Growing Grass in the desert of El Paso, TX

ladynole724March 26, 2011

I am from Florida and transplanted to the desert thanks to the US Army. I am NOT a fan of xeriscaping. I need green grass. We don't have a problem growing grass in FL and I am finding it VERY difficult to do so here b/c it's the desert. Please give me some advice.

We have hard compacted mix of dirt and sand. And we have large rocks the size of basketballs in our backyard. Currently our yard is hard and dry weeds. We have no sprinkler system and it's not an option to add one since we live in government housing.

How do I go about doing this? Should I roto-till it out first, lay topsoil, and then seed? Should I go straight to the route of laying sod? I was going to go desperate and lay out patch perfect but read the reviews and wised up to that quickly! LOL I also don't want to spend more then $500 fixing this up.

Advice? TIA!

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plantmaven(8b/9a TX)

In the 60's I lived in AZ and people there paid big bucks for dichrondra. I have it it my yard, as a bird planted plant. It has grown between the pavers and looks pretty.

Here is a link that might be useful: Howard Garrett dichondra article

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 9:28PM
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You might contact Plants of the Southwest nursery in Santa Fe. They might have some ideas. When my in-laws lived in El Paso, they had to water the grass to have a lawn. They used rocks as a ground cover in the front yard and had a tiny lawn area in the back yard around their garden. My mil used to bury food scraps in ground in a potential new garden area for compost.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 9:50AM
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I grew up in El Paso. Nearly everyone had grass. Others just had what is now called xeriscaping, or desert landscaping. I have no idea how grass was grown or if it was difficult to do. Couldn't have been too hard as most everyone had it. Of course you have to water it. :)

You might need to amend the soil but honestly, bermuda grass grows in cracks in concrete so it shouldn't be too difficult to grow just about anywhere else. You may need to water a lot at first, but once established you have to use chemicals over and over to kill it. Even if it looks dead, its not. A little water and warm weather and its B..a...c..k.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 12:11PM
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Lynn Marie

Ask at the garden centers in El Paso and look to see what others have that looks good. Also, check into Turfallo.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 1:08PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Burmuda needs to be watered to keep it green in summer here in Austin (35") but it won't die. It just dies back . I think it needs at least 20" of rain to be happy. It dries up in my front field on dry years. I have blue gamma on dry years. I have heard some recommend Zosia (from China). Ask people in your area. Whatever you do, it won't be florida. Learn to like what is doable without huge expenditures of water.

Here is a link that might be useful: High Country Gardens

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 9:28PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

I grew up in the mojave desert. Grass always looked like crap. Regular white dutch clover takes 1/4 water of sod and looked GREAT!!! It's evergreen and nitrogens the soil. If you don't like the flowers mow them off a couple times a month. You can even mix the clover in with grass you have. The nitrogen rich clover will help the grass tolerate the heat. Clover grows in sun or shade.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 9:57PM
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Thank you all so much for your help. I know it will never be FL but I need something green. Rock in the front yard and dead weeds in the back isn't cutting it.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 5:07PM
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Please don't, and give pjtexkgirl's suggestion a try. I truly do know the feeling of wanting a green lawn, being from IL myself, but Texas is already having a water shortage problem, and frankly, we need less people trying to grow lawns in areas not suited to it, not more.

I don't think you realize how much water a lawn (especially a new one) is going to require to stay green during Texas summers. You don't have a problem growing grass in FL, because they have ridiculous humidity levels there. Not so in the desert.

Out of the 10 largest cities most likely to face severe water shortages in the near future, three of them are Texas cities:

We had grass when we moved into our house, and we never, ever water it, so the majority of actual grass has died off, and been replaced by what is now mostly wild clover and wildflowers. I never water it, it stays green, and feels lovely on the bare feet. (In the shade areas anyways. *Everything* goes crispy by July)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 11:12AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I haven't watered my grass in 35 years. I grow native grasses I have grown fond of Blue gamma and curly mesquite between my native shrubs. True, I live in the country and I am on a cistern so watering is out of the question. There are alternatives out there. Horse herb is one that is used in Central Texas.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 12:41PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Here is a watering schedule for Bermuda for Phoenix area. It might not be quite as bad in El Paso but NOT that much better.

The expense gets overwhelming and since many cities only allow you to water once every 5 days and then when they get really tight , they stop ALL outside watering with large fines. This situation is only going to get worse and worse as the water crisis gets tighter and tighter and the price of water soars. Water has really risen in price here in Austin. The whole city is in a uproar about a 35% planned increase. There is a reason why that lawn is all dried up and it was not necessarily laziness on the previous owners part.

I do not live in El Paso but I know that some people are putting astro turf on their lawns (gag me with a meat hook) in Austin area to keep that green look. You will hear people rigging up systems to reuse their bathwater on their lawns. It is a different world out here. The pebble and rock, clover scenario gets better and better. Also one can only design a Small lawn area like a throw rug surrounded by the less desirable format that can be maintained by grey water. The Rio Grande will thank you for being conservation minded and that might mean leaving Florida and all those GREEN expectations behind and learning about the beauty of the desert that you live in.
Sally Wasowski "Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by region" has a section on West Texas with homes in El Paso. She mentions Snakeweed as a low green ground cover. Plan your lawn with Mexican gold poppies that will create a sheet of copper flowers in the spring.

Here is a link that might be useful: Watering schedule for Phoenix for Burmuda

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 1:32PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

A combination of buffalo, Blue gramma and mesquite grass. Blue gramma requires 7" of rain to grow..Buffalo grass needs 12". Curly mesquite grows in 5" of rain.

The site below is great site to peruse.

Here is a link that might be useful: Thunder turf

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 2:02PM
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ladynole724 8,

You're not talking about maintaining a huge compound, or a plantation, or a golf course. You're talking about a small suburban back yard.

If you want grass go ahead and plant it. It brings you and your family pleasure.
It won't look like a Florida lawn during the winter or for several weeks in the peak of summer, but the rest of the time you'll enjoy it.

No one is going to die because you decided to have a lawn. :)

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 2:31PM
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