buffalo.jpgIt’s been just over a year since we converted our backyard to buffalo grass. It had been a combination of bluegrass and other things, and it was really looking pretty sad. Every time I mowed it, I finished in a grumpy mood. So I finally decided to take the plunge and do a complete conversion. Here is the story….

1) After a bit of math to figure the area I wanted to fill, I ordered the Legacy buffalo grass plugs from High Country Gardens (www.highcountrygardens.com) in April. Once that was done, I knew we were committed to going ahead with the project, no turning back!

2) We sprayed what remained of the bluegrass mix with a glyphosate herbicide (one of the popular brands is Round Up).

3) About ten days later, I went over the whole yard (about 500 square feet) with a garden fork, loosening the heavily compacted soil so the tiller we planned to rent would have something to grab onto. This was a long, long tedious job. I listened to the entire audiobook version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on my iPod doing this job.

buffalograsstiller.jpg4) We rented the tiller and did a first pass to loosen things up. Then I scattered all the compost I had in my bin, along with a mix of fertilizers (recommended by High Country Gardens in their prep notes), all over the area, and my husband tilled it all in. My job was to go around collecting up the dead grass and roots that were everywhere (clogging the tiller tines on occasion).

5) I smoothed the area as best I could with a rake, and then outlined the area to be planted with a couple of garden hoses (I was shrinking the area to be covered by turf)

6) We waited. The original promised due date for the plugs went by, and a call to HCG revealed the supplier was going to be a few weeks late! (argh! I had people who’d promised to come help on that first delivery day!).

buffalograssplugs.jpg buffalograssplanting.jpg
7) Finally…the plugs arrived. And on June 19, 2008, my good friends Phyllis and Maureen came to help me plant the plugs. Phyllis had the brilliant idea of using a couple of stakes and twine to create a planting line. We’d sink the stakes at each end of the planting area, and the twine between created the line for us to plant a row of plugs, spaced about 8 inches apart.

My job was to separate the plugs from each other and drop them where they were to be planted. Maureen would dig a hole for each plug, and Phyllis would plant the plugs. We took turns with our favorite part of the job, stepping on the plugs after they were planted. Then we moved the stakes and went on to the next row. After about 4 hours, they were all in the ground, and the results were, well, underwhelming.

8) Lots and lots of weeding. Doing this type of conversion takes serious commitment. If we’d just walked away from our newly planted plugs and gone on vacation for a few weeks, the weeds would’ve taken over quickly in the vacant spaces. I spent many many hours sitting on a kneeling pad and weeding. The most ambitious weed was the spotted spurge. I didn’t want to apply herbicide near my new plugs, so digging and pulling were the only options. I listened to more than one audiobook over the course of these weeding sessions (man do I looooove my iPod). The neighbors’ cat liked to come over, drink from the birdbath, and then lie in the shade of our tree and watch me with an unbelieving look on its face.

I took monthly photos to document the grass’s progress. It wasn’t until well into October that it finally went dormant. It did that so slowly that I hardly noticed until it was just about completely brown. I planted at least 300 small bulbs into the lawn so I’d have a fabulous display in the spring. The squirrels had other ideas, and I will be trying the bulb idea again this fall, covering the entire area with a chicken wire mesh after planting.

This past spring, the grass started to green up in mid-to-late April. That’s pretty impressive since many buffalo grass varieties don’t green up until mid-May. In early April, I did allow myself an application of a preemergent herbicide to help stop the spurge (and other weeds) from sprouting.

And now it’s been just over a year, and it looks terrific! (Of course, one downside is that buffalo grass attracts, well buffalo – see photo at top – don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

Watch the progress in this timeline of photos:
One month

Two months

Three months

Next spring, dormant (notice the many squirrel-dug holes – they were after the bulbs I put in the lawn)

Ta da! One year!