How to best encourage native grasses to establish?

bludart(7)April 30, 2012

We moved into a rental home with St Augustine surrounding the home in the back, and the rest of the yard overrun with invasive weeds (thick, brambly, horrible weeds).

Took us three months to pull out the weeds, then we put down native grass seed (buffalo grass, curly mesquite, and blue gramma). The grass is slowly establishing, and growing with it are a bunch of sunflowers and some hairy vetch-which we're leaving alone to help naturally build up the soil & beneficial insect population. I'm wondering if there is something (other than compost) than I can use on the yard to help encourage grass growth. I know traditional fertilizers will kill the native grass, and our compost bin can only make enough to cover a small part of the yard.

We're hosting a reception in our yard in September, and it would be great if we could get the grass to fill in by then.


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Supplemental watering to mimic the timing of natural rainfall in a really wet year. Buffalo grass won't root the runners unless the spoil is moist.

fertilizer ... but applied at about 1/4 or less the recommended rate for lawn grasses. If the package says 10 pounds for 1000 square feet, use 2 pounds just once, and water it in well. And just plain fertilizer, not 'weed and feed' kind.

You can dilute the fertilizer for spreading by mixing it in with used coffee grounds. ask a local coffeeshop, or save and dry the grounds from your household

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 4:26AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Time..Native grasses take time, and don't mow till they are WELL established. I don't mow ever but I am lazy and I have no neighborhood nazis to worry about. My neighbor did not mow all the first summer when he was establishing his yard.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 12:19AM
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If you have a grass with runners, a light mowing stimulates runners (like grazing). I was told to mow my buffalo grass when it had runners spreading.

But set the blades to HIGH and don't mow very often.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 8:40AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I was talking more about the bunch grasses.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 9:44AM
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Our yard was mostly gramma grass when we moved in, with some St. Augustine near the house. Over the years, the St. Augustine began taking over the gramma grass. Last year I quit mowing the gramma grass and the St. Augustine in it died and it flourished. I'm sure the drought had something to do with that too.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 11:47AM
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Thanks for all the advice! We'll do as much supplemental watering as we're allowed, until the drought restrictions are raised (I'll probably go as far as bringing a bucket in the shower to catch that excess water while it's warming up).

I hadn't considered diluting fertilizer- we do have some liquid seaweed for the veggie gardens on hand, I wonder if diluting that would be sufficient? Guess I'll try it on a small patch and see what happens.

Mowing high is what we already do to (try) to keep grass alive here, fortunately since this is the backyard we don't have to worry much about uptight neighbors! Though I'm sure we'll hear something about the watermelon "volunteer" that sprung up in the middle of our front lawn...

What is an average summer like in central tx, anyway? I'm from the west coast, so last year's weather here was just miserable I shudder to think of what the water bill is like for some of my neighbors with dense St Augustine lawns...

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 4:01PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I never water my native grass. I watch it turn brown and I watch it green up. It is turning brown now, but the wild flowers are still holding on.

Looks like another bad summer ahead. Austin has on average 13.5 days above 100 . I can even remember a year without hitting the century mark. Develop a relationship with a good waterhole that is spring fed. If you really want to freeze your buns, go for a swim at the low water crossing below Mansfield dam. Guaranteed to turn your thighs blue.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 10:28PM
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I have been doing a lot of research on why native grasses do so well. Well they do best in areas that have not been disturbed. My conclusion (short version)is because they work because of the endomycorrhizal fungi. I have been working primarily with eastern gamma and bluestem. Transplants from native areas do much better than the seeded areas I have planted.
So given this maybe you should over seed with seed treated with the mycorrhizal inoculum.
Just an idea that I am trying out.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 7:17AM
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