Buffalo grass is a low-maintenance grass that thrives best with little interference. In fact, some practices that are good for other grass types encourage invasive weeds in Buffalo grass. The best tips for how to maintain Buffalo grass are:
- Water Buffalo grass only during the summer months.
- Mow weekly to a height of 2.5–3 inches or monthly to a height of 3–4 inches.
- Use pre-emergents in spring to stop weed invasion.
- Fertilize your Buffalo grass twice per summer with slow-release nitrogen fertilizer.
Once you’ve established your Buffalo grass lawn from sod plugs or grown Buffalo grass from seed, it’s time to get serious about caring for your grass. This guide contains everything you need to know to keep your Buffalo grass healthy and weed-free.
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How Much Water Does Buffalo Grass Need?
With its extremely low water requirements, Buffalo grass is one of the easiest (and least expensive) grasses to maintain. For most of the year, it doesn’t require watering. However, it will go dormant in summer if left unwatered, so prepare to water during the summer months to maintain a green lawn.
- Water in summer (June, July, and August) only. Spring watering leads to weeds in Buffalo grass.
- Buffalo grass requires 2–3 inches of water once every 10–14 days in summer.
- 1.5–3 hours with a sprinkler will deliver the necessary water. Soil should be soaked deeply.
- Water in the early morning to prevent water evaporation.
- Do not water frequently or for short periods. This causes weeds and shallow grass roots.
Watering too often, or watering in spring, causes weeds to invade Buffalo grass. Because Buffalo grass does not grow thickly, it is more prone to weed invasion than other types of turfgrass.
Signs Buffalo Grass Needs Water
If your Buffalo Grass takes on gray-purple color, then it is in need of water. If this happens, increase watering frequency to once every week. This will cause it to regain color.
- If Buffalo grass begins to turn grayish-purple, increase watering frequency.
- Buffalo grass that does not receive water during the summer months will turn brown and enter dormancy.
If you’re facing a drought and need to conserve water, then don’t worry about your Buffalo grass. Although it turns brown during drought conditions, it won’t die. Once water returns, the grass will green up again.
What Height Should You Mow Buffalo Grass?
It’s best to keep your Buffalo grass fairly long, as this prevents weeds from sprouting in your lawn. Lawn care schedules for Buffalo grass differ based on your preference, so the following mowing heights are viable ways to care for your lawn:
- Option 1: Mow once per week at a height of 2.5–3 inches.
- Option 2: Mow monthly at a height of 3–4 inches.
- Option 3: Mow once annually in spring, to a height of 3–4 inches.
Buffalo grass tops out at a height of about 8 inches. If you like the natural prairie look, you can mow once every spring to get rid of old growth, then let your Buffalo grass go until next spring.
How Do You Control Weeds in Buffalo Grass?
Because it grows less thickly than other turfgrasses, Buffalo grass is more likely to be invaded by weeds than other species. Additionally, Buffalo grass is more sensitive to certain herbicides than other grasses, so pre-emergents should be used when possible, instead of post-emergent weed killers.
- In spring, use a pre-emergent that is safe for Buffalo grass.
- Avoid using herbicides that contain 2,4-D, especially in the first year of Buffalo grass establishment.
- Spray non-selective weed killers during periods of Buffalo grass dormancy to attack weeds.
If you want to attack broadleaf weeds in Buffalo grass, the best time to do so is during winter dormancy, when you can kill weeds without harming the grass.
Spring Weed Control in Buffalo Grass
In the case of Buffalo grass, the best offense is a good defense. This means stopping weeds before they sprout. To keep weeds out of your lawn, do the following:
- Apply a pre-emergent in spring (typically March–April).
- Use only pre-emergents that specify they are safe for use on Buffalo grass, such as Barricade.
- Do not exceed manufacturer application rates and volumes when applying pre-emergent.
Rather than spray for weeds after they appear, it’s much more efficient to use pre-emergent to stop weeds from sprouting in Buffalo grass. This will save you time and effort, as well as protect your lawn from any herbicides that may harm it.
Winter Weed Control in Buffalo Grass
Buffalo grass naturally goes dormant in winter months, but many of the weeds that afflict it remain green. This includes poa annua (annual bluegrass), chickweed, henbit, and various other invasive weeds and grasses. Once your Buffalo grass turns brown, these green weeds will stick out like sore thumbs. Now’s the time to strike.
- Spray Roundup or another glyphosate-based weed killer when Buffalo grass is dormant.
- The weed killer will eliminate both grassy and broadleaf weeds.
- Weed killer used on dormant Buffalo grass won’t harm your grass.
You can accomplish grassy and broadleaf weed control at the same time by spraying a non-selective herbicide on dormant Buffalo grass. The weeds will be wiped out, and your dormant grass will return to life in the spring season.
How to Fertilize Buffalo Grass
Another positive of Buffalo grass is that it requires much less fertilizer than most other turfgrasses. It can thrive on as little as 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each year. Compare this to Kentucky Bluegrass, which requires 3–6 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
- Fertilize twice per year—early summer and mid-summer.
- Use a balanced or non-burning fertilizer.
Two fertilizer applications in summer are all Buffalo grass needs. Fertilizing in spring often contributes to weed invasion and is best avoided.
What is the Best Fertilizer for Buffalo Grass?
Buffalo Grass does best when it is fertilized with a balanced fertilizer that provides equal parts Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. This feeds blade growth, encourages strong rooting for drought resistance, and helps your grass resist disease.
- Use a balanced fertilizer, such as 12-12-12 fertilizer.
- If you are suffering drought conditions or fertilizer burn, use a non-burning fertilizer, such as Milorganite.
High-nitrogen fertilizer applied during high summer temperatures risks drying out or “burning” your grass. If your lawn is dry, or you are experiencing drought conditions, use a slow-release fertilizer, such as Milorganite, as part of a hybrid fertilization program.
Buffalo Grass Fertilization Schedule
The fertilization program for Buffalo grass is simple. Provide nutrients to the soil during the summer season and watch your turf grass flourish through the hottest months.
- Fertilize once in late spring or early summer (June).
- Fertilize for a second time in mid-summer (July).
- When fertilizing in summer, maintain a watering schedule. Dormant Buffalo grass will not benefit from fertilizer.
Just make sure to monitor your Buffalo grass after fertilizing. Fertilizer may dry out the soil. If your lawn begins to appear dry after fertilizing, increase watering frequency to once per week.
Lawn Care Tips for Buffalo Grass
Your Buffalo lawn is a low-maintenance paradise. The only season in which it needs to be watered is summer. Then, water it deeply every 10–14 days.
Buffalo grass thrives at many different mowing heights, as long as it is allowed to grow above 2.5 inches. Frequent mowing isn’t necessary, as you can mow Buffalo grass on a monthly basis, or perform only an annual spring mowing.
To control weeds in Buffalo grass, apply pre-emergents in spring and use non-selective weed killers when the grass is dormant in winter. Finally, fertilize twice per year—in June and July—and your Buffalo lawn will thrive.