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How To Grow and Care for Blue Grama Grass?

Blue grama grass

If you are looking for grass that can thrive in harsh conditions, support biodiversity, and create a stunning landscape, you should consider blue grama grass.

This native North American grass is one of the most resilient and adaptable grasses you can grow.

In this article, you will discover what blue grama grass is, how to grow and care for it, and what possible problems you may encounter.

What Is Blue Grama Grass?

If you have ever seen a prairie or a meadow in North America, chances are you have seen blue grama grass.

This grass is one of the most widespread and abundant native grasses in the continent, and for good reasons.

Blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) belongs to the genus Bouteloua, which includes about 50 grasses native to the Americas.

They are hardy and versatile grass that can adapt to different climates, soils, and uses.

It is also a beautiful and beneficial grass that can attract pollinators, prevent erosion, and provide animal food.

Some of the main features of blue grama grass are:

  • It is a warm-season perennial grass that grows in bunches or sods.
  • It has fine-textured, light green leaves that can grow up to 10 inches (25 cm) long.
  • It has distinctive comb-like spikes that produce seeds in the summer. The spikes can be 6 to 20 inches (15-50 cm) tall and have a bluish hue, hence the name blue grama.
  • It is native to most of North America’s western and central parts, from Canada to Mexico. It is especially common in the shortgrass prairie of the Great Plains.
  • It is a valuable forage grass for livestock and wildlife, as well as a pollinator-friendly plant for bees and butterflies.

How To Grow Blue Grama Grass?

Blue Grama grass
Source: Matt Lavin

Growing blue grama grass is not difficult if you provide the right conditions and care.

This grass can be grown from seeds or plugs (small pieces of sod), depending on your preference and availability.

Here are the steps to follow for each method.

Method #1: Growing From Seeds

The best time to plant blue grama grass seeds is in late spring or early summer when the soil temperature is above 60°F (15°C).

Follow these steps:

  1. Prepare a seed bed by tilling the area and adding compost or mixed grit to ensure drainage and percolation. Rake out any imperfections and debris and grade the area.
  2. Apply 2 to 3 (0.9-1.4 kg) pounds of seeds per 1,000 square feet (93 square meters). Mix the seeds with slightly moist sand in a ratio of 2 parts sand to 1 part seed so sowing is even. You can also add a mycorrhizal root inoculant to improve seed germination and growth.
  3. Drill the seeds on a firm, weed-free seed bed with a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch (0.6-1.3 cm). You can also broadcast the seeds by hand or with a spreader, but make sure to cover them lightly with soil or mulch.
  4. Water the seeds well and keep the soil moist until they germinate, which may take 7 to 10 days.

Method #2: Growing From Plugs

The best time to plant blue grama grass plugs is in late spring or early summer when the soil temperature is above 60°F (15°C).

Follow these steps:

  1. Choose a site that gets full sun and has well-drained soil. Blue grama grass can tolerate poor, dry, or salty soils, not heavy clay or waterlogged ones.
  2. Prepare the site by removing weeds, rocks, and debris. Loosen the soil to a depth of 6 inches and rake it smooth
  3. Space the plugs 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) apart and press them firmly into the soil. Water them well and keep them moist until they establish roots, which may take 2 to 4 weeks.
Blue Grama Grass: The Drought-Resistant Lawn

Blue Grama grass can survive on as little as 7 inches (18 cm) of yearly rainfall. It is also excellent for erosion control, grazing, and wildlife benefits.

How To Care for Blue Grama Grass?

Caring for blue grama grass is easy, as this grass is naturally resistant to pests, diseases, and drought.

However, some tips and tricks can help you keep your blue grama grass healthy and happy.

Here are the main aspects of blue grama grass care.

Mowing

Blue Grama grass can be left natural or mowed for a manicured look.

If mowing, cut it to a height of 3 to 4 inches (7.5-10 cm) and leave the clippings on the lawn to provide nutrients.

Depending on your preference, you may only need to mow once or twice a year.

Watering

Blue Grama grass does not need watering once established unless there is a prolonged drought.

In that case, water it deeply once a month to keep it green and healthy.

Weeding

Blue Grama grass does not need weeding once established, as it forms a dense sod that crowds out weeds.

However, if weeds do appear, you can hand-pull them or use an organic herbicide safe for grasses.

Avoid using chemical herbicides that may harm blue grama grass or the environment.

Fertilizing

Blue grama grass does not need fertilizing once established, as it can thrive in poor soils.

However, if you want to boost its growth and color, apply a low-nitrogen fertilizer (0.5 to 1 pound per 1,000 square feet, 0.45-0.9kg per 94 square meters) in the spring or fall.

Do not over-fertilize, which may cause excessive growth and reduce drought tolerance.

Aerating

Blue grama grass does not need aerating once established, as it has a shallow root system that does not compact the soil.

However, if the soil is very hard or clayey, you can aerate it lightly in the spring or fall to improve water infiltration and air circulation.

Dethatching

Blue grama grass does not need dethatching once established, as it has a low tendency to form thatch (a layer of dead stems and roots).

However, if thatch does accumulate, you can rake it lightly or use a dethatching machine to remove it in the spring or fall.

Thatch can reduce water infiltration and air circulation in the soil, which may affect the health of blue grama grass.

What Are Possible Problems With Blue Grama Grass?

Blue Grama
Source: Wikimedia

Here are some possible problems you may encounter with blue grama grass and how to prevent or treat them.

Fungal Diseases

Blue grama grass may suffer from leaf spots, tar spots, or rust diseases, especially in humid or rainy areas.

These diseases cause brown or black spots or patches on the leaves, reducing their photosynthesis and growth.

Avoid overwatering or planting blue grama grass in poorly drained soils to prevent fungal diseases. You can also apply an organic fungicide if needed.

Insect Damage

Grasshoppers or white grubs may damage blue grama grass, especially in dry or sandy areas.

Grasshoppers feed on the leaves and stems, reducing the forage quality and quantity.

White grubs feed on the roots, causing stand loss and bare spots.

Encourage natural predators such as birds or beneficial insects to prevent insect damage. You can also apply an organic insecticide.

Grazing Damage

Blue grama grass is susceptible to heavy grazing or traffic damage, as it has a slow growth rate and a shallow root system.

Overgrazing can reduce the vigor and density of blue grama grass, making it more vulnerable to weeds and erosion.

To prevent grazing damage, avoid overgrazing or walking on blue grama grass, especially when it is wet or dormant.

Conclusion

Blue grama grass is a native North American grass that can make a beautiful and low-maintenance lawn or meadow.

It is drought-tolerant, cold-hardy, and adaptable to different soils.

It is also a valuable forage grass for livestock and wildlife, as well as a pollinator-friendly plant for bees and butterflies.

If you are looking for grass that can thrive in harsh conditions, support biodiversity, and create a stunning landscape, you should consider blue grama grass. 

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