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 Post subject: Central Texas New Yard
PostPosted: Fri May 03, 2013 3:21 pm 
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OK all, I need some help. I have been in my house for 2 years now and finally at the point of redoing my yard. I am a about a month away from being ready to seed the yard and wanted to have my homework done. I have a little over an acre, with it mostly being full sun, but do have 4 or 5 large shade trees around the house. I am looking for advice on what type of grass to lay down. I have a sandy loam soil, and am about an mile away from the Brazos River. I am leaning toward a Bermuda grass that I can start from seed, but even then I am not sure of what variate or brand to use. Also, any recommendations on what to do before I start a new lawn to help with weed prevention or other to keep other problems from popping up?


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PostPosted: Fri May 03, 2013 7:46 pm 
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I hate Bermuda grass and would never plant it if I had a fresh palette of a new yard. Buffalo grass is a much better choice, it's a native grass, is a good xeriscape choice, and it isn't going to be so nasty to get out of the flower beds or garden later.

I moved into this house in 2002. I bought it after it had been empty and no attention (except mowing) to the yard for two years. I spoke to the woman who had rented the house for 10 years prior to that. She told me that she "worked really hard to get grass established in the yard." I wish she hadn't tried so hard, because that grass was Bermuda. And it is the worst weed in the world.

In my humble opinion, of course. But please look into buffalo grass before making your final decision.

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PostPosted: Sat May 04, 2013 7:08 pm 
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Defiantly not sold on any decision, that is why I am trying to do some research first. I guess I am just more familiar with Bermuda. I am in a similar situation as far as the house, it sat vacant for a little over a year with no care (there were two freshly dead pear trees when I moved in :( ) As far as Buffalo grass, how thick does it get? And how it is with weeds? From what I have read, I am worried that I will over-care for it, as I constantly find myself outside mowing or doing something.


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PostPosted: Sat May 04, 2013 8:57 pm 
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Buffalo grass.

Wikipedia entry.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 15, 2013 12:31 pm 
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Is money an issue? I ask because a full acre of grass is going to cost you one way or the other. I have an acre at my house in George West. Half if that is in St Augustine and the other half is in a mixture of cattails (oops! water leak), King Ranch bluestem, buffalo, and other natives (aka weeds). I have opted not to mow for a couple reasons. One is to do an experiment with tall grass, but that was prompted by the high cost of a riding mower and the time it takes to mow an acre.

If you want seeded bermuda and you want it to look good, that requires mowing 2x per week when the grass is growing. If you can stand having shaggy looking seed heads popping up before you mow, then you can mow once per week. Low mowing opens up the possibility for many low growing weeds to move in. Sodded bermuda has the advantage of not getting the shaggy seed heads but it is more expensive up front. It should be mowed 2x weekly, but if you don't, it doesn't look as bad.

If you want seeded or sodded bermuda and want it to look good, then you need to apply high nitrogen fertilizer every month in the growing season. The fertilizer keeps it green but more importantly it keeps the turf dense to keep weeds out.

If you want any traditional southern grass (bermuda, zoysia, or St Augustine) to look good it needs to be watered deeply once per week in the heat and once per month in the cooler months. For an acre you will need a sprinkler system with at least 10 zones.

If you want a non traditional turf, which still looks like excellent turf, you can look into some of the prairie grasses. These are all FULL SUN grasses. Starting with buffalo there are some varieties which are more dense and more traditional looking than others. One in particular, developed by Texas Tech and the Turffalo company, is called Tech Turf. I really like Tech Turf for the wide span of care it can handle. It can be mowed from 3/4-inch high to 4 inches...or left unmowed. What sets it apart from other buffalo grasses is that the flowers and seed head stems grow at the same rate as the grass itself. That means it never looks shaggy with tall stems shooting up the day after you mow. The other thing that sets it apart is the ability to spread like a wildfire. It spreads almost as fast as bermuda. And the third thing is the turf density. Density is important to keep weeds out. The only thing Tech Turf does not have going for it is deep dark green color. It always looks like it needs to be fertilized (it doesn't). Here is a picture of Tech Turf growing in Lubbock.

Image
This needed to be mowed about a week earlier, but the tenants left a week earlier. This grass is in partial shade and is not as dense as it was over in the sun. Had this been a different variety of buffalo, the seeds and flowers would be 9 inches higher than the grass. You can also see how the grass is trying to spread over the sidewalk.

Another alternative is a grass seed called Habit Turf. It goes by many names. It is a blend of curly mesquite, blue grama, and buffalo varieties (not Tech Turf). This combo of grasses looks like normal turf when mowed. If you let it go, it looks like a prairie due to the tall seed heads from these grasses. This combination may never need irrigation or fertilizer. It needs to be mowed every so often depending on rains and heat. There is no "regular schedule" to prairie grasses.

Another alternative is the wheatgrasses. You can mix these yourself depending on which one(s) do well in your area. Wheatgrasses are deep dark green. Here is a picture of a wheatgrass and blue grama lawn in Salt Lake City.

Image
Note there is some strawberry clover in there. That is there on purpose, not by accident.
That owner starts watering in June and only waters a few times. His area has much lower temps than Waco but also much lower humidity. He waters a few times per year and mows monthly.

If you move toward prairie grasses, the initial cost might be slightly higher than for bermuda seed, but the high cost of bermuda maintenance will eventually get to you. Then the yard will see weeds creeping in as the bermuda thins out. For larger acreage I like the prairie grasses as long as you have the ability to mow.

An alternative to all the above is to plant St Augustine and let it go unmowed. If you have children, a spouse, or neighbors who cannot stand to see grass that is 20-30 inches tall, then this idea is out of the question. But unmowed St Augustine barely needs any care. As soon as you stop mowing the water requirements fall off dramatically and fertilizer goes to zero. All you have to do is keep it alive with water and the grass will take care of itself. I have such a lawn in George West. At first I was worried about snakes but I have not seen any signs since I started this in Oct 2011. Rattlers cannot coil in this grass and they can't strike unless they coil. Furthermore, rattlers need a line of sight to strike. Down in the grass they would be confused by all the grass in the way of any targets. That's my theory anyway. So far so good.

Now what to do before you seed to keep weeds out? All I can suggest is non organic sprays. Spraying with vinegar will kill the top growth of most grasses and weeds. If there are other grasses there to spread and move in then sometimes the weed will die out. The non organic sprays do the job once (well, twice) and for all. I believe it is best to get the weeds pulled as much as practical, put in the new grass, and then deal with weeds by practicing proper care of the lawn. Deep infrequent watering is best thing you can do to keep weeds out. Daily watering will fill the yard with weeds. Then proper mowing and fertilizing to keep the grass as dense as possible will keep the weeds out.

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