Everyone with a lawn enjoys walking barefoot in the grass. It feels almost sensual against the skin. When stickers, weeds and other unpleasant plants show up, the fun is over. A war begins to see who will own the ground. In my yard, I like to believe that I one day will win. I fight every year, with fewer weeds than before. I use no chemicals, just a hoe, pick, shovel and gloved hands. I don’t like chemicals anyway- and they’re expensive.
This year, instead of trying to keep the St. Augustine grass alive, I decided to change the grass entirely to a native of South Texas- Buffalo grass. This wonderful grass grows five to six inches high, and stops. The root mass is so tight that weeds are choked to death. This makes weeding by hand so much easier.
Buffalo grass was the main building material in the sod houses during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Its name comes from, what else, the buffalo herds that grazed the massive fields of it.
Buffalo grass only needs less than a quarter of the water that St. Augustine needs. For example, St. Augustine needs 1 to 2 inches a week during the Texas summers. Buffalo grass needs ¼ to ½ an inch a week. It also does not require constant fertilizer or other treatments so common to other grasses.
During the summer heat, it gets a little pale because I don’t water a lot. It goes into dormancy, and after a good soaking rain, it greens back up quickly. I can also throw out a few handfuls of ironite, a lawn food.
Xeriscaping is utilizing native plants in the home landscape. Buffalo grass fits this bill nicely.
Growing from seed
Buffalo grass is easy to grow from seed. Check with your local extension service to find out what time of year is best to start new grass.
Clear out the old sod and any weeds that remain. Amend the soil if necessary, and rake level.
Using your hands or a spreader, broadcast the seeds on the ground and rake to cover with soil. Water daily until the plants are established.
Growing from sod
Sod available from gardening centers, will grow in your area when the time is right. For South Texas, that’s April and August. The cool of April lets the plant roots become established so it can survive the coming heat, and the cooling off period during August allows the roots to get ready for the coming winter.
Lay the sod pieces next to each other like a quilt, and using a roller, press the pieces against the dirt so there are no air pockets to kill roots. Water until the plants are established. This is the fastest way to establish a lawn. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive ways- at least for my budget.
Starting your own sod
I grow my own sod very easily. I purchased seed from an online gardening store, and waited until the right planting time. There are different mixtures of seeds available; study to find the right mix for your needs.
I have unused cat litter boxes that were perfect for my project. Two had cracks in the bottom; this allows for water drainage. I filled the boxes with three inches of topsoil, and seeded by hand. I watered every day, and within two weeks, had grass plants.
In two weeks, these sod pieces will be planted in the yard. One in the front yard, and the other will be the second one for the back yard.
I am a lazy gardener. I happily admit it. I clear enough ground for the sod to be planted. As the grass begins to spread, I take the shovel and a trowel and remove a foot of grass out of its way so it can spread without competition. I don’t have to clear an entire lawn at once.
This past April, I planted the first piece in the back yard. It has now become a patch nearly twelve feet wide, and still growing. Any invading Bermuda grass is easy to spot; it looks entirely different. In fact, the Bermuda, which overpowers so many other lawns, seems to have a truly difficult time competing with the Buffalo grass root system. I love it.
My cat, Shy, has claimed the Buffalo grass area as his own. The other cats are run off, and if I walk across it with bare feet, I get a low growl. I wonder if it matters that I grew it? The watermelons are sending out vines across the grass; this has lead to laughter almost every day. He circles the “invader,” touching it with a paw, and sits staring at it to make sure it doesn’t come after him. He checks on the growing watermelon and seems puzzled that it’s bigger every time he sees it. Hysterical. When a squirrel dared to try burying a nut in the patch, I let Shy out and he nearly got it. Of course, hearing a roaring “tiger-kitty” screaming across a yard will scare the daylights out of any squirrel. He does seem rather pleased that “his grass” is growing; giving him more territory.
Apply this method to most any grass seed. Patience is a virtue with this method, though. The lawn will have more than one type of grass growing at the same time. With all the weeds in my front yard, I believe my neighbors will be happy.