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GardenLine with Randy Lemmon

 

buffalograssI've used these posts in the past to warn you about those grass seed ads that sound too good to be true.

You know ... the late-night infomercials that make a grass seed sound like it can repair anything, grow anywhere, and survive a Kryptonite attack.

They are almost always varieties of grass that don't work along the Texas Gulf Coast. Here's a recent one.

Lately, because of Texas' drought-like conditions during July and August, we've started seeing a similar push — especially online — for grasses like Turffalo or buffalograss (left). They're drought-tolerant for sure, but still not grasses that can survive a year of normal rainfall in these parts. In the past, I've referred to buffalograss as a Bermuda variety on Quaaludes, because it is so slow to fill in.

Recently, I've been getting emails like these from folks influenced by Web advertising:

I'm sick of having to water my grass every day, and I saw this drought-tolerant grass ad. The company is based in Texas, so is this something that would work down here? ~ Tommy L. in Spring

Randy, what is your opinion of Turffalo grass for The Woodlands area? ~ Ron R.

I get questions like those almost every summer when we suffer drought.

Buffalograss varieties do quite well in very arid climates, but Houston and the Gulf Coast region are anything but arid. Climates like those of West Texas can average fewer than 20 inches of rain a year. That's arid.

In the Houston area, we get about 45 inches of rainfall annually. Some years, we've had over 60 inches. What do you think will happen to buffalograss that gets two or three times the average rainfall needed? It most certainly will croak.

While some of us only received a smattering of rain from the tropical wave at the end of August, many areas closer to the coast enjoyed upwards of 10 inches in just the past two weeks. And since all buffalograss varieties are so slow to grow, our humidity, moisture and poor soil will help weeds overwhelm a buffalograss lawn in no time.

When you get right down to it, I think this is really a watering/irrigation issue. Simply put, if you're not irrigating correctly, or if your soil is so hard that water isn't penetrating, then take steps to improve your soil quality.

By the way, if you don't have an automatic sprinkler system, what kind of sprinkler are you using? In the summer, you should be using impact sprinklers or lower trajectory sprinklers. Oscillating sprinklers (the ones that throw water straight up and slowly wave back and forth) are the most wasteful because of the intense evaporation summer brings.

Remember: when you're watering wisely, you're saving money. According to the Texas Water Development Board, as much as half of all outdoor water used in the warmer months is wasted because of poor watering practices. That can have quite an impact on your water bill, since 50-80 percent of our water consumption during those months is used outside. It just makes common sense to use this valuable resource more efficiently to save both water and money.

Also, if you aren't mowing St. Augustine varieties as tall as your lawn mower will allow, make the change today. Tall grass in good soil develops deeper roots which draw a larger volume of deep moisture, requiring less supplemental irrigation. Simply put, taller grass blades, especially in St. Augustine lawns, reduce evaporation and ultimately "shade" the soil.

One caveat: Newly sodded lawns need to be watered on a daily basis during the heat of the summer. Keep the mud moist under the root zone so it will break down and allow the roots to establish in the soil below. Don't drown the new sod ... just keep it wet enough to soften the soil and help the roots grow down.

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