by David Salman

Dog Tuff Grass
A Dog Tuff Grass lawn in Colorado.

Lawns are a permanent fixture in the US with current estimates of nearly 50 million acres under grass! Lawns support entire industries of people involved in everything from seed production and landscape maintenance to push and rider mowers.

The Yin and Yang of Lawns

But the old methods of lawn care, what we think lawns should look like and how they fit into our landscapes need to change and reflect the new paradigms of our times. We should be aware of how lawns positively and negatively affect our lives and the health of the planet.

On the positive side:

  • Lawns provide cooling to our urban and suburban areas to combat the effects of urban heat islands.
  • Lawns absorb and filter our water as it moves from the sky into the aquifers and waterways.
  • Lawns enhance the quality of our lives by providing by providing soft, cool areas to play sports, fly kites, run our dogs and have picnics.

On the negative side

  • Lawns, when cared for using traditional methods, use huge amounts of environmentally damaging chemical fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.
  • Traditional lawn care is very energy intensive and makes lawns a carbon negative part of our landscapes (more carbon is generated than is absorbed by the grass).
  • Lawns can waste water when our water resources are being stretched and depleted.
Legacy buffalo grass lawn.
A A Legacy buffalo grass lawn in Idaho.

Considering What Type of Grass to Plant

So the first thing to examine when considering sustainable, resilient lawns is what type of grass is being used to grown them. We need to consider switching from high input grass varieties and blends to ones that:

  • Use less water and fertilizer.
  • Are deep rooted.
  • Are dwarf or slower growing and need less frequent mowing.

High Country Gardens has pioneered the use of native grass varieties for low water lawns. These include:

The Scoop on Dog Tuff™

Dog Tuff™ grass, comes to us from Republic of South African at the tip of the African continent. It is a naturally sterile hybrid that was brought to the high, dry plains of southeastern Colorado many years ago by the daughter of a rancher returning from a trip to South Africa. The rancher planted the starts and has been growing a thick, lush lawn ever since. Sometime later samples of the grass were planted in Denver and forgotten. But, thanks to the efforts of Nurseryman Kelly Grummons, of Arvada, CO who called it to my attention, it’s now available. Grown vegetatively from stolons (it sets no viable seed), you create a Dog Tuff™ lawn by planting plugs on 6 to 12-inch centers. Here are Dog Tuff™'s attributes:

  • It’s an extremely durable and deep-rooted grass that creates a nearly weed-proof, dog resistant lawn once well established.
  • It’s a grass that thrives in heat and survives cold temperatures down to about -20° F (Zone 5).
  • It's low-water, needing only a couple of inches of water per month in the growing season.
  • It loves all types of soils, but especially clay.
  • It grows best in zones 5-8, areas that get about 30 to 35 inches or less of precipitation annually.

Plant it in from late spring (May) into mid-July so it can grow during the heat of the summer, its favorite weather. The soft, fine texture is a delight for bare feet and paws. A warm-season grower, it’s green from April into October and has a nice straw color over the winter.

Sustainable Lawns
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