Ok, I might be showing my age, most people call it weed today. Then again, my definition of a weed is “a plant out of place.” Most lawn grasses used around here are not indigenous to this area. This area was once the “Great Southeast Forest”. There was no open grass areas to speak of. There are some native grasses, carex that grows naturally in the woods. So maybe a grass lawn should be considered a weed patch.
Fescue is the most common lawn grass in the Durham, NC area. It is a “cool season” grass which means it actively grows during cooler weather and stops growing in hot weather. For this reason, it is fertilized 3 times a year on the following easy to remember schedule. Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day. It has a hard time surviving our hot dry summers and therefore should be allowed to slow down growth during the summer. It should be mowed as high as possible, watered deeply rather than frequently, and mulch the clippings back into the grass. It does not do well under shade trees as it has to compete with tree roots for moisture during the summer. It also needs at least a half day of sun.
Another grass seen in this area is Bermuda grass. Obviously by it’s name, it does not belong here. Bermuda grass is called a “warm season” grass. This means it goes dormant during cold weather and is only actively growing during the warmer months. Bermuda also spreads by runners. This means that it goes everywhere it can. It spreads into your planting beds and the neighbor’s yard. In my opinion, which is always what this blog is about, no one should ever allow bermuda to spread into their neighbor’s yard. It is not at all neighborly to do so. If you want to fight it growing into your own planting beds that is one thing. But you should not inflict that upon your neighbor. Once bermuda has gotten a foothold, it is difficult to remove. You must remove every single piece of it as it can grow back from a single node. These nodes are what looks like elbows on the runner. They are often about every inch apart along the stem. Bermuda also turns brown during the winter. In my opinion, there is enough brown during the winter without also having a brown lawn.
Zoysia is also seen occasionally around here. Zoysia is another “warm season” grass that spreads by runners. It is a very tightly grown grass feeling like a thick carpet when you walk on it. It is totally brown in the winter as well.
We have had problems with brush fires around here lately due to the dry winter we have had. Brown grass for a lawn can help these fires to spread just like pinestraw can. Last week, Interstate 40 was blocked between Durham and Chapel Hill due to the grass being on fire. I’m sure it was bermuda grass that burned. I can’t imagine fescue being on fire during the winter when it is green.
All lawn grasses in this area have their own drawbacks. If you must have a green lawn though, fescue is the best choice. It is greener for the longest time of the year and it doesn’t spread into your planting beds by runners. By all means, don’t waste time trying to grow any lawn in the shade. It takes way too much work and my view is that a garden should be a little work and a lot of enjoyment.
Nearly all of my customers at one point ask me about watering their new plants. Many of them ask for drought resistant plants. Even drought resistant plants need regular watering through out their first year in the garden. A mistake I found out this morning that I made in my own garden was not paying attention to all of my evergreen plants. I found a native juniper that was a rare variety in my garden that was crispy. I planted it during the summer and kept it alive with regular watering. However, we have had a dry winter and I failed to water it enough. I’m afraid it may be history. Yeah, even landscapers kill plants. Evergreen plants still need to be watered in the winter. Especially if they have only been planted in the past year. It is easy to not think about watering during the winter. It’s cold and many times you might get cloudy drizzly weather. However drizzle does not produce much water for the plants. I’d like to say that I have learned my lesson, but it will probably happen again. Hopefully less often.