Buffalograss isn’t for everyone
July 20, 2010
LINCOLN, Neb. – Is buffalograss for everyone? The simple answer to that question is no. People that like green lawns in April and early May, enjoy mowing the lawns frequently and/or watching the sprinkler water the lawn out the window while sipping a cup of coffee in the morning will be disappointed with a buffalograss lawn.
That’s not to say that one couldn’t mow buffalograss that often or use a lot of water on buffalograss turf. It’s been said some even considered spraying their buffalograss lawn with green paint in the spring so it would match the color of his neighbor’s lawn.
If, however, you think that the amount of money spent on keeping the bluegrass lawn green is getting too high or you would rather be fishing than mowing the lawn, or you want a more eco-friendly lawn, then buffalograss might be the solution for you.
Buffalograss is a warm season grass that typically starts to green up in mid to late May and goes dormant with the first killing freeze in the fall. With buffalograss’s shorter growing season, the amount of time that the lawn needs to be watered is reduced by three or more months. The other advantage that makes buffalograss more water friendly is the depth of root system compared to bluegrass. Established buffalograss will have roots down to three feet whereas established bluegrass will have roots to eight inches. The rains in April and May that the bluegrass used is stored in the soil profile for summer use in the buffalograss turf. A few timely irrigations will keep buffalograss green and growing all summer long.
A high maintenance bluegrass lawn will need a regular mowing schedule of twice weekly. Buffalograss is a naturally short growing grass and if not mowed will reach only a height of 4 to 5 inches. Buffalograss can be mowed at shorter heights or to reduce the male flowers on a schedule of once every two weeks. Homeowners wanting to spend less time mowing and more time on other leisure time activities may want to consider buffalograss.
Buffalograss does require less fertilizer, using zero to 2 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per season. Bluegrass fertilizer use is in the range of 1 to 4 lbs N/1,000 square feet per season. No widespread insect problems on buffalograss have been noted to date; chances are that you may never have to treat for insect problems. Weed control is a different issue in buffalograss and may be more challenging, especially during the establishment years. Cool season grasses and winter annual weeds tend to be problems in buffalograss especially during the months of April and May. New herbicide programs have been developed that generally will control cool season grasses and annual weeds. New classes of herbicides have been labeled for use in buffalograss lawns reducing dependence on 2,4-D products or combination products that would damage buffalograss.
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Open, dry, sunny sites are ideal for buffalograss lawns. The grass is adapted statewide from the Nebraska/Wyoming stateline to the Missouri River in the east. Sites that are shaded by trees or serve as the neighborhood football field would be better planted to different turfgrass species.
Is buffalograss for you? You be the judge.