questionsit's spring! want to talk about grass seed…

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What have you identified as growing there now? is any one type growing better than the others?

Would you mind sharing which Zone you're in?

http://www.lawngrasses.com/info/climate-map.html#.UzHMtfldWwI

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I can't help you with the kind of grass you need, but for purchasing (and advice), I shop at my local feed and seed (I'm lucky to have one about a mile and a half from my house). Their prices are reasonable, the grass seed/weed ratio is good and if I have any questions, they know the answer or will find it.

I always try to support local owned stores whenever I can.

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I hope that by "plenty of water" you mean during the time the seed is getting established. As a fellow resident of the dry southwest, I discourage the use of retail chain bulk seed that will require lots of water and still probably fail in the end. Here are suggestions for grass that will have the best chance of surviving in your area http://www.wildflower.org/expert/show.php?id=6827 Since you already have a mix of grasses growing, you might want to consider buying smaller amounts of several types of drought-tolerant seeds to mimic the mix in nature and give your lawn a better chance of succeeding.

Our home's previous owners had carefully tended two small patches of grass and we tried to maintain them. It quickly became evident that, between the slope and wind and lack of rain, we were wasting our precious well water. We let nature take over and now those
spots have volunteer native grasses, wildflowers, and plants. (We do weed out the more obnoxious weeds and baby cactus.)

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@gionot: According to the National Weather Service, so far this year we should have gotten 1.07" of rainfall, but we've gotten only .18". We were already a desert, and we are getting only about 10% of our annual rainfall. The yard is small, only about 10'x20', and I only water twice a week in the early mornings. That's the minimum necessary to keep even my drought tolerant plants going. If I don't water at least once a week even the palo verde and oleanders start to die. We don't really have much in the way of native grasses, this is cactus land. The plants that grow naturally here are a thorny bunch. They have an austere beauty and are great for front yard landscaping, but it isn't exactly a nice back yard environment for pets or cookouts. This photo was taken just down the road from me. Untended yards look just like this.

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@nmchapma: The only one I am pretty sure of was some random St. Augustine crawlers. The others we just know are different because some grow tall very fast, dark green and fat (alien even in cultivated yards here, I don't know where it came from), tall and medium colored with wheaty heads (my dog likes to eat this one), short and dark green and fat, short and pale green and skinny, and short and pale green and very skinny. They staked out different sections of the yard as some seemed to prefer shade and some liked more sun. I would guess one of the lighter colors was Bermuda. It's notoriously hardy and I know it's popular locally. But I've never had on-purpose grass so I don't really have a key to identify it. I actually don't mind the mixed grasses at all, but they are sparse and gappy and I'd like them to fill in a bit more so they look less weedy and more lawny. I use my back yard pretty much every day, grass is so much cooler and more hospitable than sand.

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We're in north Texas, where drought isn't severe but becoming uncomfortably common. 2 changes last year: re-plumbing to use grey water and buffalo grass.
Thus far, both are good investments. The grass, while not fast-spreading, only gets about 6 inches tall and, once established, will take whatever rain we do get and seems quite happy.
We bought ours from a local organic plant store, but I've seen it in several seed catalogs this spring.

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@moondrake: I understand your dilemma and acknowledge the need for some watering to encourage grasses to get established, but I get concerned when people plant non-indigenous species and then waste water trying to make a "traditional" yard or garden.

Since the Christmas tree mulch made a big difference in creating a grass-attracting yard, you might want to try other improvements like a layer of compost. The current mulch will help hold the compost and if you don't put it on too thick your volunteer grasses will pop through again in a day or two. In turn, as the grasses thrive, their spreading roots will help hold the new improved soil.

Assuming we get a monsoon season, I find that that is the best time of year to plant things. There is something about natural rain that plants, especially native species, respond to with much better results than what can be accomplished with a hose alone.

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I'm still growing snow in my yard, just under two feet now. Good luck with your grass.

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@xdavex: Yikes! A lot of people here have already switched from heat to cool. We've broken 80 a couple of days. As long as it stays under 90 or over 60, I am fine with the natural temperature, which means I probably won't be cooling my home till mid-May. But I'm going to get my friend to shutter my heater and wake up my swamp cooler in the next few weeks. We skipped winter this year, the ivy which some bird planted that grows all around the edges of my yard where it has things to climb in didn't die all the way back this year, some of my other annuals survived the winter. It likely portends a hot, dry summer.

@nmchapma: Sorry I missed the zone question, we are in zone 12.

@havocsback: I will look into buffalo grass, I've heard that name before but don't know anything about it. But NMChapma's chart lists it for zones 1-2.

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@havocsback: Sorry, zones 5-8, I was reading the chart wrong. There's nothing here for zone 12, only "bahiagrass" which I've never heard of for zone 11.

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@moondrake: Bermuda, Fescue (Tall), and Zoysia are good for Zone 12 (says the chart) I'd advise the Zoysia. Fescue will be a pain to maintain. Bermuda...well I just don't like it, save it for a last resort.

I like the chart I sent you better than the USDA temperature zone map. The chart in the link takes climate into account as well. Using the temperature map alone will bring you to suggestions not suited for dryness your area experiences.

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Oh yeah, when you do seed you'll need to put something down to hold moisture for the seeds to grow. You'll do a lot less watering if you provide a bedding and cover that holds in moisture. Once established the grass will be ok without it.

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@nmchapma: Like fabric? Over the tops? The pine tree shards that were too big to become real mulch do a good job of holding moisture, which helped the grass that's already there grow. I like the chart you provided better than other region charts I have seen, as they tend to lump us in with the rest of Texas, while yours puts us with Arizona, which is a much better match to our climate. Phoenix has very similar climate conditions, but different soil, and we are at a much higher elevation (2700 feet higher).

Ah, I see, the chart has two zone columns. Forgive me, I'm a bureaucrat and usually don't have trouble reading charts. It's been a tough month and my brain is not running on full.

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@moondrake: Put down straw or peat moss or something like that over top of the soil and seeds. Don't bury the seed very deep, just drag a light rake over the top to cover and then put your covering down.

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22 years ago I moved to the south and found myself having to learn about grass because the yard I inherited had problems. All of my experience is based on 3 very different yards in the Memphis area but I've done a lot of research. I do not think you want to do Fescue of any kind. There are several kinds of Zoysia but they are generally very drought resistant, some will likely do better in your area then others. I like Pallisades in partial shade and Myers in full sun but both have to start from sod or plugs, you can't do them from seed. They might turn brown with too little water but will come back if you catch it in time. Bermuda will do well in full sun but is not as drought resistant and in some areas is considered a weed. I've never had St. Augustine but know people who have and love it. I requires more water than Zoysia and does not take traffic as well. From what I know, if you can find a nursery in your area that carries a Zoysia sod that will be your best bet.

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I had clay in my backyard, so planted white clover (which builds up a layer of mulch) because it can fix atmospheric nitrogen for it to grow. After 3 years (of my neighbors being unhappy because I didn't just buy sod), I planted Kentucky Bluegrass and creeping red fescue - both grow slowly, go dormant when dried up - yet will revive when it rains again. A lot depends on your soil, sun, and how much 'traffic' you expect to have on the lawn. For higher traffic a rye grass might be better. Trying to figure out what you need from a blog is like trying to diagnose car problem over the phone.

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@thomasbowman: I'm also reading some online resources. I just like talking with people about their real life experiences because the real world offers opportunities and challenges not envisioned in anyone's plans. For example, I learned a great deal more about lantana reading a long blog on a gardening site than I learned from reading various web articles on the plant. I have a large lantana plant that my best friend (who does most of my yard work) had a war with for several years because it was encroaching on a tree we'd planted. He kept killing it back and it would grow up again in a different place. People's personal experiences with the different varieties was enlightening. I learned that it was starting over from cuttings he was leaving when chopping it back. This last time it sprouted up inside a briar fence he'd built, making it hard to get to, and it looks quite pretty there, so we have decided it can stay.

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@moondrake: Do NOT plant Rye grass. In sandy soil Bermuda will grow but it will look like a weed.

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Looks like my haters have made a visit to this thread :-) I can't believe they didnt stop and say hello

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@phunsberger: Count me as a St. Augustine fan. It has broader blades than most other varieties, and it's soft and cool on bare feet. Of course, I live in a wet part of the country so its water needs are not a problem here. No traffic problems, either. It doesn't do very well from seed, which is tough to find and pricey. We plugged the lawn in our first house with it (didn't have the $$ for solid sod) and ticked off the neighbors who planted centipede grass, because our fast-growing St. Augustine crept into their yards. Oops!

St. Augustine wouldn't be a good choice for @moondrake, of course, but I hear good things about Zoysia. I also wonder whether you can buy those pre-seeded mats that I see covering roadside slopes after new highway construction. I suspect those are cheaper than sodding or plugging, and since the seeds are embedded in a mat of mulch or something, they should be somewhat protected from birds and wind, and water evaporation would be decreased. Hmmm.

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I agree if you have local lawn and garden store, not a big box, go there first. But, if you want to see some good pics of what the grass will turn out to be, then I suggest you order from http://www.outsidepride.com/seed/grass-seed/ I've ordered, seed sprouted very well, and they also offer plugs