Drought Tolerant Ground Cover

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  #1  
Old 05-26-10, 12:40 PM
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Drought Tolerant Ground Cover

I live in Central Florida in a higher elevation area where the earth below my grass is the typical Florida "sugar sand". My neighborhood is an old orange grove. This sand holds no moisture and my St Augustine grass cannot go for more than 3 days without watering or it will wilt and shrivel.

This past winter we had watering restrictions that cut us to once per week for watering lawns. Anywhere that there was no shade in the yard, the St Augustine died almost completely.

I am not re-sodding just yet. I am letting the weeds cover it for now (I still mow it).

If I do re-sod, I was wondering just how drought resistant the new Zoysia grass might be. Will it survive on my sand? Considering the amount of water St Augustine needs, I was considering re-sodding everything.

Another consideration was to use a hardy ground cover just in the affected area since it is mostly limited to a 60' long strip about 6' wide (area between the street and the sidewalk). So it would be uniform in its look. Any suggestions for this barren area?
 
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Old 05-27-10, 02:15 AM
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The best and easiest way to select a suitable grass for your area is to identify what is being used on lawns you feel look great. Florida “sugar sand” and water restrictions are not unique to your property. If you can’t ID it, take a close-up photo so your local extension office can help you. I’m about 100+ miles south of you depending on your central FL location (I’m on east coast).

From my experience in trial testing an area where I planted new Zoysia grass a few years ago, I was not pleased with the results. Search the Internet, and you will find plenty of negative reviews by people going down this path . . . seems like a lot of marketing hype. Again, if you see this type grass working in your area, then give it a try. It’s much easier and far less costly to trail test an area rather than plant out an entire yard only to later discover it doesn’t meet your expectations.

You might want to investigate Bahia grass. There are four varieties . . . Argentine, Pensacola, Tifton 9 & TifQuik. For finely manicured lawns, St Augustine is most often seen. Bahia grass is mostly used on pasture land and large acreage not irrigated. If mowed, it presents a nice looking turf. If fertilized, it will be a darker green, and grow thickly. It is a bunch grass whereas St Augustine shoots out runners. In drought conditions, it will go dormant allowing it to survive harsh conditions. It will brown if ice forms on ground during cold winter snaps if having no irrigation to minimize frost damage but comes back shortly thereafter.

http://www.hancockseed.com/seedinfo/..._lawn_seed.jpg

http://www.outsidepride.com/images/p...bahiagrass.jpg

You’re more likely to find Bahia sod and seed at stores catering to equestrian homeowners, and they should be able to guide you as to best variety if having knowledgeable personnel. Some do better in direct sunlight, others better in shaded areas. I combine a mixture of Argentine & Pensacola around shaded areas.

Concerning ground covers, you should look at native, drought tolerant species as water restrictions will remain a way of life. With over 60+ inches of rainfall in many parts of FL, we have no shortage of water but our storage capability is insufficient to hold it for a population now over 17 million. Osirio’s book “A Gardner’s Guide to Florida’s Native Plants” might be a good starting point as he includes ground covers (including grasses, ferns, and wild flowers) suitable for your hardiness zone, w/ pictures and good level of detail about the plants.
 
  #3  
Old 05-29-10, 02:21 AM
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Thanks for the info

Rob,

Thanks for all the suggestions.

I laughed when I read your comment about Bahia grass. That's what my lawn was until I plugged it with Delmar St Augustine about 13-14 years ago. This grass looks so much nicer than Bahia, but requires so much more water, fertilizer, and bug killer to keep it looking good. I regret the decision at times.

Rainy season is starting, so I guess I need to make a decision real soon.

Thanks again,

Tim
 
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