Monday, July 13, 2009

Watching Grass Grow : Week 16 Water Saving?

The main claim that attracted me to the UC Verde strain of Buffalo grass was the claim that it would require less water than Bermuda Grass after it was established.

Here it is, 4 months after setting out the plugs. It's a lawn, it's green, and it's not stressed by the temps hovering near the 110°F mark. It was 112° when I took the picture and scurried back onto air-conditioned safety.

And how is the water consumption? Keep reading. I updated the calculations, and it's using less than I thought it was.

Every sprinkler system is a bit different, so the first thing to do is measure the water delivered in 15 minutes. It's the "tuna can" method explained here. Small pet food cans also work. Any container that is flat-bottomed, straight-sided, and a couple inches deep will do.

Lawn Water Calculator for Phoenix. The tuna can method will also reveal any over- and under-watered spots.

After measuring how much water was in each can, I entered the measurements into the calculator. The calculator is based on watering every third day - not optimal for Bermuda, but many people have a problem watering less often. At least it's better than watering every day.

According to the calculator, if the lawn were established Bermuda, It should be watered for 15 minutes every three days. I'm watering 15 12 minutes every four days, which is only 75% 60% of the water recommended for Bermuda. Already! YAY!

The lawn is not mature - the vendor of the Buffalo grass told me it will use less as the root system goes deeper. He also said that UC Verde is the only one of the buffalo grass cultivars that truly thrives in heat. That's good, because Phoenix has had temperatures mostly above 105°F for the past couple of weeks and there's no relief in sight.


Cyrus said...

That's great news about the water. I'm coming up on my 6th week here in Encinitas and we're getting the first hot spell around here. Hot around here means mid to high 80's with humidity. I'd say 25-30% of the plugs now have significant side growth. I'm getting tired of hacking out all the Bermuda grass that keeps coming back. I think that's the real scourge of this undertaking.

Lazy Gardens said...

Cyrus - If the Bermuda is not mingled with the Buffalo grass, spray it with glyphosate (Roundup).

At that stage of growth I was using a hand-held spray bottle of slightly stronger than normal herbicide and spraying any Bermuda that showed up.

Put soft drink cups over the Buffalo grass plugs to protect them from any overspray.

I still have some clumps of Bermuda. This winter and next spring it should go dormant/green earlier or later than the Buffalo grass ... then I'll have a target to dig up if it's dormant or spray if it's green.

Cyrus said...

I gave up on the Roundup. I'm just hacking away with a hand hoe. It's actually easier on my back then leaning over and targetting something with the sprayer. I noticed the Bermuda kept coming back, even though I'd sprayed it. Makes me wonder whether Bermuda is the grass of the future around here. Still very hopeful though. The plugs are spreading more quickly now in the warmth.

Anonymous said...

Once established the Buffalo should cover up the Bermuda
The Bermuda needs a lot more water than the Buffalo
I’ve got Bermuda in my Buffalo, but you don’t see it unless I water too much
That section of the yard hasn’t seen water in a month with 14-100 degree days
You have to get on your knees to use your fingers to find some Bermuda

Do what your doing (hacking) while the Buff is coming in
I wouldn’t worry about the Bermuda next year
Its roots go down a foot you can’t kill it
It’s a weed


Cyrus said...


Thanks for the support. I was hoping that the Bermuda could be controlled simply by watering less. I just hope when it's all said and done, that UC Verde looks and feels alot better than a well-tended Bermuda grass lawn.

Lazy Gardens said...

Cyrus -
The buffalo grass blades grow more vertical than Bermuda grass, and finer textured. It's softer when you walk on it. And if it's over a couple of inches long, it ripples in the slightest breeze.

Like Anonymous, I have some clumps of Bermuda scattered in the buffalo but it's not thriving. It's staying green, but it doesn't have enough water to spread much, and it's going to have less water real soon.

As soon as the temperatures stop hovering around 110 (yup, it's been 105-113 for weeks) I'll drop to every 5 days and see what happens.

Anonymous said...

To Everyone,
Thank you all for leading the way to a more sustainable garden. We are the producers here in Fresno,CA. and with the impact the drought has had in the Central Valley the more we can save water but still have our gardens the better.
I am passionate about having our gardens but we need to think about the future availability of our water. We can't afford to keep using all that water to keep our grasses green. I hope you all enjoy your lawns when they become established and see how much water it saves.

Cyrus said...

I'm assuming the last Anon was Danny from Takao Nursery. Wanted to let you know that the local water district is coming by tomorrow morning to investigate how the lawn has been installed. I managed to get a variance from the drought restrictions for 60 days, though it looks like I may not need it for that long. They are very interested in the project and may recommend it to the San Diego district as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Great! We had record heat here last week up to 112 degrees and I am still watering our trial plot once a week with MP rotor heads. I know you guys down in Encinitas will be alot less maybe once every two weeks once established. Can you send some of the coastal breeze into the central valley.


Cyrus said...

Hi Danny,
I can't imagine how you guys manage up there, or in AZ for that matter. We are such wimps here in Encinitas! It's mid 80s and I'm complaining! The only thing I can reasonably complain about is the Bermuda grass. I'm starting to dream of being engulfed by Bermuda grass runners! I suppose there's something ennobling about bending over on your hands and knees, sweating like a pig and hacking the earth with a primitive metal implement, but I think that's for another life. Maybe it's my karma.

Anonymous said...

We had the bermuda issue on my daughters yard. It took about 4 applications of spot sraying with Roundup to get rid of the stuff. Her house is about 40 years old so the bermuda was well established. Hang in will well be worth the savings in water once you get the UC Verde established and thanks for leading the way to the new california gardens.

Cyrus said...

OK, my last question for this week. In a couple of areas, the UC Verde borders a flower bed with no intervening barrier. I'm starting to notice the UC Verde runners starting to encroach on the flower bed. Do I need to install some sort of barrier to prevent it from totally invading the flower bed, or should I just wait until it goes dormant and cut it back?

Anonymous said...

You will need to keep it edged. I don't think the barrier route is going to work since the runners can grow over the barrier.

SHirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" said...

Your lawn looks very luxurious! I can't believe it is drought tolerant. Okay, I will be expecting this kind of performance in my yard.

Lazy Gardens said...

Danny - You don't have to be anonymous. Use the Name/URL option and give yourself some publicity.

Cyrus - You will have to edge it. A border of something would give you a clean line for the string trimmer. We're planning to put in a flagstone border this fall when it's cool enough to dig the trenches.

Unlike Bermuda, it's only going to go over the border with runners, not send sneaky roots three feet underground to pop up 12 feet past the lawn. A shallow edging should do it.

Andy said...

Hey. I'm seriously considering buying UC verde plugs this week for my lawn here in Coastal So Cal, San Pedro to be exact. What do you think about plant plugs this late in the summer? Andy

Lazy Gardens said...

Andy -
How much hot/warm weather do you have left?

I don't know what temperatures trigger dormancy in this grass.