What kind of grass/how should I do it?

isoceneApril 24, 2009

I just bought my first house and I have a lawn full of dirt! My neighbors say that once upon a time there was beautiful grass throughout my yard. There is a lot of shade in the front and back.

I would like to put some grass down but I'm not sure which to use and how to go about doing it. I've been told St Augustine would be good? I don't want to spent a ton of money. I see on craigslist a pallet of St Augustine goes for $110.

What kind of grass should I get? Is it as simple as throwing it down or do I need to till?

When it rains the ground is muddy if that helps know more about the soil. I'm in Round Rock Texas.

Any advice would be much appreciated!


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Also! I took pictures.


Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of the lawn on Picasas Web Albums

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 12:53PM
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What a great chance to do a cottage garden/swept garden/xeriscape/grassless landscape!

Lawns aren't really normal;
they were created to show off that a wealthy landowner could afford to not only allow a huge expanse of land to lie unproductive, but could afford to have teams of gardeners maintain it & tons of water to keep it green.

Lately, I've been seeing a lot more traditional cottage gardens, & I love 'em.

They're easier (& cheaper) to maintain, & they're a lot more interesting to look at.

You can put in pathways & fill your spaces with low-maintenance, drought-tolerant or low-water-usage perennials & self-seeding annuals.

It's not only beautiful, "it's the green thing to do".

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 1:40PM
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maden_theshade(8 - Austin)

Congrats on your first house! That is so exciting!

From your pics, it looks like the shady areas along the side and in the backyard will be your biggest challenge. You can try St. Augustine back there, but it will grow pretty slowly and sparsely. In these areas, I would think about other adding some other alternatives to get the most coverage. You may already have some horseherb growing there. That is a nice groundcover that loves shade. You could also use some mulch (free at the RR Recycling Center!) to keep down on muddy areas. The mulch will also help improve your dirt and the StA will grow through it okay.

If money is short, keep in mind that St.A grows fast during the summer. Anywhere you have extra runners, pull those up and transplant them somewhere out front where you can keep them watered. Just get at least one end w/ some roots and then try to put another part of the runner under some dirt and it will take off! I've been using this method out in my 'strip' and by the end of the summer it was all filled in.

If any of your neighbors have a particulary lush yard, you might ask them for some plugs. Maybe they need to add a new flowerbed that will require removing some turf? Just remember, when you put it down in your yard to dig up the soil and lay it in a little trough. This will help the roots actually take.

Some of your photos show a grass w/ a seed head. I think that is inland sea oats. It mixes well w/ other grasses. I'd just mow it for now and then decide later if you want to keep it or not. At least it is green! It doesn't require too much water and the birds like the seeds.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 1:10AM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)

I visited The Natural Gardener nursery in Austin this past week and discovered the most amazing turf grass that requires very little cutting/maintenance as it stays about 6 inches! It is called Turffalo and was developed by Texas Tech.
It is soft and lush looking too while being extremely drought tolerant AND does fine with heavy traffic. They have both a shade and full sun variety. They do go dormant in the winter so if you want an 'evergreen' grass then you might want to go another route.

If Turffalo sounds too good to be true, believe me, I understand. But I think it would be worth it to plan a little trip to Natural Gardener to see and experience it for yourself. They are also distributors and can answer all your questions. You can also do a search on this Garden Web site to read discussions about this turf grass.

Here's one I found:

In fact, I think I'll give this turf grass it's own post.
I just want to be sure people are aware of this new option.

Here is a link that might be useful: Turffalo

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 2:18AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Turfalo and Shadow Turf are not same grass. Turfalo is improved buffalo grass for sunny area. It seems to be unusually dense for buffalo grass. Shadow Turf is fine bladed zoysia that you NEED to water every 7-14 days to keep it looking good otherwise it goes dormant. It is designed for shady area but how shady, I don't know.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 7:55AM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)

Thanks for making that distinction, lou_midlothian. I'm just learning about all this and I'm so excited because it will solve some issues for me. I can use both types and according to their website, the two grasses blend together very nicely. I'd like to see them overlapping in a sun/shade yard situation.

This is from their website, regarding Shadow Turf:

Shadow Turf is our newest, shade-tolerant turfgrass. Here are some key points to consider about Shadow Turf:

Shady and Problem Areas  Shadow Turf will grow in 80% to 90% shade. Large trees with heavy, low-hanging canopies and shaded areas along the sides of houses and buildings are not a problem.

Widely Adapted  Shadow Turf will grow in regions that are hot and dry, transition zones and even in full sun. Harsh, cold winters do not pose a threat.

Durable  Shadow Turf stands up well to traffic, showing little wear.

Beautiful  Shadow Turf was designed to provide a high-end lawn. It has a rich true green color and forms a lush turf.

Water Conserving  Shadow Turf will stay green on as little as 4 inches of water per month  much less than cool season grasses that might typically be planted in similar shady areas. Since Shadow Turf is a warm season grass, it goes dormant during the winter months.

Less Weeding  Shadow Turf forms a very dense, lush turf. It does a great job at choking out weeds and other grasses.

Compatible with Tech Turf  When Shadow Turf is planted along side Turffalo brand Tech Turf, they blend wonderfully and provide a turfgrass growing solution for your entire lawn.

Grows well in a large region throughout the country

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 3:17PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Well, St augustine can stay green with 4 inches of water a month plus it won't take over garden beds like zoysia because zoysia sends underground runners and pop up in the middle of the garden beds. I guarantee you that Floratam St augustine is just as drought hardy as Turfalo and more hardy than Shadow Turf. I water deeply 1-3 times a month depending on the weather. Raleigh St augustine is junk though. That's what is commonly sold everywhere.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 4:33PM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

DragonflyWings: Thanks for the tip on Turffalo. Even though we have mostly xeriscape in our yard, we do have some Buffalo grass and are not sure we want to continue with it. I have not been to the Natural Gardener, but all the good chatter here has made me think its worth a trip to Austin.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 9:03PM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)


I'm not sure where you live, but if it's not too far from Austin then I think you'd find TNG to be well worth the trip. What is it that you don't like about your Buffalo grass? As lou_midloathian pointed out, Turffalo is also a form of Buffalo, but with some important differences. The carpet of Turffalo I saw at TNG was dense and soft and short. One of the folks helping me said they rarely cut it.
That's just unbelievable! NO mowing! That alone is a big savings and good for the environment.

I don't think they have planted any areas with the newer shade variety yet. I would love to have seen that.

If you decide to go, be sure to let us know what your impressions were and don't forget to say hello to knittlin!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 11:44PM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)


The Buffalo Grass we have spreads very slowly. This leaves open spots for weeds. The weeds are not pretty wildflowers, just weeds. If we want to fill in, we need to purchase additional plugs or dig and move plugs after pulling the weeds. It does not take foot traffic well either so it's not best for a play area.

The positives are that we rarely water it and mow about once a year. During the recent drought, we only watered once so it was dormant all summer. As soon as we got rain, it greened up. Buffalo grass really is a more natural look for native gardens and blends well between the yard and adjacent natural areas.

It looks like Turffalo spreads more easily and would fill in. They didn't mention foot traffic on the website, so I would check into that before deciding. Also, I wouldn't want to eliminate the Buffalo grass that has been there a long time. So I would just add some additional turf areas if they are compatible. Also, Bermuda is invading our yard so need to check and see if Turffalo can stand up to it.

I am in North Central San Antonio, but am always looking for good reason to go to Austin.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 7:16PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

What about blue grama? I've been observing this large patch of blue grama at the neighborhood park across the street from my house and no weed ever grown in it despite millions of weeds around. Supposedly blue grama and buffalo grass were grown together to create denser turf in dry area like central Texas to Arizona. It doesn't tolerate shade that well though. I have to admit that blue grama looked very nice. Seems to be more drought tolerance than bermuda and very soft to walk on. Doesn't get very tall. You probably can away with once a month of mowing. If I had large open sunny area in central Texas, I probably would use a mixture of buffalo and grama. However, I prefer to have trees around house for shade so that rules those grass out... I think you can get away with watering deeply only once a month for Floratam st augustine grass if you have at least 8 inches of topsoil. The deeper, the better though.

Bermuda requires frequent mowing at low height and monthly fertilizing with weekly watering to look good. It is very invasive grass as well. Being labeled as drought tolerant is very deceptive because it never looks good when it doesn't get watered. Looks terrible if you don't mow it enough. Looks terrible if you don't fertilize. Too much work....

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 10:30AM
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sowthefrikan(z7b/NE TXexas)

Isocene, why don't you take a look at the recommendation from High Country Gardens for their xeriscape/native grass suggestions. I'm thinking of ditching my grass in the near future and have been looking at their solution. There is a map in their catalogue that recommends Prestige Buffalo grass for most of Texas, and Legacy or Prestige for the panhandle. Details about the grass are on their site. What I'd really like to do is create a native grass/wildflower meadow, and I'll be starting one on the side of my home this year - and informing the city about what it is, too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Low water lawns for Texas

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 10:55AM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Blue grama is a good suggestion. The last time I was at the Wildflower Center in Austin I think that was one they had in a display garden. It looked really good.

When dealing with Buffalo Grass, full sun really means full sun all day. If any part of the area is in shade for even a short time, it will not grow there so you get an outline of any shadows from the house, trees, etc.

Isocene - You will want to check with neighbors about the water bill in your area. Some water systems have a huge surcharge for lawn watering. My neighbors pay about $250 a month more for water than I do because they irrigate their lawns with a sprinkler system.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 12:24PM
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I'll add my .02. I seeded Buffalo Grass (609) in the front and plugged 609 in the back. The plugs did much better in covering. I have a full sun yard, but I learned that buffalo grass doesn't like water. (It rained for almost two months in summer 07). Too much water makes it weak and allows other weeds and grasses to invade. Even the runoff from the house or a low spot in the yard can become a weedy spot. The typical rainfall in Austin is 32" per year. The typical rainfall in Lubbock is about 12-14" per year. (It is really difficult to grow grass in Lubbock.) From your photos it looks like you have blackland, which holds water when it rains. With that and the trees, I think buffalo is out.

Carla in Leander

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 5:50PM
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