by David Salman

Legacy Buffalo Grass on front lawn
A 'Legacy' buffalo grass lawn thriving in arid Boise, Idaho.

We Americans love our lawns. And a nice green lawn can beautify our landscapes and help to cool down the air in our surroundings. But there are aspects to lawns that need changing. And one big thing, especially in times of drought, is reducing the water needed to irrigate our lawns.

Alternatives to Water-Thirsty Lawns

One excellent alternative to having a water thirsty lawn is to convert your turf to a low water native turf grass. Or start with a native grass lawn when a new property needs a new lawn. One of the best all around native grasses for lawn use would be Buffalo Grass Buchloe dactyloides (pronounced >Boo CLO ee< > dac tee Lloyd ees<). This rugged native grass is widespread over much of the drier sections of the Great Plains and has been bred by agronomists in the past as a pasture grass. Until recently, Buffalo grass had only been available as pasture grass varieties which are grown from seed. And Buffalo grass seed is notoriously difficult to germinate evenly when sown for a new lawn.

But grass breeders at the University of Nebraska developed a dwarf, tight growing selection of Buffalo grass named of ‘Legacy’. ‘Legacy’ lawns are a quantum leap in quality when compared to the old seed grown varieties that grow to 8 inches in height un-mowed, and contain both male and female plants. (The male plants have hard, tough-on-the-feet flower heads.)

As compared to seed grown pasture type Buffalo grass, ‘Legacy’ is:

  • An all female clone that is planted from plugs (rooted grass sprigs) solving the problem of patchy Buffalo grass lawns grown from seed.
  • Grown as plugs planted on 12 inch by 12 inch centers. And it will fill in completely (in the warm months of summer) in about 3 months.
  • Pollen-free (no male plants) and has been bred to mature to an unmowed height of only 4 inches and can be mowed as little as once a month to keep it tidy. This saves time and money.
  • Very water wise needing only 2 to 3 inches of inches of water per month to keep it green and lush saving homeowners between 40 and 75% of the water required for thirsty Kentucky Bluegrass depending on your soil type and average daytime temperatures.
Buffalo Grass Lawn
Pictured here is a beautiful ‘Legacy’ lawn that I spied on a recent trip to Boise, ID.

‘Legacy’ will grow in any soil type, but it is most water wise when grown in clay or clay-loam soils. It does best in regions that get 30 inches of precipitation of less. ‘Prestige’,another University of Nebraska variety plug grown variety was breed for higher rainfall, more humid areas of the US including the Southeast.

Growing Zones for Buffalo Grass Lawns
Growing Zones ofr Buffalo Grass Lawns

Summer is the ideal time for planting ‘Legacy’ and ‘Prestige’ because Buffalo grass grows fastest in the heat of summer and spreads rapidly to form a thick, deeply rooted green carpet of lawn.

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

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