There’s more than the climate to consider when deciding what type of grass is best for your lawn in El Paso. You also need to think about whether you, your family, and your guests will be walking on your lawn; whether it will be in full sun or be shaded; what type of soil you have and how deep the soil is; and how much work, water, and money you are ready and willing to spend on your lawn.
Before Doing Anything
Before starting a new lawn in El Paso, its best to eliminate anything and everything that’s already there. One way is to apply an herbicide, wait until it has killed everything that was growing, water the area, wait to see what emerges, and then reapply the herbicide. Alternating applications of herbicides and watering the lawn three or four times should give your new grass a completely fresh start.
Bermuda grass is one of the grasses used in El Paso lawns, but it can be difficult to eliminate if you want to start a new lawn with a different type of grass. One method is waiting until summer, and then water the Bermuda grass and cover it with black polyethylene for six to eight weeks. Another method, called solarization, involves watering the Bermuda grass and then placing clear plastic over the area, extending 2” beyond the grass during the period of highest solar radiation. Keep the grass covered for four to six weeks.
El Paso Soil
Unless it has been conditioned, El Paso’s soil is sandy and fairly shallow. It doesn’t retain water for long, and it lacks many nutrients. Whether you will start your grass from seed or sod, you will need to follow the same preparatory steps.
Adding sphagnum peat moss to sandy soil improves its ability to absorb and retain moisture while adding compost and/or top soil adds nutrients. Topsoil is simply partially decomposed, commercially produced compost. To encourage the deep roots that will improve your lawn’s drought resistance, till and work these soil amendments down to a depth of four to six inches. Unfortunately, as you work on these improvements to your soil, you’ll be disturbing buried weed seeds, and the weeds will happily take advantage of your improvements. So, you’ll have to repeat the whole process of applying herbicides and watering another three or four times
You can then, finally, lay down a thin, one-quarter inch topper layer of seeding soil that will cover your grass seed, help it retain moisture, keep the birds from feasting on it, and keep the wind from blowing it away. You’ve done enough work to get to this point; you don’t want to lose the seed now.
Treat your planted or sodded area with a starter fertilizer containing 20 percent nitrogen, 27 percent phosphate, and little or no potash, potassium, to encourage fast root development. Then, water frequently enough to keep the soil damp for the next seven to 10 days. After 10 days, you can begin watering three to four times a day for about 15 minutes at a time. Once the root system has reached a depth of three to four inches, which should take four to six weeks, you can begin watering three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes. Watering longer allows the water to sink deeper into the soil, which encourages the roots to grow deeper. Rain bird or oscillating sprinklers have a lower water flow than pop-up or stream sprinklers, thereby reducing runoff and wasted water. In the El Paso area, it takes a minimum of six months to a year to create a completely established lawn.
Choosing the Turf or Grass for Your Lawn
Your first choice is between grasses and turfgrasses. Grasses grow and spread as individual blades through an underground root system of rhizomes. Turfgrasses grow as clumps or clusters of blades and consequently produce a thicker feeling lawn.
Cool-Season Grasses for El Paso
While warm-season grasses are most common in El Paso lawns, there are two cool-season types of grass that can technically be used in El Paso – Texas bluegrass and ryegrass.
Texas bluegrass is a hybrid of Kentucky bluegrass and a bluegrass species native to Texas. It’s a turfgrass with the color and fine-leaved look of Kentucky bluegrass. It better resists the heat of an El Paso summer, though, and, in the El Paso area, it can stay green throughout the year. However, it’s not a good choice for a lawn that will experience a lot of activity.
Ryegrass is not a good choice for a permanent lawn around El Paso, but you can use it to overseed a Bermuda grass lawn from late September into October to extend its color into the fall and winter. Because ryegrass establishes quickly, it’s also a good choice as a temporary cover to prevent erosion until a grass better suited to our El Paso heat can take over.
Warm-Season Grasses for El Paso
Bermuda grass is popular throughout Texas. Because it spreads via above ground stolons and underground rhizomes, it establishes itself quickly. This grass is native to tropical and sub-tropical areas. It’s a gray-green grass with fine leaf texture that, generally, requires mowing every five to seven days and about 3” of water per week.
Bermuda grass lawn mowing height: It should be kept at a height of 1” to 2”.
It’s a durable grass that withstands high use, drought, and disease well. It needs full sun, though, and doesn’t do well in shade at all. It has a moderate tolerance for cold, but it will lose its color and go dormant after a frost in late fall and remain dormant throughout the winter. To extend your lawn’s color into the fall, you can overseed Bermuda grass with ryegrass.
Bermuda grass comes in both common and hybrid varieties. The hybrid varieties are a darker shade of green than the common varieties and have finer blades. They grow more densely, but they also spread more aggressively and require more fertilizing and mowing than the common varieties. For those reasons, you’ll probably prefer the common varieties for your lawn.
While many varieties of Bermuda grass can be grown from seed, some are only grown from sod, sprigs, or plugs.
Buffalograss is native to the North American prairies where it fed herds of buffalo and provided settlers with building materials for sod houses. It’s a blue-green grass with a fine leaf texture that, left on its own, only grows to about 3” to 8” high, spreading via surface stolon.
Buffalograss lawn mowing height: It only needs mowing every seven to 14 days, but you can simply choose not to mow it. If you do mow it, cut it to a height of 2 ½” to 3”.
It is highly resistant to drought and needs little water, so it is well-suited to areas with rainfall totals of less than 25” per year, including the El Paso area. In fact, too much rainfall or watering weakens and thins it out, leaving it vulnerable to weeds and other grasses, but it is highly resistant to disease.
It can turn brown if it doesn’t receive any water at all. It requires full sun and has no tolerance for shade. It also can go dormant for an extended period during the winter.
While there are varieties of buffalo grass that can be grown from seed, it is a slow-growing grass that can take as long as a month to germinate and establish itself. It is not a good choice for a lawn that will receive a lot of use. In addition, seeds for buffalo grass are more expensive than other grass seeds. For these reasons, the most popular types are the varieties that can be started from sod.
Zoysia, a grass native to warmer areas of southeast Asia, forms dark green, stiff, medium- to fine-textured blades. It tolerates both heat and drought, and it only requires moderate amounts of water because it forms a root system that reaches deep into the ground. Nevertheless, it does turn brown or straw-colored and go dormant before Bermuda grass does under extended drought conditions.
Zoysia is more tolerant of shade than Bermuda grass, though, and it requires less nitrogen. It actually adapts well to most Texas soils, including those that lack nutrients, such as the ones we have in El Paso.
If you do give Zoysia an application of fertilizer in the fall, it will retain its color into the winter.
In seed, plug, or sprig form, it establishes itself slowly, so consider starting it from sod. It will then spread via both above ground stolon and below ground rhizomes. Once established, it withstands use well. It also resists disease.
Zoysia grass lawn mowing height: You should mow Zoysia every five to 10 days to a height of ½ inches to 2 inches.
If you have a shaded lawn, St. Augustine is the most receptive of shade among all of the warm-season grasses for El Paso. It has coarse leaves, and, while it does tolerate drought and only has moderate water requirements, it may require extra watering when planted in the El Paso area. It may also be killed if an extremely cold blast of winter makes its way into our area. It’s not a good choice for high use areas.
St. Augustine is started from sod and spreads via above ground stolon.
St. Augustine grass lawn mowing height: It should be mowed every five to seven days to a height of 2.5 inches to 3 inches.
Whether your lawn will be shaded or in full sun, high use or low, with these tips, you should be able to choose the best grass and establish it as a beautiful addition to your El Paso home.
Have more questions about lawn care? Visit our El Paso lawn care page for more information.
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