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Buffalo Grass


For extreme environmental conditions, nothing beats Buffalo Grass. Native to the Great Plains, this is a very tough grass that the buffalo thrived on as their huge herds moved from place to place; hence the name.

The western settlers used it also, cutting squares of it to build sod houses against the bitter Plains winters. Although it’s a warm season grass it survives deep cold and high heat, as well as drought conditions. With irrigation it even will grow in desert areas. It’s this country’s only truly native turf grass. Buffalo Grass and curly mesquite look a lot alike and often are found together in the wild, so sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.

If you live in a wet environment, this probably is not a grass for you, as it doesn’t handle lots of rainfall very well. It does best when it receives between 15 inches and 30 inches of water a year.

Propagation

You can start a lawn of Buffalo Grass either by seed or by sod. It spreads from seeds and stolons or surface runners, so once you get it started, it spreads on its own. However, it makes on a shallow root system so it’s not aggressive in flower beds or other places you don’t want it, and it’s easy to pull up or kill by cultivation.

If you’re going to start from seed, get treated seed; its germination rate is about 90%. Plant in the spring—usually in April and May—when you have good soil moisture and mild temperatures.

Sod also works well for establishing Buffalo Grass, as do sod plugs. Prepare the soil well so plugs survive, and plant them in 18-inch rows from 6 inches to 2 feet apart. Each plug should be at least 2 inches by 2 inches.

Be sure to keep plugs damp while you’re planting them, because they’ll die if they dry out. After you’ve planted them, water them well for several weeks until they get established.

When you plant from seed you will get patches of male and female plants; the male plants produce seed stalks that some people don’t like. When you get sod plugs, you almost always get female plants, since they don’t produce tall seed stalks.

Care & Maintenance

buffalo plush toy
One of the biggest advantages of planting Buffalo Grass is that it takes very little maintenance. However, it doesn’t do well in high traffic areas or whether other turf grasses are planted. It also doesn’t like shade or very wet environments.

Because Buffalo Grass doesn’t get very tall—8 to 10 inches—it doesn’t need a lot of mowing. And because it produces only a thin turf, it’s ideal if you want a “native” landscape; you can mix other native plants with it and create a wildflower landscape with an under planting of buffalo grass.

In a lawn situation, mow Buffalo Grass to a height of 2 to 3 inches. You may need to mow once a week to keep it at that height.

Buffalo Grass doesn’t need to be fertilized, but you can put a light application of nitrogen on it. Don’t over fertilize or overwater it, as both will encourage Bermudagrass to crowd it out.

Varieties Of Lawn Grass

There are many different varieties of lawn grass available but knowing the right one to choose for your area is vital.
varieties of lawn grass for a manicured lawn
Lawns are grown in every U.S. state, but the grasses in the lawns aren’t the same all over the country. Like most plants, grasses grow in some climates and conditions but not in others. It’s very important to choose the right grass for your location if you want an attractive and healthy lawn.

You can plant a new lawn from seed, sod, plugs, or sprigs. If you are planting a large area, seeding is the least expensive choice. The downside of seeding is that it takes a longer time for the grass to become established.

St. Augustine grass, hybrid bermudagrass, and some varieties of zoysiagrass are only available as sod, plugs, or sprigs. Plugs are small squares of sod, while sprigs are pieces of mature lawn grass. They are all more expensive than seeding, but take much less time to establish.

Following are brief descriptions of the major turf grasses, including where they grow in the U.S. Keep in mind that mixes of various kinds of grass seed increase your lawn options.

Types of Lawn Grasses

Bahiagrass is a low maintenance, drought- and shade-tolerant, low quality turf grass grown widely in the southeast.

Bermudagrass is the most popular lawn grass in the warm southern states.

Blue gamma grass is a native grass well suited for growing in the northern plains where summers are very hot and winters are very cold.

Buffalo grass is a native grass that grows well in high drought areas of the west.

Centipedegrass is a warm season grass that thrives in poor, acidic soils.

Creeping bent grass is a soft, tightly knit turf grass well suited to golf greens in northern states.

Fescue, fine – or needle-leaved. Mixed with perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass this turf grass increases shade and drought tolerance.

Fescue, tall – or broad-leaved. Traditionally coarse-bladed pasture grasses, tall fescue has new varieties that look and feel like Kentucky bluegrass but are more tolerant of low soil fertility and compacted soil.

Kentucky bluegrass is the most important turf grass in the northern half of the United States. It is also grown in southern coastal areas of California.

Ryegrass, annual, is a low-cost choice for overseeding warm season lawns.

Ryegrass, perennial, is often combined with Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues. Like annual ryegrass, it can also be used for overseeding warm season lawns.

St. Augustine grass is one of the most important lawn grasses of the south and west. It grows fast and has a coarse texture.

Zoysiagrass makes a high quality lawn in subtropical areas of the country.

Choosing the Right Grass

Cooperative Extension agents can tell you which grasses or mixtures of grasses are best for your situation. Every state has a Cooperative Extension service, usually within the state university. You can find the office closest to you from the USDA website. Extension agents can also give you information on how to grow a lawn and help you with insect and disease problems.