Monday, August 10, 2009

Watching Grass Grow: Week 20 Confessing the Mistakes

This is the post where I point out my errors, hoping you won't commit the same ones.

The weather, and some lack of foresight on my part, made the conversion go less smoothly than it might have. None of the errors were serious - in only 3 months I grew a nice lawn - but they have created more work than was necessary.

NOTE: My planting schedule was constrained by having plants shipped from Nebraska - I was caught between their earliest shipping date and my desire to get the plants here before the Arizona heat set in and made it risky to ship them and miserable to plant them. This will be less of an issue for anyone planning now because there will be resellers in Tucson and Phoenix soon.

Bermuda Grass Control: I should have started Bermuda control the previous fall, because it wasn't quite out of dormancy when we planted the buffalo grass. The heavy watering while the buffalo was being established encouraged the Bermuda. Despite spot spraying and pulling, there are still some thriving patches of Bermuda in the lawn. Unless the two grasses go into and out of dormancy at the same time (still unknown), I'll be able to spray the Bermuda with glyphosate while the buffalo is dormant.

Killing the existing Bermuda will be especially important for anyone who is planting plugs into an existing lawn without having it stripped of old sod. It requires several applications of glyphosate done while the Bermuda is well-watered and actively growing to get a good kill rate.

Annual Weed Control:
Applying broadleaf weed killers in Arizona is controlled by the temperature - despite being for "broad-leaved weeds", the herbicides will damage turf grasses if they are applied when it's too hot. Their definition of "too hot" means spraying weeds is not an option during most of the Phoenix weed-growing season.

I should have used a pre-emergent to control annual weeds. Hand-pulling got the worst of them, but it was extremely time-consuming. Applying pre-emergent this fall and next spring should get them under control.

Soil Preparation:
The buffalo grass arrived the day before the sprinkler system was installed. Again, this would have been better done sooner than it was, to give me time to let the tilled-in compost settle, refill low spots along the sprinkler tranches, and for the first crop of annual weeds to sprout and be killed.

A lawn roller would have been useful before planting to make the soil firmer, and after planting to make sure the plugs were in solid contact with the soil.

I filled in the worst of the low spots and will touch up the levelling while the lawn is dormant.

Sprinkler Installation: I forgot to tell the installers to use 6" pop-ups, which means I have to mow the buffalo grass or it starts blocking the the water distribution.

Fortunately, they used sprinkler bodies that allow me to retrofit 6" popups without having to dig up the lawn. As soon as the pop-ups are changed out, I should be able to let the buffalo grass go unmowed.


31 comments:

Cyrus said...

Hi, I'm the one in Encinitas ( coastal San Diego ). I'm about 10 weeks behind you. I have to say my lawn certainly doesn't look as good as yours at 11 weeks. I think part of the problem is the coastal cloud cover. I'm still hopeful, but the Bermuda grass growth is significant. I had a fescue lawn, but didn't realize how much Bermuda had grown in underneath. I'll be very interested in how your experience with selective treatment with glyphosate goes.

Cyrus said...

By the way, if Ms. Bovashow who runs the Edenmakers blog reads this, here is an fyi. When I visit the edenmakers blog using the Google Chrome browser. I get a message that the website hosts a possible piece of malware called twitbutton.com which can cause unwanted applications to be downloaded to your machine. It refers me to a url to learn more about twitbutton.com

http://safebrowsing.clients.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=http://twitbutton.com/images/60.gif&client=googlechrome&hl=en-US

You can get onto the blog via Internet Explorer, but other browsers with better security may be similarly discouraged.

Connie said...

I REALLY want to do this. Your blog and photos give me a realistic handle on what it might look like. Question please: HOW DID YOU GET RID OF YOUR BERMUDA GRASS? Mine is AWFUL!!

Thanks very much.
cd

Lazy Gardens said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
El Beardo said...

Hi. I'm coastal california too, San Pedro to be exact. First got ideas for UC Verde on Garden Web. I've got a couple questions that maybe one of you guys might be able to answer. First, my home faces north and maybe just maybe, a small part of the area I'd like to plant UC verde in will get little or no direct sun during the winter. Could this be a problem? Next, I'm wondering about whether or not my planting time (Early September) might be too late for the plugs to spread much before going dormant for the winter. Anyone got a guess how long I might be waiting for this grass to fill in in my coastal zone?
And lastly, if I do go thru with planting UC verde, how should I prep my space? I've got a sprinkler system set up, the soil is loam/clay that has been tilled recently (but the clay soil is pretty hard below 4 inches or so). Should I cover the area with manure or topper before planting? Should I dig it in? Dang, sorry for the long post....never thought I'd be this obsessed with grass.

Cyrus said...

I live about 3/4 mile from the beach. My lawn does not look much like lazygardeners at 12 weeks. Although there are parts that are covered well, I have a pretty heavy infestation of Bermuda, and where the sun is partially obstructed for part of the day, in some cases, I have few if any runners. I would say it seems to be growing at about 2/3 the rate of lazygardeners lawn. Based on my experience, I wouldn't try to start the lawn in September, unless you really prepare - totally clear out the existing turf and spray repeatedly for Bermuda beforehand. The problem is, to get all the Bermuda, you'd probably have to wait a month to get the stuff that comes up after the first treatment. Even then, I don't think you'll get a really thick lawn before the dormancy period in late fall. The stuff really likes ALOT of sun. We've had a cloudy summer and August has been unusually cool up until now.

Lazy Gardens said...

Cyrus -
That's good information.

Apparently "hotter than hell" in full desert sun is the favorite habitat for this cultivar.

You could compensate by planting the plugs closer together. Mine were on 18" centers for budget reasons. It's a big lawn.

The area near the patio where we installed the leftover plugs had good coverage a few weeks ahead of the rest.

I would start on Bermuda killing now: water it well, fertilize lightly, get it growing and then a thorough application of glyphosate. Then cut it real short and repeat the watering, growing, spraying at weekly intervals until it no longer has green sprouts coming up.

You would probably not get a thick turf this fall, but next spring you would have roots established and it could immediately start growing.

El Beardo said...

Too late Cyrus, plugs are on their way. Planting this week. I'll try to send photos to this blog. Cross your fingers and hope for a sweltering Indian summer.... Btw, great info on this blog, thanks lazy gardens. Andy

Cyrus said...

Good luck Andy. I wish you dreams free of Bermuda grass runners.

El Beardo said...

Thanks for that. I sprayed my lawn with round-up twice, waited two weeks, then ripped the whole thing out. It's been a bout a month with very little water and there's been little sprouts of some kind of grass, but not much. The lawn I ripped out was a crazy mix of all kinds of grass, clover, and dandelions.
Now, another question. I was given ten big bags (two cubic feet per bag) of potting soil today and was thinking I might be able to use this stuff as my topper before I put the plugs in the ground. Looking at the ingredients, it's basically composted forest material, perlite, and peat moss. what do you all think? Plugs come wednesday, gonna plant thursday!

Lazy Gardens said...

It would work as a topper and hold moisture. You don't need to till it in if you have level ground.

Apply a pre-emergent weed control! Surflan or something. That was my worst mistake, because with the extra water to get the plugs going, I also go every weed seed in the top 6 inches of dirt to sprout.

Did you get the ZEBU root dip? If not, GET IT! It's amazing for keeping the roots hydrated for the first couple of months.

Lazy Gardens said...

And we want PICTURES!

Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" said...

Thanks for the wisdom Lazy Gardening! I've been following your progress and hope to catch up soon!
Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker"

El Beardo said...

Plugs planted. Ordered for what I thought would be 12 inch spacing, but ended up having a full tray left to fill in some rows closer. It looks great, and the sprinklers are working well. Cyrus, how often did you water your grass when you started it? Oh yeah, How do I post photos along with my comments? andy

Lazy Gardens said...

Andy -
It will take a couple minutes at a time, three or four (if your timer allows) times a day to keep the surface moist. It will vary because you aren't in Phoenix - keep an eye on the dirt and increase or decrease as needed. Get and use a moisture tester.

I had already soaked the ground thoroughly a couple days before we planted, used the Zeba root dip (marvelous stuff), and watered thoroughly once after planting, then went to the 3x daily light sprinkles until the grass started spreading.

I kept it wet, according to the moisture meter readings, as deep as the meter's spike would go.

Cyrus said...

I think I started out at about 8 minutes twice a day. It was quite a bit cooler at the time, so you might need a bit more, but I found that my sprinklers did not water evenly. Some areas were actually too wet.

Anonymous said...

It is extremely interesting for me to read this article. Thank you for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I would like to read a bit more soon.

Anonymous said...

anyone.. where do you buy the buffalo grass plugs?

Lazy Gardens said...

Anonymous -
I bought them from Todd Valley Farms in Nebraska. They are licensing some distributors in Arizona this year.

There is also a nursery in California if you search Google for UC Verde plugs to find it.

wen said...

Hi - We are in week 2 of planting Legacy Buffalo Grass Plugs in Salt Lake City. After reading your blog, we made the same mistake of not applying a pre-emergent and the weeds are starting to sprout with the extra watering. What herbicides did you end up using? Was it safe for the plugs? There is so much conflicting information on what is suitable for use on buffalo grass.
Thanks! Wonderful blog!

Lazy Gardens said...

wen - I did a lot of hand-pulling.

I also used Roundup VERY CAREFULLY between the plugs to get some of the Bermuda. Put a paper cup over the plugs, spray the weeds, remove the cup.


You might still be able to apply a liquid pre-emergent. It prevents germination, and should have a minimal effect on the plugs.

wen said...

Thanks for you advice with the herbcide. Temperatures are slightly better in SLC to use herbcides more readily, but ALOT of hand weeding is still involved. We are now almost 5 weeks into growth, and its amazing to see these runners grow! Our plants are bulking up and runners are shooting out everwhere, most are 6-12" long. My concern now is that some of those longer runners doesn't appear to be taking root. should I be concerned at this stage? When did you notice stolons taking root? If from your experience, they should be rooting, what would you suggest I can do to get it going?

Lazy Gardens said...

If you keep the soil surface moist, they will root.

I was watering three times a day, short periods, a few minutes at a time, to keep the soil moist and encourage rooting.

And odd thing I noticed was that the plugs at the edge of the sprinkler area were sending more runners towards the wet side than the dry side.

jrdub said...

I'm reticent to start applying RoundUp to existing Bermuda in the Fall since I don't want a mud bog for a yard when the winter rains arrive here (Mesa, AZ). I have 3 dogs and can't have them trampling in dirt and mud. Will I just have to wait until April and start killing the Bermuda then? My thought was to start starving the Bermuda of water now (water once a week instead 2-3x) and let the lawn thin out, making it easier to kill in the spring. Is that a good strategy?

Lazy Gardens said...

Water-starving Bermuda doesn't make it any easier to kill. It's from an area of Africa that goes several months without rain, and it goes into drought dormancy.

In the spring, when it starts to gree up: water it well, fertilize lightly, get it growing well and then do a thorough application of glyphosate.

A couple of days later, cut it real short and repeat the watering, growing, spraying at weekly intervals until it no longer has green sprouts coming up. Three weeks is often enough.

If the lawn area is level, you can plant the plugs right through the low cut dead bermuda. Just monitor for bermuda sprouts and spray them with glyphosate. I mixed some in a quart hand-held sprayer and patrolled every week.

Judy said...

I have read your blog on uc verde buffalo grass from beginning to end. In surfing the various sites that retail the grass, I see that planting in our zone 9 (Phoenix and Mesa where I live) can begin March 10th. I am interested. Bermuda should be turning green soon and I think I will begin your program of killing the stuff. I am going out today to buy something that will kill seeds (pre emergence). I will mow the heck out of what is currently growing and fertilize and water. I will do this weekly for the month of Feb and plan on placing the stolons in March. Does this sound like a good plan of action to you based on your experience?

Lazy Gardens said...

Jusy saud: "I am interested. Bermuda should be turning green soon and I think I will begin your program of killing the stuff. I am going out today to buy something that will kill seeds (pre emergence)."

NO! Pre-emergents will not kill the roots of established Bermuda grass.

Read this article on how to really kill the Bermuda.

http://voices.yahoo.com/how-kill-bermuda-grass-64837.html

"I will mow the heck out of what is currently growing and fertilize and water. I will do this weekly for the month of Feb and plan on placing the stolons in March. Does this sound like a good plan of action to you based on your experience?"

Nope. It takes longer in spring because much of the Bermuda is dormant until it gets warmer.

Plan on spending the spring killing the Bermuda to make sure is is DEAD!!!!! and then plant the buffalo grass plugs in mid-May. My "three weeks" estimate is for summer extermination, after the nights have warmed up and the Bermuda is thriving.

You can get the plugs from Civano Nursery in Tucson - our timing was dictated by having them shipped in from Nebraska, working around ski season and other projects.




judy said...

Thanks Lazy. I have already contacted Civano Nursery in Tucson. I will take your advise and spend more time murdering the bermuda. And I did know that pre emergence killer will not kill bermuda, it was for other things that might crop up without an invitation.

Judy

djmaru said...

Has anyone had any success spraying glyphosate during dormancy? I recently planted my uc verde and am having a big weed problem. Bayer advanced didn't seem to have an affect on most of it so I think I might be dealing with Bermuda grass. I spent most of today pulling out what I could but it's impossible to get all of it. I'm hoping there's some way to eradicate it.

Lazy Gardens said...

djmaru

My HUGEST regret is that we didn't spend way more time on area prep - levelling the area and killing Bermuda.

In this area (Phoenix), the Bermuda and the Buffalo go in and out of dormancy very close to the same time ... although the Bermuda did green up a bit earlier.

I gave up the fight - I cut the lawn on the highest setting to put the Bermuda at a disadvantage (If I cut it), water on the schedule that favors the Buffalo and let them fight it out.

When I'm pulling the few annual weeds that pop up, I'll pull out any bermuda runners I happen to see. The dense Buffalo forces them to run over the top of the lawn, so they are easy to spot.

The Buffalo grass is slowly winning.

============
If you are in an area where the Bermuda is green while the Buffalo is dormant, you can CAREFULLY spray the Bermuda clumps. I did this one spring, but was called out of town and the SO didn't

Be aware this will leave dead clumps and patches you have to remove or it gets really ugly.

See http://lazygardens.blogspot.com/2014/05/watching-grass-grow-grooming-buffalo.html for information.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lazy Gardens: You stated that you are letting your bermuda and buffalo grasses compete, pulling out the runners on top of the longer buffalo grass. Watching competing grass growing could be entertaining in a very s--l--o--w fashion; but seriously, since bermudagrass also spreads aggressively via underground rhyzomes, yanking out above-ground stolons could stimulate the rhyzomes to spread unseen. Devil grass indeed! Prepare for war! This could get messy, and I think I know who might win if the gardener gets lazy! --Emma