The other day, a couple who recently relocated to our corner of Colorado from Missouri came into my office with an advertisement touting a new cultivar of turfgrass that will change the way we all think about lawn care.
This miracle grass can also be seen on late-night infomercials (or so I hear), and one can actually see the old, spotty, dying lawn transformed into one that is green, lush and healthy.
This couple wanted to plant this grass, otherwise known as Zoysiagrass, at their new home that sits at 7,000 feet in elevation and has limited irrigation potential. In order to break the bad news, I let them know that they werent the first people to ask about this miracle turfgrass, but just because you read about the product through a local mailer or magazine, it is not guaranteed to work in our environment.
Zoysiagrass is a warm-season grass and, to its credit, can actually produce a very attractive lawn. When it gets established (read: if ever in Colorado) it creates a very dense and cushiony turf, which can be mowed really short. Hence, it is commonly used on golf-course greens in warmer climates.
The downside is that, well, to be blunt, it wont grow here. Most warm-season grasses dont withstand the minus-20-degree nights in January or the 15-degree days in May or September. To my knowledge, Zoysiagrass isnt even available in Colorado as sod, and the only place it has been shown to be marginally successful is on the Front Range.
So dont fall for the marketing scheme those late-night infomercials arent always entirely truthful (although I have to admit, the Snuggie blanket I bought has been very enjoyable).
Fortunately, there are other turfgrass choices out there that will work for us.
There are hundreds of different cultivars of grass cultivars out there, and the first decision you (or the couple in my office) have to make is seeding vs. sodding. If you choose to sod your lawn, your choices are much more limited. Check with the local nurseries or landscape professionals for options and availability. Seeding provides more choices and is usually less expensive, but the instant-lawn factor isnt there as it is with sod.
When deciding which grass to choose, it is important to gauge what it will be used for. Just for minimal use, such as erosion control? Will the kids or pets use the space frequently? Will mowing or watering be kept at a minimum?
Low-maintenance options for grasses that work consistently in our area are blue grama, wheatgrass and some of the fine fescue cultivars (sheep, creeping or chewings). All of these require minimal inputs once established, but when compared to traditional lawns, the quality expectations tend to be lower.
The traditional lawns are usually composed of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass (sometimes in combination) or a tall fescue. These grasses typically require more inputs (water, fertilizer, pest control) and attention (mowing, thatching) than the grasses listed above. However, when managed correctly, these grasses can provide a healthy stand of turf that will survive well in our climate.
email@example.com or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.