Buffalo Grass 101: A Homeowner's Guide to Care and Success

Buffalo Grass 101: A Homeowner's Guide to Care and Success - My Store
Buffalo grass, a popular choice among homeowners, offers an enticing blend of minimal upkeep and vibrant greenery. If you're considering buffalo grass for your lawn or simply want to learn more about it, you're in the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore buffalo grass's unique qualities, types, advantages, drawbacks, and provide expert tips on planting and care.

What Is Buffalo Grass?

Buffalo grass, scientifically known as Buchloe dactyloides, is a popular choice for lawns across the United States. Its appeal lies in its remarkable resilience and low maintenance requirements, making it an excellent option for homeowners seeking a lush and hassle-free lawn. Buffalo grass has a rich history, with its origins dating back to the vast prairies of North America. This hardy turfgrass was a staple for indigenous peoples, who recognized its value for both its practical and ornamental qualities. According to Richard L. Duble, Turfgrass Specialist, at Texas Cooperative Extension:" Buffalograss is only recommended for low maintenance, low use turfgrass areas. It does not persist where use is intensive. Consequently, only minimum maintenance practices are required to keep a buffalograss turf." Botanical Name: Buchloe dactyloides Plant Type: Turf Grass Light Requirement: Full Sun Water Demand: Low Ornamental Value: Flowering Spikelets Yellowish Green Native/Adapted: Native Wildlife Value: Birds, Butterflies Season: Summer, Fall Deciduous/Evergreen: Deciduous Plant Form: Turf Plant Spread: 1-2' Plant Height: 3

Types of Buffalo Grass

Lush green lawn with a fence in the background Buffalo grass, known for its adaptability and diversity, offers several varieties, each with its unique characteristics. Understanding these types can help you choose the most suitable one for your specific climate and preferences. Texas Bluegrass (Bouteloua dactyloides) This variety is native to the Great Plains and is known for its fine texture and blue-green hue. It's a popular choice for its drought resistance and ability to thrive in full sun. It is ideal for hot and dry regions, including the southern United States. 609 Buffalo Grass 609 buffalo grass is a cold-hardy variety known for its dense growth and lush appearance. It has a soft texture and a vibrant green color. It is well-suited for cooler climates with cold winters, making it an excellent choice for northern regions. Cody Buffalo Grass Cody buffalo grass is a hardy and low-maintenance variety that can tolerate a range of soil types. It forms a dense carpet-like turf with a medium green color. It is versatile and suitable for a wide range of climates, including both hot and cold regions. Bowie Buffalo Grass Bowie buffalo grass is known for its fine leaf texture and rich green color. It has excellent drought tolerance and requires minimal mowing. It is ideal for regions with hot summers and low water availability.

Pros and Cons of Buffalo Grass

Irrigation sprinkler spraying water on a lush green lawn

Pros of Buffalo Grass

Drought Tolerance Buffalo grass is a true drought-tolerant champion. Its deep-reaching roots enable it to withstand extended periods of water scarcity, making it an ideal choice for regions with water restrictions or arid climates. Cold Resistance In addition to its drought resilience, certain buffalo grass varieties, like 609 buffalo grass, exhibit impressive cold resistance. This characteristic allows it to thrive in regions with chilly winters, ensuring year-round lawn appeal. Low Water Needs Buffalo grass's minimal water requirements not only save on water bills but also contribute to water conservation efforts. It's a responsible choice for environmentally conscious homeowners. Low Fertilizer Needs Unlike some grass types that demand frequent fertilization, buffalo grass thrives with minimal fertilizer applications. This low-input requirement reduces the environmental impact of lawn care. Versatile Establishment Buffalo grass offers flexibility in how you can establish it on your lawn. You can choose to grow it from seed, lay sod, or plant plugs, catering to your preferred method and schedule. Reduced Mowing With a typical height range of 3 to 6 inches, buffalo grass requires less frequent mowing compared to other grass varieties. This not only saves you time and effort but also helps maintain a neat appearance with minimal maintenance.

Cons of Buffalo Grass

Person holding a handful of Milwaukee grass seed Slow Establishment from Seed Growing buffalo grass from seed can be a patient gardener's endeavor. It often takes longer to establish a lush lawn compared to other grass types. If you desire quick results, alternative methods like sodding or plugging may be preferred. Invasive Nature in Certain Conditions While buffalo grass is admired for its resilience, it can become invasive in specific conditions. Its aggressive growth may encroach on neighboring areas, requiring vigilant containment measures. Vulnerability to Certain Diseases Buffalo grass can be susceptible to certain diseases, such as rust and brown patch. Understanding the potential for disease and implementing preventative measures is crucial for its long-term health.

How to Plant Buffalo Grass

Seeding a Buffalo Grass Lawn

Ideal Soil Conditions Begin by selecting a sunny location with well-draining soil for your buffalo grass lawn. Buffalo grass thrives in full sun, so choose an area with minimal shade. Seed Depth and Spacing Sow buffalo grass seeds at a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch into the prepared soil. Ensure even distribution of seeds to avoid over-seeding or gaps in coverage. Watering and Germination Tips Water the newly seeded area thoroughly immediately after planting to settle the seeds into the soil. Keep the soil consistently moist during the germination period, which typically takes 7-21 days. After germination, gradually reduce watering frequency, transitioning to a deep, infrequent watering schedule to encourage deep root growth.

Plugging a Buffalo Grass Lawn

Plugging buffalo grass is an efficient method, especially for those who prefer a quicker lawn establishment. It involves planting small grass plugs at regular intervals. The benefits of using plugs include faster coverage, reduced weed competition, and less risk of erosion compared to seeding. Plug Spacing and Planting Techniques Space buffalo grass plugs approximately 12-24 inches apart, depending on the variety and desired coverage rate. Dig holes slightly larger than the plugs and plant them at the same depth as they were in the nursery trays. Water the plugs immediately after planting, and keep the soil consistently moist during the initial establishment phase. Plugged buffalo grass requires careful monitoring and care during the first few weeks. Ensure consistent moisture to promote root development. Once the plugs are well-established, gradually transition to a regular watering schedule, allowing the grass to adapt to your local conditions.

Sodding a Buffalo Grass Lawn

Person holding a roll of sod Sodding offers the quickest way to establish a buffalo grass lawn, providing an instant lush carpet of grass. This method is particularly useful for those who desire an immediate lawn and want to minimize the risk of weed competition during establishment. Proper Installation and Care Lay buffalo grass sod rolls tightly together, avoiding gaps. Stagger the seams like brickwork for a seamless appearance. Water the sod thoroughly immediately after installation to ensure good soil-to-sod contact. Keep the sod consistently moist for the first few weeks, gradually transitioning to a standard watering schedule.

How to Care for Buffalo Grass

Fertilization

Fertilizing buffalo grass is essential for its health and appearance. It not only provides vital nutrients but also helps the grass handle challenges like drought and foot traffic. Here's a straightforward plan: Use a good-quality, balanced fertilizer with a 15-5-10 nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) ratio, suitable for buffalo grass. Apply it in early spring when the grass starts to turn green, and again in late summer or early fall to keep it well-nourished. Adjust your schedule according to your local climate and the type of buffalo grass you have.

Irrigation

To encourage deep root growth in buffalo grass and optimize your watering practices, consider the following tips: Deep and Infrequent: Water deeply but less often, aiming for about 1 inch of water per week, accounting for rainfall. Morning Watering: Water your lawn in the early morning to minimize water loss due to evaporation. Deep Saturation: Ensure the soil is thoroughly soaked to a depth of 6-8 inches to prevent shallow root growth. Smart Irrigation Controller: Install a smart irrigation controller to automate and fine-tune your watering schedule based on weather conditions and the specific needs of your buffalo grass. This technology can help conserve water while keeping your lawn healthy. Buffalo grass is resilient in drought conditions, and if it goes dormant to conserve moisture during extreme drought, be cautious about foot traffic to prevent further stress. Adjust your watering schedule seasonally, providing more water during hot, dry spells and reducing it during cooler, wetter periods.

Weed Control

Person spraying herbicide on lawn Buffalo grass, with its dense growth, naturally acts as a barrier against weeds. However, it's crucial to take proactive steps for effective weed control. This involves using both pre-emergent and post-emergent weed control measures when necessary. You have a range of weed control methods to choose from, including organic options like mulching and chemical herbicides. Just be sure to apply herbicides safely and responsibly, adhering to the manufacturer's instructions for the best results.

Disease Control

Buffalo grass, especially in humid conditions, can become vulnerable to diseases like rust and brown patch. It's essential to keep a close eye on your lawn for any indications of disease, such as discolored or thinning patches. To proactively safeguard your buffalo grass, adopt cultural practices like ensuring proper irrigation and promoting aeration to deter disease development. If disease symptoms persist or worsen, it's important to take action. Here's how to address two common buffalo grass diseases: Rust Disease: Rust disease appears as orange to reddish-brown powdery pustules on the grass blades, giving them a rusty appearance. Fungicide: Apply a fungicide specifically formulated to control rust disease, following the manufacturer's instructions. This is usually done in early spring or when symptoms first appear. Improve Airflow: Prune nearby vegetation and trees to enhance air circulation around your lawn, as rust thrives in humid and stagnant conditions. Regular Mowing: Keep your buffalo grass at the recommended height for your specific variety, as this can reduce the severity of rust infections. Brown Patch Disease: Brown patch appears as circular or irregularly shaped areas of dead, brown grass surrounded by a dark ring of healthy grass. Fungicide: Apply a fungicide labeled for brown patch control, following the recommended application rate and timing. Aeration: Promote soil aeration by regularly aerating your lawn, which can reduce the chances of brown patch development. Proper Irrigation: Avoid overwatering, as excess moisture can encourage brown patch. Water your buffalo grass deeply and infrequently, and avoid watering in the evening to prevent extended periods of leaf wetness.

Insect Control

To maintain the health of your buffalo grass and protect it from common insect pests like grubs, chinch bugs, and armyworms, it's important to be vigilant. Detecting these pests early can help prevent damage, and when it becomes necessary to use insecticides, it's crucial to do so safely and responsibly. To reduce the risk of future pest issues, focus on maintaining a healthy lawn through proper care and maintenance practices. A robust buffalo grass is less likely to attract pests. Regularly inspect your buffalo grass for signs of trouble, such as patches of yellowing or thinning grass, wilting, or the presence of these insects. If you discover an infestation, consider these measures:
    • For grubs and armyworms, explore natural control methods like beneficial nematodes or biological predators.
    • If you opt for insecticides, follow these guidelines:
      • Prioritize safety and responsible usage.
      • Adhere to the recommended dosage and safety instructions found on the product label.

Mowing

To keep your buffalo grass looking its best and thriving, it's crucial to maintain the right mowing practices. The ideal mowing height can vary depending on your buffalo grass variety, but generally, aim for a height between 3 to 6 inches. Adjust your mower to ensure you never cut more than one-third of the grass blade's length in a single mowing session. Overcutting can stress the grass and make it more vulnerable to issues. Also, use a sharp and well-maintained mower equipped with a mulching blade. This helps maintain grass health by creating fine clippings that can decompose and nourish the lawn.

Aerating

To maintain the health and vitality of your buffalo grass, aeration is a crucial step. It helps combat soil compaction and improves the penetration of nutrients and water. Consider aerating your lawn once a year, ideally in late spring or early summer when the grass is actively growing. Select the Right Equipment: Opt for core aerators, which remove small plugs of soil, allowing air, water, and nutrients to reach the grassroots effectively. Timing Matters: Schedule aeration when your grass is in its growth phase, typically during mild weather when the lawn isn't under stress. High-Traffic Areas: Give extra attention to parts of your lawn that endure heavy foot traffic. These areas benefit greatly from aeration, as it improves grass resilience.

FAQs about Buffalo Grass

An image featuring a dense patch of Baffalograss, a native and drought-resistant turfgrass species. The fine-textured, blue-green blades form a low-growing, resilient carpet, perfect for sustainable and water-efficient lawns. Is buffalo grass a good lawn? Yes, buffalo grass is a good lawn choice for many homeowners due to its drought tolerance, low maintenance requirements, and eco-friendly qualities. Is buffalo grass better than Bermuda grass? Buffalo grass and Bermuda grass both have their merits. Buffalo grass is preferred for its lower water and maintenance needs, making it a better choice in water-restricted areas. Bermuda grass can thrive in various conditions but may require more maintenance. Is buffalo grass invasive? Buffalo grass can become invasive in specific conditions, especially in regions with abundant moisture and fertile soil. It's important to monitor its growth and take containment measures if needed. Where buffalo grass is not a good lawn choice? Buffalo grass may not be suitable for areas with extremely cold winters, as some varieties have limited cold tolerance. Additionally, it may not thrive in heavy shade or high-traffic areas. Is buffalo grass hard to grow? Buffalo grass is generally easy to grow, but it may require patience when establishing from seed. Sodding or plugging can expedite the process. Why is my buffalo grass turning brown? Buffalo grass may turn brown due to drought stress, insufficient watering, or disease. Proper irrigation and disease management are essential for maintaining its green color.