass tends to come in more densely than creeping red fescue. Grows 3 feet tall as a meadow grass, or can be mowed for use as a turf grass. Give it full sun or partial shade, little to moderate water. Seed only. Does well in zones A2, A3, 1–10, 14–24.
Tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa). Native from Alaska and Canada south to Northern California on the West Coast and North Carolina on the East Coast also Eurasia and Greenland. Grows 1 to 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide, and produces clumps of dark green leaves. Airy inflorescences, which appear in late spring or summer, start green and fade to straw color they can reach 4 feet. Give it full sun or partial shade, regular water (it can grow in damp meadows). A good meadow grass in zones 2–24.
Pacific hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa holciformis). Native from British Columbia to Monterey Bay. Grows 1 to 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide, and produces clumps of very dark green leaves. Inflorescences are narrow, coarse, and straw-colored. Give it full sun or partial shade, little to abundant water (it can take marshy or brackish locations). Best garden subject in zones 4–9, 14–24.
Meadow grasses generally grow slowly and never get very big. That gives weeds an opening, so weed control is the biggest challenge in establishing a meadow. There are several ways to go about it.
Sod If you plant meadow-grass sod, it will smother weeds below.
Download our How to Grow Native Seeds spread from our catalog (click here). Planting methods for native grasses are similar to those for wildflowers. Some differences are:
When to plant
Seeds germinate when soil temperatures are above 65 degrees F. Sow the grass seed in early spring through late summer, earlier is better. Harmonize with seasonal rains. If you want to get a head start on preparation, consider planting a cover crop in the fall. (See below for more details.)
Lawn areas should start with a weed-free, smoothly raked seedbed. Reduce invasive perennial weeds such as Bermuda and Johnson grass prior to planting native grass. If you choose to use chemical weed killers, get advice from your county extension agent. Till the soil and remove the roots of existing non-native grasses and weeds if possible. But be careful - tilling too deeply can stir up dormant weed seeds, and create extra work for you in maintenance until the grass is so thickly established that it can begin to successfully keep out the unwanted visitors.
For larger areas, plow several times before seeding to expose, freeze or dry unwanted roots.
Using Solarization to Eliminate Existing Unwanted Vegetation
As an alternative to tilling lawn-sized areas, you can use an approach known as "solarization." This works best during the growing season, either in the late summer months or early spring when you expect a string of sunny days. It involves covering the area to be re-seeded with clear plastic (6mil thickness is best, though 4mil will probably do for smaller areas) and letting the sun and natural processes of nature do the work for you.
You have now created a well-watered greenhouse, so that when the sun penetrates the plastic it will warm the soil and provoke more growth, including increased activity of natural soil molds and bacteria. When the unwanted vegetation is trapped under the plastic in these intense growth conditions and has nowhere to go, it essentially becomes compost. The whole process takes about 3-4 weeks when nature cooperates by providing enough sunny days.
Once the process is complete, you can rake off the debris and compost it further. If there is not too much debris, it can be tilled into the soil as part of your seedbed prep.
Most native grass seeds prefer 1/4" planting depths. Spread the seeds evenly across the area, and rake lightly to cover them. Firm the seedbed by rolling or packing the surface.
Cover Crop in the Fall
If you're ready to take action in the fall, plant a cover crop of cereal rye grain. This is entirely different than rye grass. Old-time farmers used to cover crop their land before chemical fertilizers came along. By planting an economical, non-invasive crop, they could then plow it under to feed the soil. It's an efficient form of composting. Cereal rye provides lush green cover through winter and builds organic matter in the soil. This cover crop fills the niche when fall planting is needed for temporary grass or erosion control.