Austin, TX - Grass Advice?

wakko(8)April 30, 2012

Anyone know what type of grass to get for ATX? I keep reading that st. augustine is beautiful, but needs constant watering. Bermuda sounds like a good option, but needs constant cutting? Zoysia seems like the best option but it looks really expensive?

I am looking for something drought tolerant and does well in a mix high sun/shade area. Lawn has a big tree and shades well except for the front.

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I live in Buda and was where you were at a month ago. I went with Zoysia. I would have liked to get St. Augustine but no shade in my backyard and i also heard the same about the need for water and not good if full sun. I had several folks including a professional landscaper advise me to get zoysia. It is pricier than the others grasses.

If not zoysia, i would recommend Bermuda.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 8:39AM
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With the shade issue leaves you with only two options of SA and Zoysia. If it is moderate shade SA is the only choice, as Zoysia can only take light shade. If it is deep shade forget it.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 9:04AM
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Here's a picture of when it was pretty green from early rains.

and a pic of the trees

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 11:35AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Awww jeeze! Not only does St Augustine not need more water than bermuda to look good, it certainly does not need "constant watering." I have a St Aug lawn in San Antonio and one in George West (edge of the South Texas desert between Corpus and San Antonio). The lawn in SA has only been watered once this season. Sure the rains helped but once? It's MAY already! The lawn in GW is an experiment but I have parts of that which have not been watered yet this season (to be fair I am going to water those parts this week). Again, it's MAY and I'm in the desert!

Here's how to take care of St Augustine: Mulch mow at the mower's HIGHEST setting. NEVER lower it for ANY reason. There is no reason to mow SA at anything lower than the highest setting. Tall SA takes much less water than short SA. When you do water, water a full inch all at one time. The lawn in the picture, I'm going to predict, will have runoff quickly. In that case you need to water up to the point of runoff and stop to let that soak in. Wait 15-30 minutes and resume. Cycle like that for as long as it takes to get a full inch. Deep watering is key to the success of St Aug. Finally, fertilize carefully if you use chemicals. If you use organics, you can fertilize with wild abandon. If you want the grass to spread into the dead spots, fertilizer will really help.

I might point out that the only difference between St Aug care and bermuda/zoysia care is the mowing height and fertilizer schedule. Bermuda must be mowed 2x weekly at the mower's lowest setting and fertilized heavily every month to look good. If you want bermuda to look good, it must be watered one full inch per week, just like St Aug. And by the way, bermuda won't grow at all in the shade of your trees. Your only hope is St Aug or a shade tolerant ground cover like Asiatic jasmine.

Here's why "they" say that St Augustine needs more water. If you stop watering bermuda, it will go dormant and recover as soon as the rains return. In that sense, you could grow bermuda and never water it. If you tried that with St Aug it would die. Therefore you must water St Aug "constantly." Well you can go a full month as long as you are deep watering when you water. If you catch it in time, St Aug can look pretty bad but you really don't want to test that limit. So if you want your lawn to look good, you'll have to water it no matter which grass you pick. If you don't care, then get bermuda knowing you can quickly perk it up from dormancy at any time.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 9:09PM
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Well, you have killed almost every scrap of grass on your lawn now. dchall is dead-on for the rest.

You just made what would have taken some patience and some--not a ton--of water a task that will require now quite a bit of money, too.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 12:48AM
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yes, i realize the $ portion and being a new homeowner without any irrigation i just didn't realize the maintenance required and the harm it would do. Yes i've been neglecting the yard and shame on me and a burden to my wallet as the quotes i've been getting are around $800 for prep and install. Last year i tried watering frequently but i think it was already a lost cause with the drought and high heat ... but it's besides the point since it is dead now and has been dead for over a year.

So with that being said, starting over is it wise to get St augustine and which variety? Palmetto, Raleigh or go with Zoysia and which kind Palisades, empire, cavalier or empire? It seems like bermuda would not fair well with the two trees.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 11:33AM
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OK let's be positive. From the pictures I can tell you have enough sun to grow either SA or Zoysia. Bermuda is out of the question.

From the size of the yard in the pictures we are talking small potatoes of what looks like around 1000.ft2 so you are looking at 2 pallets of sod and no more than 3 pallets.

So get to work.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 1:16PM
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Thank you everyone for all your advice, especially the information about St. Augustine. If the price difference isn't that great i'll probably go with an Empire Zoysia.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 2:17PM
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St. Augustine, do plugs, keep it watered, mow high...

And you almost can't fail!

Get the stuff that's SAD resistant, since you're mostly starting over.

You might want to do the installation yourself an but the $$$ into an irrigation system. Texas without an irrigation system is no fun at all, especially moving around sprinklers in the high summer.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 2:24PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Watering frequently is only done when you are establishing new sod or new seed. Once the roots are knit into the soil, then you back off to infrequent watering. If you revert to frequent watering, then you will have all the weed seeds germinating.

Which to get, St Aug or Zoysia?
Look around your neighborhood for the successful lawns and go with the flow. I can almost guarantee you they are either bermuda (in full sun) or St Aug (full sun or shady). If you can find any successful zoysia lawns, ask the owner how long they have had it and would they do it again? Ask how often they water, mow and fertilize. I think you'll have trouble finding successful zoysia in Central to South Texas. I have a patch of zoysia but I am always in fear of it. Every week I expect it to go dormant...FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON. That's a funny thing about it. Once it goes dormant for any reason, it remains dormant no matter how much water or fertilizer you apply. I find it to be a fickle grass. But then in the spring it awakens like new. Last year my zoysia was dormant from about June 2011 through February. Since I only have a small patch it doesn't get the same care as the large part of the lawn. I've seen several zoysia lawns installed in upper middle class homes. All but one of those has converted to St Augustine before the end of the first season. The other one is going on 3 years now. Last year's drought, heat, and arid winds hit them hard, and they have a lot of weeds this year. We'll see what they do. In any case I don't consider it a pretty lawn and never have. So I'm obviously trying to persuade you to go with the grass that 99% of the non-bermuda lawns use.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 2:34PM
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most members of my block have what looks like St augustine and they're on the other side which gets morning sun and afternoon shade. My side has the morning shade and afternoon sun. Our side of the street looks like it has bermuda without large trees and some st augustine. i am fond of st aug as i think it looks a lot better.

One question about ST Aug, do you need to water it during the winter months?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 3:46PM
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So the front of your house is facing south and or west? If so, I wonder if bermuda might not do well in the part of your yard nearest the curb. Unless you plan to compete for "Yard of the Month" award, I don't offhand see why you couldn't have St. Augustine in the more shaded areas and bermuda in the sunny. You can trim it all to the same height and still have something green to walk on and choke out weeds. You could also reduce the demands on your time, long term, by greatly expanding the beds around the trees and filling them with mulch and drought tolerant ground cover--Asian jasmime, liriope and such.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 4:46PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Agreeing with whitecap - while bermuda looks best when it is mowed real low, it is acceptably green when mowed high. I have that experiment going on in San Antonio. My back lawn used to be all St Aug with an insignificant patch of bermuda existing against all odds in such shade. Suddenly we lost all the trees on the west side of our property and the bermuda took off. Then the drought hit and I was not there to watch the St Aug. I ended up having to put a new piece of Floratam St Aug down last year. I babied that piece and it is spreading. I am mowing at the highest setting and the bermuda is marginally acceptable. It continues to spread as does the St Augustine. If you don't mind the look of fine blades and coarse blades, then you can let them mingle.

In theory you don't need to water any grass in the winter. It is a good idea to water the SOIL, though. Your soil microbes are what keep your soil and lawn healthy. I try to water once a month with an inch of water. As an experiment several years ago I continued to water weekly all winter. Sure enough the lawn remained green and growing all winter long. I've seen that with both St Aug and with bermuda here in San Antonio. My tall grass (10 inches or more) in George West never went dormant last winter, but the area where I mowed it short in November did go dormant in January during a cold snap.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 8:45PM
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This is the third time wakko has posted this question since last August, and has been told what he needs to do.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 9:56PM
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Thank you Whitecap2.
Although they were different variations of the topic, this time it was more specific and the feedback has been more descriptive. You have provided me an alternative options like asian jasmine as well.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 9:07AM
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