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Mowing buffalo grass, this is the best method

Buffalo grass is a warm-season grass that is native to North America and is widely used for turfgrass. It requires less mowing, watering, and fertilizing than traditional grasses because it is a low-growing and finely-textured grass. Buffalo grass spreads by stolons but not as aggressively as Bermuda grass. It is well adapted to the drylands of western plains and prairies. Once Buffalo grass is established, it survives extreme heat, drought, and cold. This grass has become very popular as a low maintenance lawn grass.

Buffalo grass remains green and attractive, with 50 to 75% less watering than Kentucky bluegrass. Fertilizing is only needed once or twice a year to keep it thriven. It also requires less frequent mowing than most other lawn grasses.

Mowing Buffalo grass, this is the best method:

For Buffalo grass, it is important to find a balanced mowing height. This will be between 1.5 to 4 inches. Cut too short, it develops a thatch layer faster and thicker, especially in full sun. Tall buffalo grass looks less attractive as its blades grow with arbitrary and irregular heights, and it traps moisture in the lower areas, making the lawn prone to fungus and other diseases. The best practice is to cut one-half of the grass during a single mowing session. In the summer, Buffalo grass will grow much quicker. Expect to cut it every 8 to 10 days. In the late fall, winter, and early spring, this will be every four weeks or less.

By Luxure – Own work – CC BY 3.0 au

People like those beautiful, lush, and flat turfs of golf courses and often desire the same turf quality for their home lawns. Maintaining lawns at such low height requires careful management practices that include frequent mowing, fertilizing, soil nutrient management, deep watering, and disease control.  There are several problems with wanting all these things from any home lawn, especially one with buffalo grass.

This article will give you information about mowing the buffalo grass during different seasons and maintaining it throughout the year. It will also discuss the consequences of cutting the buffalo grass too short or leaving it too long. If you have buffalo grass on your lawn and want to improve your lawn’s quality, there will be many tips to help you.

How often to mow buffalo grass

Although buffalo grass is not an aggressive grass that creeps quickly into pathways, its runners can still cover the surroundings if left unchecked. There is also an increased risk of weed invasion associated with long buffalo grass. Regular mowing helps the lawn to stay healthy and green.

 As a result of mowing, the grass is forced to use its energy to repair its grass leaves which were damaged during mowing. This process helps the grass to stay fresh and healthy. Mowing also reduces all the grass’s efforts to spread, ensuring less grass into garden beds and pathways as all of its energy is used to repair and grow more green leaves.

Buffalo grass grows at different speeds depending on the type of buffalo grass being used. It also depends on the weather conditions, nutrients in the soil, soil quality, and water available to the grass. But the growing speed doesn’t vary such that it affects the mowing practice much.

Generally, the mowing routine remains the same regardless of growth speed: never cut more than one-half of the grass in a single mowing session. Frequent mowing ensures removing many small weeds even before they have a chance to grow up and reproduce. It also controls the thatch build-up and keeps the lawn lush and healthy.

A buffalo grass mowed short may result in greater water evaporation from the soil and may stress the lawn and increase the water usage. A short lawn can also affect lawn health due to a lack of Photosynthesis. On the other hand, buffalo grass maintained too long increases the growth rate, and thatch build up rapidly. So, always try to find the right balance for your buffalo grass to keep it lush and healthy.

Types of Buffalo Grass

There are three different types of Buffalo grass. Let’s look at their key features.  

● Prestige Buffalo

One of the newest and among the best buffalo grasses in the market. Its has a consistent deep green color, hard wearing, good recovery, and drought tolerance. It is known for its consistent deep green color. It has a shade tolerance of 70% with low to moderate wear and 50 % with high wear.

● Sapphire Buffalo

Sapphire buffalo has thinner leaves than other buffalo grass varieties. It is a low thatch type grass and has a good winter color. The folding of its leaves often protects the grass from frost. It also recovers well and at a much faster speed as compared to other turfgrasses.

● Palmetto Buffalo

Palmetto Buffalo is the most popular buffalo grass in the world and is known for its low maintenance and more minor watering characteristics. It is also the best option for families with kids and pets as it is an excellent hard-wearing grass. It’s hard for weeds to invade palmetto buffalo grass due to its dense growth.

Mowing buffalo grass in summer

The growth rate of buffalo grass during summer is fast as it is warm-season grass. So, frequent mowing of the lawn is required during this period. The recommended mowing height for buffalo grass is 1.5 to 4 inches, depending on the type. If you leave the buffalo lawn to grow too long in summer, it will grow even faster, and when too long, it will significantly increase the mowing time and effort.

Mowing long buffalo grass can be extremely difficult as it will produce large and dense clipping, which puts more strain on the engine, particularly if you do not have a powerful lawnmower. Moreover, allowing buffalo grass to grow long in summers may grow thick thatch layer which can cause extensive root damage by drying out the roots.

Keeping all these things in mind, expect a healthy buffalo lawn to require mowing every 8 to 14 days during the summer.

Mowing buffalo grass in the fall, winter, and spring

During the late fall, winter, and early spring, the lawn’s growth rate usually slows down naturally. Buffalo lawns may look like not growing much in colder months. This is because the lawn uses its energy to strengthen the thick thatch layer during this season instead of growing more green leaves.

The thatch layer protects against big fluctuations in soil temperature. It is recommended to adjust the mowing frequency according to the grass’s growth rate. Generally, mowing buffalo grass every four weeks during these colder months is preferable. Leaving lawns for longer than four weeks is not recommended, except maybe during some winter months (depending on your location and winter temperature).

Warm-season grasses like zoysia, Bermuda, and buffalo grasses produce thatch much faster than cool-season grasses. The thatch layer only becomes problematic once it gets too thick so that the water and air have trouble getting to the roots of the grass. Dethatching a grass can cause a lot of damage to the grass, so it should be done at a time when the grass grows. So the grass can fix the damage caused by dethatching before the next dormant period.

The best time to dethatch the buffalo grass is late spring or early summers after it starts to grow.

Buffalo grass cut too short

Cutting buffalo grass at lower heights can cause problems for the lawn. It will turn the lawn naturally brown or yellow, and it will require more fertilizer. Short grass also exposes the turf to direct heat, especially in the summer, which causes it to dry quickly, and hence it needs more water. Cutting too short can make the grass unhealthy. When buffalo grass is cut too short, it develops its thatch layer faster and thicker, especially when it grows in the full sun.

Mowing too low will also make the grass more susceptible to pest invasion and diseases. The grass may lose its shade tolerance due to a lack of green leaves. Cutting too short also inhibits root growth. Mowing too short reduces the surface area of the leaves, which is where the grass makes food. The grass then relies on the roots, which weaken them, and your lawn finds it challenging to endure drought or heavy rain.

Buffalo grass left too long

Tall buffalo grass looks less attractive as its blades grow with arbitrary and irregular heights, adding to your lawn’s inconsistent appearance. Growing buffalo grass too long is also not advisable as it makes it difficult for the grass to hold itself up, and it drops on the surrounding grass suffocating it.

Long grass also traps moisture in the lower areas, making the lawn prone to fungus and other diseases. This can result in the grass grow unevenly, and that makes your lawn look rough. There is also a high chance that the grass may turn yellow or brown. Not mowing for a long time may cause the grass to go to seeds where its blades look more like weeds than grass.

Long grass may overwhelm your mower and dull your mower’s blades when you try to mow it after an extended time. Clippings left behind after mowing the longer grass are also longer and difficult to manage. Longer grass clippings often sit on the top of the lawn and are difficult to remove. Moreover, longer clippings block the sunlight to the turfgrass, which affects its health. During regular mowing, the short clippings easily fall on the ground, where they decompose and add nutrients to the soil.

Mowing height and Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is the process by which green plants use sunlight to synthesize nutrients from carbon dioxide and water. The lawn’s growth rate is impacted by how long the leaves of grass are or at what height it is cut. When grass is cut too short, the leaves’ surface area is reduced you reduce the part where the grass makes food.

A grass mowed too low has less leaf available for Photosynthesis which as a result damages the grass. Longer leaves mean a fast-growing and repairing lawn, while shorter leaves mean a slow-growing lawn. Most of the problems with soft leaf buffalo grass lawn arise due to lawns being mowed too low.

Buffalo grasses like Palmetto like to have longer leaves, and it is preferred to mow these grasses at a greater height than average and compared to other warm-season grasses.

Shade tolerance and mowing height of Buffalo grass

Mowing heights also vary depending on the shade available for your lawn. Most people choose buffalo grass for its shade tolerance. It has more shade tolerance due to its broadleafs, which catch more sunlight and photosynthesize better than other grasses. Sapphire buffalo grass has thinner leaves than Sir Walter buffalo grass and most other buffalo varieties, but it is slightly more shade tolerant than Sir Walter buffalo.

Generally, buffalo grass can survive easily with as little as 3 hours of sunlight a day. No lawn grass varieties can survive with less sunlight than this. So, if you choose buffalo grass for its shade tolerance and your lawn is planted in an area of high shade, you will have to increase the mowing heights in the shaded parts of the lawn. This will allow the leaves to trap more sunlight during their exposure to the sun to conduct Photosynthesis for its survival.

Mowing Tips for Buffalo grass

Below are some of the best Buffalo grass mowing tips to help you achieve a lush green turf for your lawn.

  • Too short: If you have been mowing your buffalo grass too short, immediately increase its mowing height.
  • Rotary mower: Use a rotary mower instead of a cylindrical mower.
  • Lower in spring: In spring, cut the buffalo grass to lower cutting range to remove dead winter blades.
  • Higher in summer: During drought summer conditions, reduce the stress on your lawn by raising your blade to the upper cutting range.
  • Mow regularly: Mow the lawn on a regular basis and always follow the one-third rule while mowing the lawn.
  • Sharp blade: Use a sharp blade while mowing the lawn.
  • Mow when dry: Always mow the lawn when the grass is dry.
  • Even cut: Don’t mow the grass to keep it shorter but mow it to make the grass even.

Final Word

Buffalo grass is a low-maintenance grass that requires less mowing, fertilizing, and watering than most other turfgrasses. It is highly shaded and drought tolerant due to its large and deep root system. This deep root system and their fast-growing stolons also enable them to recover quickly from wear.

It is important to use the recommended mowing height while cutting the grass. Otherwise, it may become unhealthy over a period of time. Recommended mowing height range for buffalo grass is 1.5 to 4 inches. You may increase the mowing height to upper limits during the winter season and vice versa. Mowing no more than one-third of the grass blade at single mowing is the general mowing rule that must be kept in mind while mowing your buffalo lawn.