Buffalo lawn seeding (a retrospective)

newtxanApril 12, 2012

I always love the posts where people ask how to do something after they've already done it. Now here's mine! I'd love to hear any shared experiences though in case I can improve things at this point.

I picked up a couple of pounds of "Thunder Turf" seed a couple of months ago. This is a blend of Buffalo grass, Blue Grama and Curly Mesquite, (also sold as "Habiturf" http://www.wildflower.org/habiturf/) intending to do a test in my Austin lawn that got cooked during the drought. I did my prep little by little over the past few weeks as I had time.

I plotted out a 22 ft -diameter circle and hand pulled all the weeds that had sprouted up in the dead lawn, then hit the few patches of Bermuda and surviving St. Augustine with Roundup a couple of times.

Over a few backbreaking days, I yanked most of the dead St. Augustine out with a rake, leaving some roots and vegetation, but well enough that I could see dirt over the whole area. I spread a small bag of Bio-Tone 4-3-3 organic fertilizer I had on hand and went over the area a couple of times with a manual cultivator to break up the top inch or so and get it good and crumbly. Then I spread a bag and a half of peat moss over it, cultivated it again, and watered it well a couple of times over the course of a few days.

My intention had been to top it with a half inch of compost, but given lack of time and the general good state of my soil, I figured some peat moss to help moisture retention and the fertilizer for a little seedling boost would suffice.

Last night, I spread the seed, walked over the whole area many times to press the seed into the soil and gave it another light covering of peat moss. Then I watered for 15-20 minutes and set my hose timer to run 5 minutes every 6 hours. We're currently having 85 degree highs and lows around 70, so I hope the real heat holds off for a couple of weeks.

My dog is eagerly awaiting the results.

That photo was actually taken after the initial clearing. Here it is now.

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john_in_sc

Sounds like you are off to a great start....

It will be interesting to see how long it takes for you to get good germination going.

Thank

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 11:01PM
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newtxan

Better late than never with the follow-up.

This went pretty well. I kept it watered for 4 or 5 weeks and spent quite a bit of time pulling weeds, but it sprouted and filled in very nicely. Over the summer, I mowed it a few times as low as 3 inches.

I'm about to try this again, replacing my entire weed/St. Augustine front yard of about 1750 sq ft. this time. I'm hiring a landscaper to remove the existing grass and spread compost, but will do the seeding myself again.

Here's a current shot of the initial plot.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 4:15PM
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texas_weed(7A)

Buffalo has two challenges:

1. It cannot take competition from Bermuda, Zoysia, and Saint Augustine. That is assuming the conditions are right for them to grow.

2. It does not tolerate any shade.

So here is the problem if the other grasses like Bermuda gets what it needs to grow like water and sun shine, it will overtake Buffalo.

The fence, shrubs, and trees you have will be a problem if they cast any shade on the Buffalo.

This post was edited by texas-weed on Wed, Apr 3, 13 at 22:51

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 10:48PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

When did you plant it? I'm surprised there are any bare spots. These are all bunch grasses but tillering should spread them fairly well. Some buffs tiller much (MUCH) faster than others.

What was your watering regimen over the summer?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 3:56AM
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newtxan

Texas-weed, having read about the shade intolerance, I was worried about the edges of this plot, but it seems to be doing great all around. This view is to the East, so the sun is usually on it by mid morning and into the late afternoon.

As the peach trees there and the oak behind and to the left of my camera continue to grow, I may have troubles, but so far so good. Without watering, the St Augustine in the yard confines itself to the area most shaded by the oak, so I'm content to let it and the buffalo negotiate their own border. I'm not shy about using Roundup on the Bermuda.

Dchall, after speaking with some of the Native American Seed people at the Wildflower Center last year, I think the bare spots are probably due to overwatering during sprouting, which was last April. Apparently the curly mesquite is particularly sensitive to too much water. The bare spots are most concentrated in the center of the circular plot where the impact sprinkler was, and it sputtered and leaked quite a bit, soaking that area.

I feel like I did water too much -- I was paranoid about them sprouting and kept it very wet for a whole month probably. I'll try to be more reserved this time.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 10:55PM
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newtxan

And speaking of this time, I ended up balking at the landscaper's quote and rented a sod cutter on Friday and cut out the whole front yard myself. Having hacked the last plot out by hand, I can fully endorse the sod cutter as a miracle invention. Took about an hour to do the whole yard. I left the cut sod sitting while I was out of town and it's now pretty thin and dry. I'm planning to bag mow it this week, perhaps saving it to use as mulch for the seed.

The corner that was most Bermuda got 2 rounds of Roundup before cutting and I plan to put a perimeter bed in that area rather than grass. I'm going to bag up those cuttings and give them to the city.

Looks like we may get rain midweek -- I'm imagining seeing if I get some weed sprouts or Bermuda growth and spraying Roundup again before doing the soil prep and seeding over the weekend. Does that sound at all reasonable?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 11:12PM
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newtxan

And just to clarify about the bare spots in the first plot, it is nowhere as bad as that picture seems to show. The bare spot at the bottom of the photo is actually the perimeter where the buffalo meets some centipede and some cool-weather grass that grows where traffic has gradually killed the St Augustine. I'm already seeing new sprouts in the bare spots and the buffalo runners are spreading well. It's also greened up and grown noticeably in the past week.

For the front yard project, I'm actually planning to do close to double the standard seeding rate to speed up coverage and hopefully cut down on weeding.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 11:22PM
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newtxan

Update. Over the weekend, I did a little more cleanup and leveling with a rake, gave the Bermuda sprouts some more Roundup, then spread 8 pounds of seed over the ~1700 sq ft front lawn. I raked it lightly, went over it with a roller and got my sprinkler set up to go every 6 hours for 10 minutes.

I started to cover it all with a light layer of dead St Augustine, but ran out of daylight. And I've got a bag of alfalfa pellets I plan to spread, but am waiting for a friend to return my spreader.

Now I can just sit back and obsess over every sprout I see for the next 2 months.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 2:56PM
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newtxan

Update. I've got a lot of grass growing. Lots of weeds too. I definitely rushed to seed and if I ever do this again, I'll spend at least 3 or 4 weeks sprouting weeds before I plant the grass.

I spent about 20 minutes pulling weeds tonight and will try to do the same a few times a week from here on out.

I'm not too worried, except for a couple of patches of Purslane that have formed a total carpet over about 30 or 40 square feet. I've hit bits of it with Roundup hoping to open up some spots for later grass sprouts or for the buffalo to spread into and get established.

I think I've probably been overwatering again. I was doing 10 minutes 4 times a day for the first 2 weeks. I did 20 twice a day for a week or so after that and I'm now doing 25 minutes every 3 days. Looks like we're getting to the heat now, with highs of 97 forecast for the next week. So I'll keep an eye on it for signs of stress, but I'm going to try to keep it as dry as possible to give it some advantage over the weeds.

I did end up mulching it a bit with dead grass and spread about 20 pounds of alfalfa before it sprouted.

More as this exciting story develops ...

Ps. The photo was taken at probably 6:30 PM -- most of the yard gets full sun for most of the day.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 12:44AM
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newtxan

Just realized I hadn't posted photos previously. Here's a post-seeding and rolling shot.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 12:50AM
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newtxan

And mulched.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 12:53AM
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newtxan

And here's that purslane.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 12:56AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

This is very interesting. I'm glad you are following up and posting pictures. Little is known about this grass mix outside of the universities. I've been told that blue grama will not survive much south of Austin, but I should have tried it anyway.

When that coily hose finally breaks, go to Sears and get a hose with a lifetime guarantee. I've replaced my hose from 1985 three times with no questions asked and no receipt needed (unlike guarantees with other hoses). I have about 8 Craftsman hoses now (two houses and one is an acre).

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 10:53PM
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newtxan

I know! That hose is about worthless. I've got it running to a sprayer there just for the purpose of watering the 100 square feet or so in the sprinkler-shadow of that tree. I'll definitely try Craftsman when I need a replacement.

I was just meaning to post some pics of my original plot, seeded April 11, 2012. I took some this morning after mowing for the first time this season.

It looks great. I'm really impressed with how thick it is. I've got a moderate crabgrass problem in one section, but you can't really tell by looking. And the buffalo is sending out runners pretty aggressively into the desodded area around it where I spread some additional seed the same time as I did the front yard.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 12:28AM
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newtxan

Post-mow close up.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 12:29AM
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newtxan

Pre-mow from earlier this week.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 12:31AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

If you have buff escaping out of the circle, you might want to be sure it is seeded and watered to get the blue grama and curly mesquite to make it look right. Otherwise, that came in nice and dense. Good job.

Have you watered or fertilized?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 12:53AM
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newtxan

Thanks!

I hadn't thought of that, but the area immediately around is seeded with Thunder Turf and sprouting pretty well. Further from the circle, it's not sprouting at all, probably because of inconsistent watering -- I didn't have a a timer on it like I did in the front yard. I also didn't spend as much time on prep back there and didn't mulch it.

The year-old section got watered through last July while establishing, then half of it has had a lot of water in the past month since I placed my impact sprinkler in the circle to best reach the new seeds. It also got alfalfa pellets a month ago, but I think that's all.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 1:36PM
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graydog111

Buffalo grass is native to the great planes states. It is very drought resistant, but will not grow in the shade. I got acquainted with it while I was farming from 1987 to 2003. We had some growing in a gravel driveway where we drove the tractors, trucks and combine over it continually. The annual rainfall is 15 inches per year, but the buffalo grass would look dead during extreme dry times and then green up after a rain. It only received water when it rained. I was amazed and decided that's what I wanted for my lawn. I am having success plugging my yard with it, but gathering and planting the seeds does not work for me. Mowing it very short does not seem to hurt it. If left unmown, it grows to a maximum of 4 inches high. My goal is to have it over my entire 15 acres. It spreads with runners like Bermuda grass does and chokes everything else out. I read somewhere that the seed needs to be treated somehow to make it germinate when planted, but I have not checked that out. Hope this helps someone. I can post photos later, but you can Google "buffalo grass" and the click images for some good pix.

Here is a link that might be useful: Greeley,CO grasses

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 1:51AM
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graydog111

Buffalo grass is native to the great planes states. It is very drought resistant, but will not grow in the shade. I got acquainted with it while I was farming from 1987 to 2003. We had some growing in a gravel driveway where we drove the tractors, trucks and combine over it continually. The annual rainfall is 15 inches per year, but the buffalo grass would look dead during extreme dry times and then green up after a rain. It only received water when it rained. I was amazed and decided that's what I wanted for my lawn. I am having success plugging my yard with it, but gathering and planting the seeds does not work for me. Mowing it very short does not seem to hurt it. If left unmown, it grows to a maximum of 4 inches high. My goal is to have it over my entire 15 acres. It spreads with runners like Bermuda grass does and chokes everything else out. I read somewhere that the seed needs to be treated somehow to make it germinate when planted, but I have not checked that out. Hope this helps someone. I can post photos later, but you can Google "Buffalo grass" and then click "Images" for some good photos.

Here is a link that might be useful: Greeley,CO grasses

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 1:55AM
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Michael Torres

Would love an update. Thinking about this for my lawn. Starting in the back first.

    Bookmark   on Monday at 7:22PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Where do you live, Michael?

There seems to be many different varieties of buffalo grass with widely varying characteristics. The first time I saw it was at a friend's house. Her yard looked like weeds, but she claimed it was buffalo. Well, if you looked closely between the grass plants it was weeds, and that's what stood out.

Other varieties of buffalo are extremely dense and keep the weeds out. It's been 3 years since the Thunder Turf mix (it goes by several names) came out. They have probably tuned up the seed with experience.

Here are two pictures of a variety of pure buffalo called Tech Turf by the Turffalo company.

The first picture was mowed that morning to a height of 3/4 inch. It looked just that good in person. The second had not been mowed in weeks. You can see how it spreads as it tries to escape across the sidewalk. You can also see the flowers and seed heads. What makes this variety nice is that the seed heads and flowers grow at about the same speed as the grass itself. Most other grasses will send up seed heads and flowers much faster than the grass grows leading to the shaggy look before the week is through. The close up in the second picture also shows how dense it becomes. This location was on the northeast side of a tree. The area right under the tree to the north was bare, so it is very sensitive to sunlight. Here's another picture from the first lawn taken by the neighbor's mailbox.

This was on the west side of the mailbox. Obviously it gets watered, but the morning shade to the west of the mailbox stand is enough to thin the grass out significantly.

All these pictures were taken in Lubbock, by the way. The first and last are at a residence. The middle one is at a frat house behind Texas Tech.

So the point is to do some reading on the variety of buffalo grass you are going to buy. Better yet, find a distributor and see if you can visit some installations. Tech Turf is not available in seed form. You have to buy plugs from the Turffalo company. It's expensive, but it spreads fast once established. Once you develop a dense plot yourself, you can make your own plugs and spread it faster.

    Bookmark   on Wednesday at 11:54AM
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newtxan

Well, it's about to be 3rd summer for my front yard and the 4th for my backyard plot. I'll try to sum up my experience so far.

First though, I'll say I should probably report back in June to give a full opinion. We've had a lot of rain so far and I've got tons of winter grass and other early weeds in the yard right now and the turf is still dormant.

So at the moment, I'm not too happy with my choice, but as I recall from last year, once the grass gets going and everything dries out, it gets better.

Weeds are really my only complaint with my experience. I don't know if it would be any different with any other grass type, but it's been a constant fight. If I was starting again, I would wait much later to seed, and spend April watering and glyphosating the weeds multiple times.

All that said, I was really happy with how it thickened up and blocked the weeds last summer as compared to the previous year and I hope that trend will continue this year.

I'll just keep looking at those pictures I posted last year to keep my spirits up during the dormant spring phase.

    Bookmark   Yesterday at 6:52AM
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newtxan

And on another topic ... I did a bit of spot-spraying with glyphosate on some weeds a couple of weeks ago. I had visited with the Thunderturf people a couple of years ago at the Wildflower Center and they said it should be safe to spray while the turf was dormant.

I'm not entirely convinced of that, but I do have green turf growing within the brown sprayed weed patches. I don't think it's quite as green as the unsprayed areas though. I'll try to report on ongoing differences.

Also, I'm curious if anyone has knowledge or experience with Iron X. I wouldn't mind finding something that, even if not quite as effective as Roundup, I would be comfortable spraying on the whole lawn. Plus, there's that new glyphosate-causes-cancer study ...

    Bookmark   Yesterday at 7:04AM
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