Imagine a lawn grass that requires mowing only two or three times a year and that's drought tolerant and winter-hardy to USDA Zone 5. Sound like hype? Buffalo grass has been touted as the ultimate low-maintenance turf grass for American lawns. Although there are improved varieties available as sod or plugs which are much more expensive, now there are improved seed varieties.
'Cody' and 'Tatanka' grow only 4 to 6 inches tall, and form a dense, dark green turf. They green-up early in spring and stay green later in the fall than other buffalo grasses do. 'Cody' has been grown successfully from Wisconsin to Texas and Arizona to Georgia. In zone 5 areas, it turns green in April or early May. Fertilize once a year in spring with only 1 to 2 pounds of actual nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet. For the most manicured look, mow twice a month.
Sow seed in late spring or early summer. Use 2 pounds of seed to cover 1,000 square feet. Germination and establishment of a weed-resistant turf will take most of summer, so it is important to start with weed-free soil. Eliminate weeds by repeated cultivation at 10-day intervals beginning in early spring, by using an herbicide, or by combining both.
Seeds of 'Cody' and 'Tatanka' cost about $15 per pound from Stock Seed Farms, 28008 Mill Rd., Murdock, NE 68407; (402) 867-3771.
Michael MacCaskey is editorial director of National Gardening.