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Grass Help!

Hi everybody,
Just looking for some opinions/help with my situation. I laid down about 800sqft of hybrid Bermuda sod in my back yard back last February, and its not doing well at all. It's really thinning and mostly a dull green/brown color all the time. Id like to throw some different kind of grass seed out that will take over and hopefully do a little better I live in Central California and as I'm sure you all know we are in a bit of a drought. The amount we can water is becoming very restricted, but its not that big of a concern because its my back yard, and nobody can see back there. Id like to throw some different kind of grass seed out that will take over and hopefully do a little better. The conditions in my back yard are VERY hot in the summer (95'-110') and pretty cool in the winter (20'-50'). The area only gets sun for a couple hours a day in the summer, and its not all in the sun at the same time. I have a female chocolate lab who loves to sprint around and dig her claws into the grass, and also pees a fair amount on it (quite a few brown spots). I'm not sure of the soil conditions.
I'm looking for a grass that will do well in the shade and heat, that will be green for most to all of the year, takes little water, does well with a large dog, and will grow it almost any soil condition. Please help me find what grass type would be the best for my situation, any info anyone can give will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Grass Help!

I don't really know much about lawns, but from reading best grasses for your situation sound like Zoysia (El Toro, Empire, Jamur, and Palisdaes are considered drought resistant cultivars of Zoysia) or St Augustine (especially Floratam is considered the best drought resistant cultivar). Both of these are drought and shade tolerant.

Does it have to be grass? For a small space like that, there are various creeping perennial/ ground covers that handle drought and shade and foot traffic (once established, lawn or perennials you would have to be able to keep the dog off it for awhile while it gets going). These include ajuga, rockcress, ivy, ground ivy, creeping jenny and others. stepables.com has a searchable database of plants like that, that you can search for your conditions.

I have to say " its my back yard, and nobody can see back there" is not a very public spirited attitude. You are probably right that you wouldn't get caught, but your state is in a severe, persistent drought and who knows when it will end. There is not enough water to go around and people need to not be putting it on lawns, whether they will get caught or not. You could look into other options, like putting in patio/ flagstones for some of it, putting in artificial turf, etc. AND all Californians (and a lot of the rest of us) should be looking into gray water options. The water that goes down the drain in showers would keep you with a lush lawn and all the plantings you want!
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Super Green Thumb
Posts: 3234
Joined: Mon May 18, 2009 12:15 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: Grass Help!

Just ask for water wise seed, it puts down deep roots.
The things I do are an evolution and I am always learning. My way is not the only way of doing things, and I may and will change the way I do things as I learn better ways. So any advice that I give is in that spirit.

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Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Grass Help!

new grass needs to be given an inch of water a week. Newly laid grass needs to be watered up to four times a day for the first month and then gradually decreased to provide and inch of water a week. For me that is about 45 minutes total. I usually do that 15 minutes every other day. Bermuda grass and zoysias go dormant in summer. It is how they respond to drought conditions. They will be more yellow and not a rich dark green unless you really throw a lot of water at them.
New grass should also have had organic matter worked into the soil before you planted it and given a starter fertilizer. Fertilize monthly and don't mow for three months. Summer grass should be mowed about an 1-1/2 inches. In cooler months you can go down to 1 inch. After the first year, I only fertilize with mostly sulfate of ammonia and I dethatch, aerate and topdress at the same time twice a year, once in the Spring and again in the fall (March and September).

You can tell if your grass is getting enough water. When you walk on it, it should not feel crunchy and if you can see footprints and the grass does not spring back, you have not watered enough.

Bermuda grass is not popular here because while it is a very nice looking grass, it has a lot of issues with showing weeds, armyworms love it, and it gets fungal diseases if it gets too much puddling issues.

Brown can be dead grass from not enough water, but brown spots can also be army worms chopping on the grass.

In the early evening go to a spot near the edge of the brown area and use a hose and flood it. If there are army worms there they will come to surface so as not to drown. You can pick them off that way.

I have dwarf St. Augustine grass, it hides nut sedge well and is not attractive to lawn pests. It is also good in shade and wet soil so it does not have a lot of issues with fairy rings.

Zoysia is also a tough grass that competes well with weeds and crowds them out, but they do form tufts that need to be kept trimmed and you should use a reel mower not a cheap rotory mower on zoysia. It grows slowly so takes a while to fill in but slower growing zoysias do not need to be mowed as often. Zoysia is also another grass that has tough blades that are not that attractive to army worms.

Seashore paspalum is good for sandy soil, grows fast and looks nice, but it is inappropriate in a wet area and heavy soils where it will be prone to fungal diseases and fast growth makes it attractive to lawn pests.

El toro is popular among the landscapers. It is an easy grass to put in, looks nice, and grows fast. it keeps them in business because it needs to be mowed every week to look good, otherwise if not mowed often it can get pretty shaggy.
It is a medium blade zoysia that is drought and traffic tolerant once it is established.

Grass is probably the biggest water hog of all plants. If you want to save water, plant in the cooler months when you may get some help from mother nature watering and there is less evaporation. Grass will grow slower but the roots will be better established before the hot weather sets in. Minimize grass and only plant it in areas you really need it.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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