Establish your turf
GROUND RULES, TOOLS FOR SEPTEMBER
September 06, 2007
BY CHARLIE NEUMEYER - VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
EDITED BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON
PHOTO BY NANCY KRAMER/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Four different types of turfgrass - St. Augustinegrass, Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, and buffalograss - are on display at in front of the teahouse gazebo with the blue roof at Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG), located at Victoria Regional Airport. VEG is open for viewing from dawn to dusk.
PHOTO BY CHARLIE NEUMEYER/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER

Shown here are leaf sizes of four types of grasses being grown at VEG in the turfgrass demonstration area.

From left to right are St. Augustine, zoysia, dwarf Bermuda, and buffalo
.
If you haven't been by the Victoria Master Gardeners' gardens lately, now might be the time.

Along with the many flowerbeds and shrub areas, you will also find the turfgrass demonstration area in front of the teahouse gazebo - the one with the blue roof.

We have planted different varieties of four different types or species of lawn grasses, and it is a good opportunity to compare them.

Within these we have three cultivars of St. Augustine grass, four of Bermuda grass, three of zoysia grass and one of buffalo grass.

If you are thinking about installing a new lawn or want to change the type of grass you have, this part of the Victoria Educational Gardens can give you a good starting point.

The three cultivars of St. Augustine grass are Palmetto, Raleigh and Floratam
.
These are improved cultivars or varieties of the common St. Augustine, the dominant lawn turf in this area. All three of these grasses have grown into lush lawn areas and developed a thick turf which is important for both looks and weed control. These grasses do well in full sun, but are also shade-tolerant. While the growth under trees and in other shaded areas may not be as strong as in full sun, they should provide adequate coverage.

Visually, there is not much difference among the three, but the Palmetto seems to be the more vigorous variety.

St. Augustine requires a moderate amount of water. According to Texas Cooperative Extension, it should be mowed at 2.5 inches during the cooler weather of spring, but by the middle of June, the height should be at 4 inches. This allows the grass to develop a deeper root system. It also encourages a thick growth that discourages weeds.

Other advantages to this type of lawn are the relatively rapid growth and a bright green color. St. Augustine spreads by aboveground stolons, so it is easy to keep the grass from overtaking flowerbeds.

Some of the disadvantages of St. Augustine are that they are susceptible to brown patch and take-all patch as well as chinch bugs and grub damage, although Floratam does have some chinch bug resistance. They also have low traffic tolerance.

Bermuda grass is also a common turf choice in this area.
There are four types or cultivars on display in VEG: common Bermuda grass, Celebration, Princess 77 and Grimes Experimental.

The latter three are dwarf cultivars that have been bred by commercial grass growers as improved cultivars for lawn use. They generally have a darker green color and are finer textured than both the common cultivar and St. Augustine. The hybrid cultivars provide a thicker, denser lawn than the common Bermuda, but they do require more care.

Texas Cooperative Extension suggests Bermuda grasses be mowed at a maximum of 2 inches, but the optimum height is 1 inch. In our demonstration garden, the weeds have been somewhat of an issue, especially in the plots that were seeded. However, as the turf has become thicker, this problem appears to be under control. Bermuda grass has a lower water requirement than St. Augustine, but it will still need a moderate amount of water to maintain a thick turf. It also has a higher traffic tolerance than St. Augustine and it is less likely to develop brown patch and take-all patch.

Some drawbacks of Bermuda grasses: They have very low shade tolerance and can be very invasive in flowerbeds as they spread by both aboveground stolons and under ground rhizomes.

A third type of grass on display is zoysia grass.

We have three cultivars of zoysia - Jamur, Palisades and Empire. While this turf type is not as common in this area, many commercial sod growers have started cultivating it for lawn use. All three of these have developed into very thick turfs, and weeds have been minimal. The color varies slightly among the three cultivars, but all have a deep green color.

Zoysia has a medium leaf texture so the leaf blade is narrower than St. Augustine, but wider than the Bermuda.

Advantages of the zoysia grasses: They have medium to high shade tolerance and high traffic tolerance. They should be mowed at 1 to 2.5 inches and are rated by Texas Cooperative Extension for moderate water use. They spread by both rhizomes and stolons but are relatively easy to control around flowerbeds. They are susceptible to both brown patch and take-all patch, but are not listed as a host to chinch bugs.

The fourth turf type on display is Density buffalo grass.

This grass is an improved variety of the common buffalo grass, the only turf grass in our demonstration native to Texas.

Buffalo grass has many advantages. It is extremely drought-tolerant and is the only turf on display that Texas Cooperative Extension rates as having an extremely low water requirement. Its traffic tolerance is medium and it has a low susceptibility to diseases. Although the recommended mowing height is 2 to 4 inches, if you have a large area and want a more natural look, you can allow buffalo grass to grow taller.

Buffalo grass spreads by aboveground stolons, so control in and around flowerbeds is easy.

While buffalo grass has many advantages, there are some problem areas. Because the turf does not get as thick as some other varieties, weeds can become a problem. Buffalo grass performs marginally in the shade and really prefers full sun.

Although many people automatically think of St. Augustine when it comes to lawns, we hope, our turf demonstration site in VEG shows you other options when it comes to turf selection.

For more specific information on turf, go to
http://aggie-turf.tamu.edu/
http://aggieturf.tamu.edu/./answers4you/index.htm

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas 77901; or
vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.
TURFGRASSES ON DISPLAY
Come out to VEG and compare turfgrass cultivars for planting your own lawn.

Turf Species Cultivar Mowing Height Leaf Texture

St. Augustine grass Palmetto 2.5 to 4 inches Coarse

Raleigh 2.5 to 4 inches Coarse

Floratam 2.5 to 4 inches Coarse

Bermudagrass Common 1 to 3 inches Fine

Celebration 0.75 to 2 inches Fine

Princess 77 0.75 to 2 inches Fine

Grimes Exp. 0.75 to 2 inches Fine

Zoysiagrass Jamur 1 to 2.5 inches Medium

Palisades 1 to 2.5 inches Medium

Empire 1 to 2.5 inches Medium

Buffalograss Density 2 to 4 inches Fine