Tip Sheet for Buffalo Grass Lawn Establishment
Native to the Midwest, rugged buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) evolved on sunny prairies and requires at least six to eight hours of direct light per day to succeed in a turf setting. It is a low-growing "warm-season" grass, which means it will be green in the summer and tawny beige in winter and early spring.
Buffalo grass requires only 1/4 inch of water per week compared to most turf grasses that need 1 to 1 1/2 inches per week. In fact, you won't need to water your buffalo grass except in times of severe drought. A buffalo grass turf takes little or no fertilizer. The newest turf type buffalo grasses used in urban lawns are cultivars of the original native and will benefit from a slow-release fertilizer at a rate of one pound per 1000 square feet once monthly, June through August. A pre-emergent herbicide like Surflan may be used when temperatures are below 85 degrees to control weeds like crabgrass and foxtail. A pre- or post-emergent herbicide such as Plateau will help control weeds in existing stands. And unlike fescues and bluegrass, buffalo grass is insect and disease-resistant. Best of all, most buffalo grasses reach a maximum height of four to six inches. You can forget mowing for a natural look or mow once a month for a more manicured look.
You can establish a buffalo grass lawn with seed or plugs, but either way requires any existing vegetation to be destroyed and thatch removed.
1) Kill existing turf with an application of Roundup. If your turf is infested with weed seed or is Bermuda grass, two applications of Roundup are recommended and you should delay planting until any competition is controlled.
2) Remove thatch. If you are using plugs, do not till the soil, but if you are seeding, till to a depth of three to four inches. The tilled area will require more water and be prone to erosion.
3) Plant in late spring when soil is warm (60 degrees F) through summer or until about August 1. Seed the area at a rate of two to three pounds of seed per 1000 feet. For more even distribution, divide seed quantity in half and apply second half perpendicular to the first application. Firm the soil after seeding and before watering to insure soil contact and reduce washing. Plug at a spacing of 12-18 inches on center.
4) Maintain soil moisture for two to three weeks until seedlings emerge or plugs are established. After the first month, water the area thoroughly once or twice per week until the new turf is established.
5) Keep the area mowed to a height of one and one-half to three inches during establishment to encourage the buffalo grass to spread and to control weed growth.