New lawn in shade in Houston, TX

skinnric(9)December 3, 2012

Hi everyone,

I was hoping someone might be able to educate an ignorant English gardener who has just moved to Houston, Texas and is wanting to plant a new lawn!

We have just bought a house that is surrounded on all sides by oak trees that provide plenty of shade to our garden. Looking at my neighbour's houses, I can see that those lawns that are in the shade of their oak trees have many bald patches and/or are brown. The area that I wish to plant my lawn is north facing under three large oak trees. The previous owners (and our neighbours) have planted monkey grass in the area that I wish to have the lawn. I really hate monkey grass and want to get rid of it.

Please may I have some suggestions as to what approaches I might take to get a decent lawn? I was thinking a bahia grass lawn? Having only just moved to Houston from England, my knowledge of lawns in this part of the world is sketchy at best, so any recommendations most gratefully received.



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Your only hope is to use Saint Augustine grass as it is the most shade tolerant warm season grass there is. Of Saint Augustine grass varieties Palmetto has the best shade tolerance.

With that said you will not be planting any grass in Houston, you will be laying it down. All the warm season grasses in your are is sod only. There is no seed available for hybrid grass as any seed it produces is sterile.

The good news in Houston you live in the Sod Farm Heaven. More good news in Houston area the number 1 turf grass is Saint Augustine and most of your neighbors have SA.

The bad news no grass can tolerate deep shade, thus why your neighbor gave up and planted Monkey Grass. Next time you see him/her ask what kind of grass they have. Bet you a dollar it is Saint Augustine.

Just curious have you spent a Summer in Houston? If not with you being from UK are in for a nasty surprise. Can you say 35 to 40 Celsius with 90 to 100% humidity?

This post was edited by texas-weed on Mon, Dec 3, 12 at 23:35

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 11:26PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I agree with TW. You are in for a very rough first summer.

90% of the lawns in Houston are St Augustine. The other 90% (!) are bermuda. Bahia is not even a contender. St Augustine is too easy to grow to not use it. If you do not wish to water the lawn, then bermuda is the only alternative. In shade, there is only one grass, St Aug.

You are arriving after the second year of a dry spell. That's why you see dead lawns. People have been relying on Mother Nature to provide the water. When that stopped, they gave up. It is not that hard to water a lawn.

If your live oak trees are not trimmed up high, you can have that done. Thinning out the trees will let in plenty of light for St Augustine. Pick a good arborist who will thin it without topping (or Pollarding) it.

First you have to get rid of the monkey grass. It is very hard to get rid of. You might need to spray with RoundUp to get rid of it. Spray once and give it a week to look dead. During that week water it daily to try and sprout all the weeds that might be in there. After a week it should look dead possibly with some new weeds showing up. Then spray again. Rent a vertical rake to cut out the dead stuff. Set it to go about 1/8 inch deep. Rake or blow all the chaff into a compost pile. Then the surface should be ready to plant.

St Augustine should be mowed at the mower's highest setting - always. Water about an inch monthly until the heat comes in. Then increase the frequency until you are watering weekly in the hottest part of summer (June through September). Then back off again. Allow the soil surface to dry out complete so you do not encourage weed seed germination.

I would strongly suggest using organic fertilizer because you can use more of it and use it more often than you can chemical fertilizers. You can have a continually great looking lawn instead of going through dormant periods when it is hot and dry. My favorite organic fertilizer for 2012 was alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow). Cost was around $12 for a 50-pound bag at the feed store. Next year will probably be the same.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 4:58PM
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