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!