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Is Blue Grama Right for Your Lawn?

Blue grama grass is low-growing, drought-tolerant and ideal for low-maintenance lawns.

Blue grama grass is low-growing, drought-tolerant and ideal for low-maintenance lawns.

Some folks in the nation are desperate these days for any plant that will survive historic droughts. Others are just sick and tired of mowing their lawns by now, in late June, in areas where rainfall has been far above average.

Therein lies the challenge of offering lawn information for an entire continent. This week, though, we’re going to do just that by taking a look at some alternative grasses that will survive in extremes of climate conditions.

Up first: Blue grama ‘Hachita’ grass, known botanically as Bouteloua gracilis ‘Hachita.’

It’s named for the town in New Mexico where the grass was discovered growing naturally in a plain area in 1957. Blue grama grass is usually listed among “warm-season” grasses for the deep South, but this one is actually hardy to Zone 3 (about 30 below zero), which means it will survive in the higher, colder elevations of Colorado and the northern Rockies.

Drought tolerance is the primary virtue of this clump-forming grass that will grow to more than a foot tall if left unmown; the grass was discovered in a region of the country that receives less than 6 inches of rainfall per year on average. I’ve seen it function really well as a lawn grass, in full-sun situations where it doesn’t get a ton of foot traffic. You’ll only have to mow it once or twice a season!

Before the folks in the Eastern part of the country salivate too much, however, Blue grama doesn’t like too much rain — and that means any region that receives more than 15-20 inches of rainfall per year. It’s much like Buffalo grass in this regard, although certain cultivars of Buffalo grass have been bred to handle a bit more water.

The other aspect of Blue grama that is off putting to some folks is the cost of the seed — about $20 per pound. As with any “low-mow” or “no-mow” grass seed mixes with higher cost, however, the payback comes with less mowing, fertilizing and watering in the years to come.

For more info:
http://www.highcountrygardens.com/catalog/product/27056/
http://www.plant-materials.nrcs.usda.gov/pubs/nmpmcrbbogr2hach.pdf.

TOMORROW: Sheep fescue

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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