Native turf features a blend of low-growing native, or warm season grasses that provide a lawn-like appearance with minimal maintenance, while enhancing soil quality. It doesn’t green up as early in the growing season as the cool season blue-grass usually found in lawns. However, it thrives during the long, hot days of summer when other turf turns brown in response to hot, dry conditions.
Irrigation is needed during the establishment phase, during the first and possibly the second-year to ensure good establishment. After the plants develop deep, fibrous root systems, native turf does not require irrigation. Fertilization would be needed only during the establishment stage or as indicated following soil fertility testing. Less frequent mowing is needed depending on preferences. If the turf is in an area used only periodically it would need mowing only a couple of times during the growing period.
There are two popular native turf blends. The first is 30% Blue Gramma, 30% Sideoats Gramma and 40% Buffalo Grass. Sideoats grama will grow to about 18 inches, so if you don’t plan to mow and prefer to grow the second shorter blend consisting of a 50-50 blend of Blue Gramma and Buffalo Grass. PLS is a measure of the percentage of seed that will germinate. For example, if you order 100 lbs. of seed with 85% PLS, only 85 lbs. will germinate. Typically seed at the rate of 1 – 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Key to Native Turf Establishment
- Prepare a friable seedbed, minimize compaction.
- Seed in late spring or early summer and use some form of erosion control such as mulch or erosion control blankets for native seedings.
- Test soil ahead of seeding to determine fertilizer needs. Phosphorus is typically needed when seeding for root establishment. Only use what you need.
- Broadcast seed, then pack the site for good seed to soil contact. Do not incorporate seed deeper than an ¼ inch.
- Water as needed to enhance germination and avoid drought stress in the first year. Keep moist, but not saturated. Be careful not to overwater.
- Mow to minimize weed growth the first year. But don’t scalp the turf, cut it too short.
- Native turf may be slower at first to establish than regular turf. But, then it will establish itself similar to cool season turfgrass.
Keys to Weed Control
- Avoid frequent irrigation
- Control crabgrass with preemergence chemicals
- Do not use 2,4-D during the first year or when temperatures are above 80 degrees