Buffalo Grass

gfreedyDecember 10, 2008

I'm interested in using UC Verde Buffalo Grass for my lawn and would like to hear from others that have it or have researched it for their own use. I'm particularly interested in how water efficient it claims to be (75% less than fescues). I am in Coastal SoCal about 10 miles from the ocean in a Climate Zone 10.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

It seems to be customary in the industry to make water efficiency claims that mislead the homeowner. If you want your lawn to look green, it will need water and fertilizer. If you only want your lawn to remain alive in a dry, brown, dormant state, you might be able to do that with 75% less water.

In looking at your buff grass, look at how tall the seed stalks get as the grass grows. The "better" varieties will grow the seed stalks at the same speed as the grass grows. That way it doesn't look hairy a few days after mowing. Bermuda is an example of a grass that sends up seeds and looks hairy.

Here is a picture of a Buffalo grass called Tech Turf. This yard is mowed at 3/4 inches high.

Here is a close up of a different yard but the same variety of buffalo grass. This one is ready to be mowed. It's mowed at about 3 inches high. You can see the seed stems in this picture. You can also see how the grass creeps out over the sidewalk.

Another issue with buffalo is shade. It absolutely will not grow unless it gets full sun. This means it will grow on the south side of a building as long as there are no trees, buildings, or fences between the grass and the horizon.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 11:20PM
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I researched buffalo grass for a while, but ultimately decided it would be brown much longer here than what I'd like. Since we tend to have early frosts in the fall and late frosts in the spring, it would probably only be green from mid May through early October most years. It will be green much longer where you are (maybe all year).

I don't know how UC Verde buffalo grass differs from other varieties, so my comments are somewhat generic.

Buffalo grass needs lots of sunlight, so don't plant it anywhere that gets much shade. From what I remember, it is supposed to stay green with as little as 1/2 inch of water every other week or so. It can get by without any fertilizer, but a little fertilizer will help (maybe 1/2 lb N per 1000 sq ft per year).

I think UC Verde is a female only variety, which is good in my opinion. The down side is that it is only available as plugs or sod. The plus side is that there is no pollen and buffalo grass pollen can be rough on people with allergies. Also, buffalo grass seeds are large and in a sort of burr, so it can be less comfortable for kids to walk and play in the seeded varieties.

From what I've read, many people find it takes longer than they expected for buffalo grass to fill in completely. That's not an issue with sod, but if you plant plugs and you want a full lawn quickly, you might want to plant more than the minimum.

If you don't hear from anybody with direct experience, you can try posting on the Rocky Mountain forum. There are a number of people there who have grown buffalo grass.

One thing that I've learned with native grass (I'm planting cool season natives) is that you will want to completely kill your existing lawn before planting the buffalo grass. I tried overseeding with wehatgrass and it has taken a lot longer than if I had just killed hte existing lawn. It would probably be even worse for you if you have fescue, since the fescue will do well when the buffalo grass suffers and vice versa. That might sound like a good thing, and it would be if the two grasses were evenly distributed, but what you tend to end up with is patches of green buffalo with brown fescue patches int he summer and patches of green fescue with brown patches of buffalo in the winter and it never really looks good.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 11:33PM
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It took me too long to write my post, so I didn't see David's response. I should have refreshed before posting.

I'm surprised that the buffalo grass was mowed at 3/4 inch. Most of what I've read leads me to believe that it does better when it is kept relatively long. Some people even opt for a somewhat wild look because it generally only grows to about 4 inches in height. Seeded varieties are mowed more often to get rid of the seed heads, but it UC Verde is not a seeded variety, that shouldn't be an issue.

I don't know whether it uses 75% less water than fescue or not. It definitely will stay green with far less water than fescue, but the amount of water that fescue needs varies greatly depending on soil conditions, the ability to develop deep roots, etc.

Buffalo grass deals with drought in several ways. It has very deep roots, so it can get water from deep underground if there is any there. It also doesn't lose as much water to evapotranspiration. With the deep roots, it would probably be advantageous to water more deeply and less frequently, especially in desert conditions. The reason I say that is that if you water 1/2 inch, that will not penetrate as deeply and more will be lost to surface evaporation. If you water 2 inches, it will penetrate more deeply. The amount lost to evaporation will be nearly the same as with the 1/2 inch, but you'll lose that amount less often, so the total lost will be less. Did that make sense? I know what I meant to convey, but I don't think I expressed myself very well.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 1:30AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

The 3/4 inch surprised me too. In one day I saw Tech Turf mowed at 4 inches down to 3/4 and they all looked great. The company that "made" the grass has been in the hybridizing business for decades mostly for crops. It's the only buffalo I've seen that I could get excited about. The rest mostly look thin and weedy to me.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 11:17AM
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I'd like to see that lawn in early or late season. That is the heat of summer and I would imagine any warm season grass would look good. I wonder how it holds up to traffic?


    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 9:15AM
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When the weather turns too cold for buffalo grass, it goes dormant and turns a light tan color.

From what I've read, buffalo grass doesn't handle heavy traffic very well, but can handle some traffic.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 12:30PM
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rcnaylor(z7 Tex)

From what I understand buffalo grass actually does better with less, not more fertilization. Maybe one pound nitrogen per thousand per year? And, as mentioned above, lots of sun is essential.

I think David hits upon a question that would be very good to hear more about on a lawn forum... how much water does it take to keep it green as compared to just surviving? My guess would be a good bit less than fescues or certainly bluegrasses... but it would be interesting to hear from folks who have actual experience. Which leaves me out.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2008 at 8:11AM
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"how much water does it take to keep it green as compared to just surviving?"

I don't have direct experience with buffalo grass, but have read that it can stay green if it is watered every other week when there is no rain.

I've also red that it has similar requirements to glue grama. If that's accurate, then it would not need much water at all. A year or two ago, I was walking along a stretch of road that is not improved and only has native grasses and weeds growing in it. I think it was in August and it hadn't rained since the first week of June. Most of the native grasses were cool season natives and were dormant. But I saw a patch of green and recognized the distinctive "eyelash" seed heads that blue grama produces. So if buffalo grass has similar requirements, it would rarely need any water to stay green.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2008 at 8:08PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

It is interesting to see what grows along the side of the road. I see wild buffalo grass and bluestem all the time.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2008 at 1:35AM
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I'm trying UC Verde plugs in Phoenix, AZ (Sunset Zone 13) and blogging as it grows. See the link.

So far, it's thriving, sending out runners and acting as promised.

It gets 8 minutes of sprinklers daily, at 5AM and 2PM, which has the soil adequately moist. I'm going to wean it off the twice-daily watering after it's got better coverage.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blogging the Buffalo Grass Experience

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 12:04PM
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Nice blog, lazygardens! Keep the pictures coming, I want to see how UC Verde looks like a lawn...

I'm in Raleigh, NC, and couple of years ago I experimented with Legacy Buffalograss, but unfortunately had zero success:-(

I'm going to try it again this year, but with defferent management. I might have overwatered and overfertilized - who knows; but all of the plugs I ordered died after their first mowing.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 12:56PM
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If you do some research you will find Buffalo grass can be mowed short and is actually used in some golf coarses as fairway grass. I was suprized at that fact especially since it cannot tolerate much traffic and slow to repair itself, but it is out there.

Buffalo grass does not need much water or fertilizer to stay green and healthy. You can push water and fertilizer on it, but the problem is it will allow other invasive grasses to take hold and wipe it out like Bermuda grass. So you keep the soil rather dry and unfertile to discourage other species to grow.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 5:32PM
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