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How to Maintain a Buffalo Grass Lawn

By Malia Marin ; Updated September 21, 2017

Buffalo grass is an excellent alternative to traditional thirsty turf grasses. This warm-season prairie native is tough and drought-tolerant, surviving extended dry periods by becoming dormant. This grass was the primary food for bison on the North American plains and prairies, and fossil evidence shows it has existed there for over seven million years. Buffalo grass spreads by stolons and by seed produced from separate male and female plants. Once established, it can make an attractive, low-maintenance lawn, but some care is required during establishment to eliminate weed competitors and satisfy certain cultural requirements.

Control weeds, especially during the establishment period, pulling them by hand, or by using pre-emergence herbicides in spring that are specifically approved for use on buffalo grass. Invasive cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, can be controlled by winter applications of glyphosate-based herbicides while the buffalo grass is still dormant.

Irrigate your buffalo grass lawn just enough to prevent it from turning brown. Over-watering may give weeds a competitive edge and cause disease. Buffalo grass will become dormant if not watered, but can survive long periods of drought this way and will turn green once regular watering resumes.

Fertilize buffalo grass lightly in early summer, using 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Apply the same amount once again in late summer, if desired.

Mow buffalo grass every 3 to 4 weeks, to a height of 3 or 4 inches, in low-maintenance areas of the landscape. Mow up to once a week, at a height of 2 to 3 inches, for a quality turf lawn.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Low-nitrogen lawn fertilizer
  • Pre-emergence herbicide

Tips

  • Plant a buffalo grass and wildflower meadow in wilder parts of your landscape, and mow it to 3 or 4 inches, only once a year in spring.
  • Add blue gramma grass to your buffalo grass lawn; it is quicker to establish, and slower to become dormant.
  • Select all female cultivars, such as Legacy, Midget or Stampede, for a manicured look, since male flowers extend above the surrounding turf height.

Warnings

  • Resist the temptation to over-fertilize. Buffalo grass is adapted to nutrient-poor soils, and can actually be harmed by too much nitrogen.
  • Avoid using 2,4-D-based herbicides on buffalo grass lawns until after the first year of establishment, or when temperatures climb above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

About the Author

 

Malia Marin is a landscape designer and freelance writer, specializing in sustainable design, native landscapes and environmental education. She holds a Masters in landscape architecture, and her professional experience includes designing parks, trails and residential landscapes. Marin has written numerous articles, over the past ten years, about landscape design for local newspapers.