Monday, September 7, 2009

Watching Grass Grow: 6 Months Later

Six months into this experiment, I'm happy with the buffalo grass's performance. So are the quail.



There are still some questions about buffalo grass performance in Phoenix:
  • When will it turn brown this fall?
  • When will it green up next spring?
  • How easy or hard will getting rid of the remains of the Bermuda grass be?
  • How little water can it get and still stay reasonably green next summer?
  • What will it look like with no mowing?

The claims that have been verified, at least in my lawn, are that buffalo grass needs less mowing and less water than Bermuda grass. I have mowed the lawn 5 or 6 times since it was installed, compared to the 4 or more times a month that Bermuda grass requires. It needs less water to stay green than Bermuda grass - 40% less in my experience, perhaps even less than that next year.

19 comments:

El Beardo said...

Your grass looks great. That's what I wan tours to look like! Here's a link to some photos of our installation last week in San Pedro.
http://gallery.me.com/shermalley1/100110

El Beardo said...

Also wanted to ask, should I fertilize? It's been about a week since planting, and all I've done is spread a thin ( 1 inch) layer of compost over the area right before planting. Oh yeah, and the weeds have most definitely arrived!

E.J. said...

El Beardo, I am planning on plugging my small area in the next two weeks. I am in Inglewood about 20 minutes from you. I was also planning on ordering from Takao nursery and have been in touch with them. What was the quality of the plugs? Were they easy to pull from the trays? A friend had ordered from another nursery and the plugs had overgrown the trays and were all bound together and really hard to deal with.

Finally, how close are your plugs? I had thought about 9 inches, but I think I will go with 12" distance to save money.

I've spent the summer trying to eradicate my bermuda grass. It's come back from apparent death twice already! There is very little this time, so I think the buffalo will have a good shot to establish without much competition. If you still have any of the old grass that you need to identify on your property, UC Davis has a site that can help you here
http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7458.html
and here
http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7453.html

Click on the links within the identification section of the articles to see photos and illustrations of the different characteristics. If you have any with seedheads or flowers it will make it easier.

Good luck and thanks Lazy Gardner for creating this blog!

El Beardo said...

E.J.
The plugs I got from Takao nursery were fine. There were a few that were bound together, (the runners had jumped from one plug to the next), but it was not too bothersome. As for spacing. We ordered what we assumed was enough for 12 inch spacing, but ended up with almost a full tray after we were done, so we filled about 120 more plugs in between the 12 inch spacing. I've been watering three times a day for five minutes at a time. I think I'll lighten that up to maybe 10 minutes a day in the next few days, partly because I have clay soil and the yard seems a bit too wet. And the grass plugs seem to be taking. The weeds however, are coming on quick. I've spot sprayed here and there, but they are really everywhere so I think I'm going to start cultivating the soil around the plugs. Anyway, glad to see someone else blazing the the late summer trail with this stuff. Send some pics. And thanks for the UC Davis webpage info. Andy

Lazy Gardens said...

El Beardo - I fertilized lightly after the sprinklers were installed, maybe a pound or two of ammonium phosphate in a hand-operated crank spreader. That's for a 1200 sq ft area.

I fertilized lightly again about a month ago, and saw no difference in the lawn. I think water is the critical part. It needs constant moist surface so it can root the runners.

Can you apply a pre-emergent for the rest of the weeds?

El Beardo said...

What kind of pre-emergent would you suggest using? I'm just concerned that it would harm the plugs. The weeds are coming in strong, mostly crabgrass. On a bright note however, I noticed some the plugs runners have begun to root....

Lazy Gardens said...

El beardo -
I dunno ... I haven't started researching pre-emergents because it's the wrong season. Surflan?

If the runners are rooting, it's happy grass.

El Beardo said...

Lazy, a few of the plugs that have not sent out runners have begun turning purple. They seem like they're getting enough water... Maybe too much? Other plugs continue to send out runners , but not many are rooting. The soil is clay and down about 4 inches, it seems quite wet. Ideas?

Lazy Gardens said...

Try this: Water fewer minutes, but several times a day, just enough to keep the surface damp part of the day so the runners will root.

If you are watering 5 minutes 3x daily, cut back to 2 minutes 3x daily and see what happens.

Shirley "EdenMaker" said...

Lazy Gardener-
You have been a storehouse of information for me, especially since your UC Verde experience started before mine. I'm learning from you.

After adding compost a few weeks ago, the stolons are starting to run and stick to the soil. It was slow in doing this before.

Not full yet, but getting there.
Shirley

El Beardo said...

Plugs are sending loads of runners out. Weeds are out of control. I sprayed a herbicide approved by Todd Valley Farms. We shall see. Clay soil is moist below but surface dries quick. Watering three times a day at two minutes each. Hot and dry this week. Santa Ana winds. Grass is growing, but not all runners are rooting. Maybe I'll changes my watering schedule next week?

dada said...

Hi El Beardo,

I'm in San Pedro too. I just planted my lawn with UC Verde at the beginning of August. Wouldn't mind taking a look at yours and vice versa.

El Beardo said...

Dada... Wow another UC verde lawn in Pedro! I live at 1041 w 17th street, right across from SP high school. My email is channelstreet@me.com. Let's compare grass....

shaevans said...

I noticed that you have a dog. We are considering installing the buffalo grass and was wondering how it holds up with your dog. We have two dogs, a 7 year old Boxer and a 5 month old Golden Retriever.

Lazy Gardens said...

Shaevans -
The dog, alas, is not longer with us, so I can't tell you. She died this summer.

Because Buffalo grass needs so little fertilizer, it will be more suceptible to those brown urine burn spots than a grass that isn't so nitrogen sensitive.

The good news is that it grows so fast that the spots mend quickly.

I don't think the traffic will be much of a problem unless they and people travel the same route many times a day - and any grass will do that. I can see the dog-paths on my old BErmuda lawn from Google Maps!

El Beardo said...

Hey Lazy (and anyone else out there growing this grass), Has your grass started going dormant yet? I've noticed the runners and the the lower parts of the original plugs have started to turn to a straw color. There is still plenty of green growth on top however. I started late (september) so the grass has not spread very much, and I'm wondering what I might need to do in prep for winter. I have just recently dropped down the watering schedule to two days a week @ 8 minutes a pop. The weather is definitely turning to a more autumn like pattern, so I think I might lighten the watering even more in the coming weeks. Thoughts anyone?

Lazy Gardens said...

El Beardo -
It's still hitting the low 90s here, and I'm not seeing signs of dormancy.


That's the 2 big unknowns for me: when WILL it go dormant and green up.

Renee Y said...

Congratulations on your buffalo lawn! We planted our buffalo grass around the same time as you did, with plugs from Todd Valley. We're down in Chandler. However, over a year later and an extra tray of plugs this year to fill in many bald spots... our lawn is still quite ugly and sparse. Not sure what we're doing wrong, but we've experimented with less water, more water, infrequent deep watering, etc - no luck. No matter how much or little water, it barely sends out any runners, and looks a lot like the picture you posted of when your lawn was first coming out of dormancy this spring.
I put compost down once last year, and again this spring, and I try to keep it mowed fairly low to promote runners.
Any suggestions? My husband is very close to calling it a failure and throwing down some bermuda seed. thanks!

Lazy Gardens said...

Renee -
Don't cut it short! I have my lawn mower cranked up to as high as it will go, and only mow once a month or so.

I need to swap out some more sprinkler heads to get 6" pop-ups, then I can just let it go all fluffy and concentrate on killing the damned bermuda.

Check the watering post:
http://lazygardens.blogspot.com/2010/06/calculating-buffalo-grass-watering.html

I've been thoroughly soaking it about every 7-10 days depending on the heat.