Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Planting the Buffalo Grass Plugs

After some final soil leveling, it took 2 people about 4 hours (with breaks) to plant 1200 square feet of lawn area.

  1. Mark the row with string. The string has been marked every 18 inches with a red marking pen.

  2. For evenly spaced plants on 18-inch centers, the rows need to be about 15 1/2 inches apart.

  3. Using nails tied on the string to mark off the spacing prevents errors. 2 nails and a 15-inch string are the spacers at each end of the row. The rows are offset 9 inches by using the first or second nail as the row starter.

    Spacing Strings
  4. Drill holes about 1 1/2 inches deep. We used a standard, CHEAP wood bit. If you do this for a living, a longer bit would be a back-saving investment.
  5. The planting person can reach 3 rows if they are on their knees, so have the drill person drill 3 rows and take a break. Kneepads are highly recommended.
  6. The plugs are soaked in a root dip called Zeba to minimize transplant shock.

  7. Then we thoroughly soaked the area and set the sprinkler timers to water the area 3 times a day for a few minutes each time. The objective is to keep the soil moist, but not drown the new grass.
And now it's just a matter of a few weeks until we have a lush, water-saving, heat tolerant lawn. Read more!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lawn Renovation for Resale Value

The plan is to stay in this house for 2 or three more years, or until the real estate values crawl out of the toilet, then sell and move where the cost of living is lower. We're not going nuts on remodeling because interior decor is fad-driven. We're just taking care of some things that would make a buyer think "ewwwww!" that would slow down a sale. The Bermuda grass lawn was a major ugly spot after 20 years, teenagers, large dogs, erratic watering and mowing, and neglect.

The lawn plan:
  1. Kill the existing Bermuda grass
  2. Add organic matter (home-made compost) to the dirt
  3. Install automatic sprinklers for the lawn area to minimize the neglect factor.
  4. Plant a new lawn to enjoy for a couple of years
  5. Sell the house with the established, upgraded lawn and convenient watering system
That left us with the question of what kind of grass to plant.

In the decades since the lawn was established, new varieties of Bermuda have come (and gone), with increased pest and drought resistance. However, it's still a water hog and requires frequent mowing to keep it looking good.

Native grass seeds are available and often used in landscaping, but they don't tolerate foot traffic and don't make a turf-type lawn.

That left us with one choice - buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides).

Buffalo, lying in what must be buffalo grass. Image courtesy of Patrice Dufour.

"Buffa-what?" is how most of the landscaping contractors I contacted replied, because they usually do a "roll and go" with Bermuda sod. It took some phone calls and web searches to locate a source of the UC Verde clone of buffalo grass. This will be an experiment. If it works, I'll have one of the few buffalo grass lawns in the Phoenix area. If the lawn dies, we roll out the traditional Bermuda sod.
Read more!