Installation & Care
Here you’ll find all the nitty gritty on how to install and maintain your UC Verde Buffalograss lawn!
Okay, we’ll be honest, this will not be as easy as tossing some seeds around or having someone install sod in your yard. Installing plugs will be a little more work, but we’ll be here to walk you through it and you can always contact us with all of your questions before, during, after – whenever you need our help! With a little bit of work and some tender loving care in the beginning, you’ll get to reap the benefits of saving yourself time and money later – oh and you can label yourself as having an eco-friendly lawn too!
First you’ll want to figure out how many plugs you’ll need! Our tray comes with 128 plugs, which means it will cover 128 square feet based on our recommended 12″ center spacing (go closer if you want it to fill in faster or farther if you want to save a little dough and have extra time to kill). Also, when you’re pricing around be sure to calculate the price per plug – you may find a lower price per tray, but it may contain far fewer plugs – meaning you’re actually paying more per plug!
How Many Trays Will I Need?
Measure the area to be installed. To calculate the number of plugs needed, use the table below for the desired spacing. Then divide your total by 128 (128 plugs per tray) to find the number of trays you will need; round up or down based on your preference.
We usually recommend 12″ center spacing for UC Verde, which comes out to one plug per square foot. Plugs placed 12 inches apart should cover fully in 3 to 6 growing months (Plugs will go dormant during the winter and will not grow. We do not recommend planting during this time). Reduced spacings should be used for areas subject to erosion, such as slopes,or when a quicker establishment is desired.
Storing the Plugs Until Planting
Don’t stress if you can’t immediately get to planting your plugs! Just take care of them and they’ll be fine to sit until you’re ready to roll!
You do not have to plant the plugs immediately, but the plugs are perishable. Unpack the plugs as soon as possible from the box they were shipped to you in or remove them from your vehicle as soon as you get home. Place the trays in a single layer in an area protected from the wind. Water the plugs immediately and keep them moist until you are ready to plant them.
It is extremely important to treat your space prior to installation to make sure that an exisiting weeds, plants or lawns have been killed off so that they do not overtake your young plugs when they are establishing. We can’t stress this enough! Take extra time and extra care to make sure you’ve killed off everything before you install your plugs and save yourself some major stress!
Often, this is a several week process. After killing off your existing lawn or weeds with a product such as Round-Up Weed and Grass Killer, you will want to wait one day and then begin to regularly water your space to encourage existing weeds and grass to come up. Apply another application to anything that pops up. Repeat this process until everything is eradicated. The chemical absorbs through the leaf and stem only so its killing power won’t spread to non-target plants through soil, but to be safe wait one week after your last application before installing UC Verde Buffalograss. Taking the time to do this before installation will save you from the headache of having isolate the weeds or old grass from the establishing UC Verde plugs. Here is a list of helpful advice from the Lazy Gardens blog on what to do before your installation!
Not taking the time to properly prep your space could mean having to deal with invading grasses and weeds while trying not to harm your newly planted Buffalograss plugs. Trust me, it will be a huge pain in the butt! Take all the extra steps you need to make sure you’ve eradicated everything!
Remove all construction debris, stones, vegetation, etc. Start with a properly graded yard. Do not expect the plugs to hide a rough grade. Be sure all areas drain properly. After final grade is complete, firm any loose soil by rolling or water slowly to avoid erosion and let soil settle. Rake smooth. Then follow the “Spacing and Planting” directions below for planting the plugs.
Herbicide Method – Following label directions, spray the entire planting area with glyphosate non-selective herbicide such as Round Up® Weed and Grass Killer. Wait a minimum of 24 hours, then water your area thoroughly for several days to encourage existing weeds and grass to reemerge. Spray the new growth. Repeat this process until all vegetation is eradicated. The chemical absorbs through the leaf and stem only so its killing power won’t spread to non-target plants through soil, but to be safe wait one week after your last application before installing UC Verde Buffalograss. You can leave your dead lawn in place. Apply a layer of steer manure or humus to help with water retention before installing your plugs. Follow the “Spacing and Planting” directions below for planting the plugs.
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Roto-till the area to a depth of 3 to 4 inches, tilling the existing vegetation under, mixing it with the soil. Wait 5 days to allow the tilled vegetation to die. Water the area, let it dry and roto-till it again. Depending on the amount of vegetation, you may have to repeat the tilling several times. Be sure to repeat enough times to give you a good soil bed, free of dirt clods and old vegetation. Firm any loose soil by rolling or water slowly to avoid erosion and let soil settle. Rake smooth. Water your area thoroughly for several days to encourage existing weeds and grass to reemerge. Spray the new growth with an herbicide such as Round Up Weed and Grass Killer. Wait a minimum of 24 hours. Repeat this spray process until all vegetation is eradicated. The chemical absorbs through the leaf and stem only so its killing power won’t spread to non-target plants through soil, but to be safe wait one week after your last application before installing UC Verde Buffalograss. Apply a layer of steer manure or humus to help with water retention before installing your plugs. Follow the “Spacing and Planting” directions below for planting the plugs.
Spacing and Planting
Mark the area to be plugged with your desired spacing – some people also simply “eyeball” it or create some sort of marker as a guide (measure 12″ increments on a piece of scrap wood or piping). Don’t get too frustrated if everything isn’t exactly in a perfect grid – it doesn’t have to be! The plugs send out runners above the ground and eventually it will fill where it needs to.
Stagger the rows as in figure 1. At each plug location dig or drill a hole about 1.25 inches deep. We offer a custom auger drill bit attachment that can assist you in your installation and can reduce the amount of strain on your back from bending down to the ground. Trust me, you’ll want one!
Place the plug into the hole being sure it is firmly against the bottom of the hole. This is very important. If the plug is not pressed in it will create an air pocket under the plug and could reduce the chance of survival. Repeat for all plugs. Water areas as they are completed.
Water your new plugs immediately after planting, soaking each plug thoroughly with a general purpose fertilizer, following label instructions or you can also dip each plug in Zeba Root Dip which will help it to retain water, also following label instructions. This will give your plugs a boost that will help insure success. Keep the area wet for the first 2-4 weeks, then slowly reduce watering, but keep the ground moist.
The amount and frequency of irrigation really depends on several environmental and soil characteristics. It is important to remember the following:
- Although regular watering is most likely not needed during the rainy season, you may need to water occasionally.
- The need for irrigation increases with increasing temperature.
- Similarly, windy conditions may necessitate more frequent irrigation. Poorly-drained, clay-type soils require less frequent irrigation than sandy soils.
- Small plants are particularly sensitive to moisture deficits.
Once your plugs have begun to fill in you can slowly begin to reduce watering. If your plugs are green and actively spreading, try reducing your watering by one day. If you begin to notice stalled growth or browning you will need to increase your watering. Watering will depend on your natural rainfall and temperatures, as well as your soil type. Clay soil will require less water than sandy soil. Water your buffalograss to prevent stress. You can tell when the grass is stressed, because the grass blades wilt or the tips turn a purplish/brown color. If you cut off water too soon, before the grass has had a chance to establish itself, it will force the grass into an early dormancy in order to protect itself and conserve its energy.
UC Verde Buffalograss has a very deep root system reaching down 6-8 feet, and uses only about 1/2 inch of water per week once established. Once your lawn has established you can begin to slowly reduce your watering schedule, ultimately ending up at to one to two days a week depending on your area and the current weather conditions. This is just a suggestion, each area will vary depending on location and environmental factors.
*These are general guidelines. You will need to adjust your watering to match your soil type and current weather conditions. If you begin to notice some spot areas of browning, we’ve noticed a common culprit is inadequate sprinkler coverage due to low water pressure, a broken sprinkler head or clogged sprinkler heads. If you begin to notice all over discoloration try increasing your watering schedule until the grass begins to green and then slowly reducing it. And of course you can always contact us with any questions or concerns you may have!
Mowing is important during the establishment period to encourage the buffalograss to spread by putting out more runners. Once your plugs have begun to root (if you give a firm tug on your plug it should resist and stay in the ground) mow the area.
There is no set mowing height, just mow to the look you desire. You may choose to maintain your lawn at 1 inch, allow it to go un-mowed or any height in between. If left un-mowed, your grass will reach a maximum height of 4 to 6 inches and have a natural, airy appearance.
In early Spring, mow to a height of 1 inch to remove the dormant grass. This will allow the sun to hit and warm the soil, which will cause the buffalograss to green up earlier. In preparation for winter, mow to a height of 2 to 2-1/2 inches in late summer or early fall so that the sun can somewhat penetrate the ground to give your dormant lawn a bit of warmth through the winter months.
After your initial installation is complete, apply a fertilizer with pre-emergent weed control following the label directions. Scotts makes Halts Crabgrass Preventer® or Turfbuilder with Halts®. Most garden centers will have these products or similar herbicides. Repeat this application at 1/2 rate in 8 weeks. Read and follow the directions on the label for proper rates and application. This can also be applied to established lawns. If you’d prefer to use a chemical free method, simply pull the weeds out!
The following herbicides can also be safely used on established UC Verde lawns at anytime of the year to control most weeds. They must be RTS [Ready to Spray] formulations – the container attaches to your garden hose for quick and easy application. During warm weather, apply in the very early morning hours or late evening hours to avoid excessive heat. We do not recommend applying above 85 degrees. A second application may be needed in 10-20 days for some weeds. Available at most garden centers.
- Bayer Advanced™ All in One Lawn Weed & Crabgrass Killer Ready-To-Spray
- Ortho® Weed B Gon Max® Plus Crabgrass Control Ready-Spray®
- Spectracide® Weed Stop® For Lawns plus Crabgrass Killer CONNECT TO HOSE™
In poor soil conditions or Southern climates a third fertilizer application, without pre-emergent, may be done in mid-summer and a fourth application can be applied in early fall. Throughout the summer, Broadleaf weeds such as dandelions, clover or pigweeds can be controlled after they emerge using broadleaf weed herbicides without 2-4D or a granular weed and feed. Products like Scotts Turfbuilder Plus2® , which contain 2-4D, can be applied when the temperature is below 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Caution: Never use a product which contains 2-4D when the temperatures are above 85 degrees. This will harm your buffalograss.
ALWAYS READ THE LABEL BEFORE APPLYING!
Here is a list of additional herbicides that can be used on Buffalograss:
- Certainty – controls sedges and fescue
- Dismiss – controls sedges
- Drive – pre-emergent for annual grasses
- Echelon – pre-emergent for annual grasses
- Flucarbazone – post emergent broadleaf control and cool season grasses
- Katana – post emergent broadleaf control and cool season grasses and sedges
- Plateau – pre-emergent annual grasses, post emergent annual grasses, post broadleaf and sedges
- Quicksilver – post emerged broadleaf
- Solitare – post annual grasses, broadleaves and sedges
- SquareOne – post annual grasses and broadleaves
- Tenacity – pre and post emergent annual grassy weeds, broadleaves and sedges
- Xonerate – post emergent broadleaves and sedges
Most of these chemicals are available in small quantities online at places like:
*** Check to be sure the chemicals are labeled in your state ***
*** ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL INSTRUCTIONS ***
UC Verde Buffalograss does go dormant during the winter. Here in Central California that means from around November to February/March. Like most plants, UC Verde will go through changes during the winter months. Vertical growth will cease or slow down eliminating any need to mow or water. Horizontal stolen growth will also slow or stop, so its ability to fill in open areas at this time will be limited. During this time it will lose its green color and change to a yellow-ish straw color, but it is still alive and hibernating in a sense. The duration of this color change may be reduced by combining a late fall fertilization with mowing UC Verde to about 1-2 inches in height when you begin to see the change in color. This will allow the sun to keep the soil warmer reducing these changes. In the late winter, repeat the fertilization to encourage the grass to begin growing again. It will return to its usual appearance around spring.
If you do not find the dormant straw color appealing, you can apply a grass colorant to make the lawn appear green. We recommend Green Lawnger; the results are quite natural, the cost is inexpensive and can last up to 13-14 weeks. We applied this to our test plot here and it held its color in full sun all through winter until the lawn came out of dormancy. Please visit our Gallery to see images of the colorant. Once spring rolls around and you begin to see the green returning to your lawn, mow the dormant layer back to allow the color to show. *Just a quick fyi: we found that you need much more colorant than the label suggests. We mixed our solution according to the suggested ratio, but we needed approximately 7 times the suggested amount of the mixed solution to cover our lawn.
We’ll show you how to apply a turf colorant so that you can conserve water and have a green lawn all year long!
In early spring, mow your buffalograss to a height of 1 inch. This will remove the old grass debris and allow the sun to warm the soil faster so your buffalograss will green up earlier. Since you are helping the ground warm earlier than normal, you will need to apply a pre-emergent or a fertilizer with crabgrass and/or annual grassy weed control at this time. Any product available at your garden center should be okay to use. Read and follow the label. Repeat this application at a ½ rate in 6-8 weeks for season long control.
Your buffalograss is actively growing at its best during the warm summer months. This is the time to fertilize. Apply your first application when the daytime temperatures are consistently in the 70’s. Always use high quality slow release fertilizer. Water immediately after applying to activate the fertilizer. Repeat application in 30-45 days. In southern climates a third treatment can be beneficial 45 days after the second. Any broad leaf weeds can be treated with a chemical application. DO NOT use any product that contains 2 4-D during the hot temperatures of the summer. This may stunt the grass but it should not cause permanent damage. Water only if additional moisture is needed. Mow to your desired height.
Fall maintenance should be minimal. Water if needed. The late fall is an excellent time to control any broadleaf weeds. During this cool weather any broadleaf weed control may be used, including 2-4D products.
In the late winter, you can repeat the fertilization process to encourage the grass to begin growing again or you can just sit back and relax until spring rolls around! It may need an occasional watering here and there if winter has been especially warm.