Thursday, July 19, 2012

Buffalograss Lawn, A Year Later

Last summer, at the end of June, there was a sale on buffalograss plugs at High Country Gardens.  Since our lawn was non-existent in the backyard and looking pretty awful in the front yard, I took the leap and ordered grass plugs.  Lots of grass plugs.

Right before they came, the weather turned gruesome, but when the plugs came we had no choice but to get them in the ground as soon as we could;  otherwise we'd lose the money I had invested in this native grass lawn.  With much groaning and sweating, we worked days (actually mornings) on end to get them all plugged in.  It took almost two months, two months that were ironically some of the hottest and driest on record around here, but we got it done.  I shared the initial results last year, first showing the back yard and then the front yard, as we got them finished.

One of the hardest parts about a buffalograss lawn is that it takes a while to fill in and, while you're waiting, the weeds tend to get a bit overwhelming.  This spring the weeds were driving me crazy, so I decided to treat the lawn like a flower bed and simply handweeded it.  I discussed the process, trying to justify the time to myself and others.  When I got the back yard buffalograss area done in May, I photographed it, noting that it was looking pretty good but still needed to fill in.

So here are the photos taken about 2 weeks ago, at the beginning of July, about a year after we plugged the back yard and about 10 months after we plugged the front yard.  We watered last summer, as the grass was establishing, but we have not watered the grass at all yet this year.


The back yard looks pretty good.  It's a little shaggy in this photo because it hadn't been mowed even once yet this summer when the picture was taken, so the runners were getting a touch long.  I did do a second, light weeding of the lawn back here in late May/early June to get rid of the summer weeds that were sprouting - there weren't too many, but there have been none at all since then.   The grass has filled in beautifully with no further effort.



The texture is wonderful -  very soft and inviting.  The color is not a bright green - but, hey, it's green without any watering!  (It's still green 2 weeks later, but I'm thinking it's about time to deep water it once.  Even buffalograss needs a bit of water occasionally to stay healthy.)  The only down side that I see is that "dog spots" are pretty noticeable - and when you have 2 large German shepherds, you do get lots of "dog spots."  The spots fill in again without any care on my part, but they leave the lawn looking patchy.

The odd shape of the lawn to the right, leaving bare ground around the birdbath and beyond, is due to heavy shade under a full, large green ash tree.  We tried plugging in High Country Garden's drought tolerant fescue here, but despite receiving the same care that the buffalograss plugs did, only about 4 of those plugs survived.  I'm probably going to make this area into a bed of some sort around the trunk of the tree (perhaps just mulch, but outlined appropriately);  meanwhile we're just letting the buffalograss move over as much as it wants, to see how much shade it will tolerate.

As I expected, the front lawn looks pretty patchy, even without dog spots.  Fescue and buffalo grass don't make good partners and we never consciously killed off the fescue.  I also never did do the second (summer weed) weeding on the front lawn.  Again, the density of the buffalograss is not bad, but it would have been nice to get it completely cleared out of weeds to see if it wouldn't stay pretty weed free after that.  I guess we'll get to compare the front and back yards to see how much difference it actually made to do that last weeding.


The green-brown clumps in the foreground and under the honeylocust are the leftover fescue.  We haven't watered this area at all this year either, so the fescue is looking stressed from lack of water...plus Greg has been mowing it very low to favor the buffalograss, which further stresses it.  Next summer it will be (past) time to kill off the fescue and start plugging in buffalo to complete the front lawn, but I'm pleased with our start.  It will never be the lush green of fescue, but I'm tickled with how well the buffalograss is handling both heat and drought, as well as how rarely it needs to be mowed.

In summary, would I do it again?  In a heart beat!  I'd try to pick a less awful time of year to plant the buffalograss plugs, but I am super pleased at how nice it looks and how easy it is to maintain.  In my column, this is definitely a score for buffalograss!  I might even come to enjoy the open space of a lawn around the house!

13 comments:

Jason said...

Congratulations! Looks good, and sounds like a smart investment of time and money that definitely pays off before too long.

tina said...

It's very interesting. I have contemplating using this grass in the past but I have too much shade. It is lovely to be so drought tolerant.

ProfessorRoush said...

For the front, next spring, may I suggest to burn it when the fescue is green but just before the buffalograss greens. Buffalograss really does like to be burnt occasionally. You could spray the green fescue, of course, but knowing you, I figure that's out of the question.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Prof, I like your suggestion. I hadn't even considered it, actually.

As far as spraying, I'm not a total purist, for better or for worse. We use Round-up to get rid of Bermuda grass and poison ivy, for example, and I might use it for fescue...although I might just start digging out the fescue on the border of the buffalograss and let the buffalograss fill into the open territory.

Skeeter said...

OMGoodness, that was some job putting all those plugs into the ground! I could feel your back pains as I read this.You have our luck, with projects such as this, the heat seems to turn to abnormally hot. How does that happen? Looking good without water and with little rain, such a plus…

Gaia Gardener: said...

Skeeter, sometimes I'm glad to find that someone else runs into poor timing between the weather and projects - although I'd rather that we both changed our luck that way! Thanks for stopping by.

~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Your efforts are paying off. Not watering it is awesome. I love how soft buffalo grass feels on bare feet.
The tree seems to be making its own planting area below it in the shade. Some mulch, maybe a garden ornament or set a few containers there for color.

Melanie said...

I haven't watered my grass once this summer. .I've never had good luck with growing grass. .and I hate the little patches of Bermuda that won't die. .If it ever starts raining again regularly, I may try to get Buffalo. .can you plant seed, or just plug? I like green grass in the spring. .but I think that dream should be put to rest. .the fescue just doesn't cut the mustard either!! And if rattlesnakes weren't such a problem, I'd just plant the whole yard to plants :-)

Gaia Gardener: said...

GonSS, I agree with you totally - about the softness of buffalograss (both visually and underfoot) and about the green ash defining it's own bed.

Melanie, Rattlesnakes are THAT bad in your yard? How often do you find them? We're lucky here in Sedgwick County - we seem to be kind of in between ranges for most of the poisonous snakes. They're pretty rare around here (knock on wood!).

Melanie said...

We generally find several each summer. The scariest time was when Tristan was just about 2, out in his dad's shop. .Jeremy walked back in the door and heard the snake rattling. .and Tristan didn't even know to be scared!! Once upon a time, 20 years ago, there was a prairie dog town in our pasture. .my husband worked for the guy that owned our place and he plugged some holes and did some poisoning of them I think. The dogs are gone, but I have noticed in some strolls out there that the holes are still prevalent. .and now easy to see with the lack of grass from the lack of moisture!! One plus. .they eat rodents. .which I hate WORSE than them!!

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Buffalo grass seems to be the perfect choice for Kansas ;-)

Benjamin Vogt said...

Well, here I am thinking of doing the same, and you went and did it already. Looking good! My courage is growing....

Gaia Gardener: said...

I love it! And I would highly recommend it to anyone in this area who isn't in to recreational mowing and lawn watering.

So good to meet you last night! Hope your drive home was safe.