Blue grama grass pictures

Once you’ve made the decision to install a native lawn there are several choices that can be made in regards to aesthetics, best practices, and your local conditions.

Photo ©Julie Orr

When converting to a native lawn, you have the opportunity to re-imagine the entire space and make efficient use of the open areas. In the ‘lawn’ above, the landowner has made the open green space a part of the garden design with a blend of unmowed red fescues. It is primarily ornamental but is short and rugged enough to invite foot traffic.

Photo © Todd Valley Farms

Cool season grasses are green in the spring and all through fall, whereas warm season grasses will green-up as summer temps turn the heat up.

Determining the lawn’s use will help with selecting the most appropriate species to install. Some native species are rhizomatous, or stoloniferous like the buffalograss above, creating dense sod, while others are bunch grasses that can either grow close enough together to form turf or slightly spaced for a more ornamental look. Ask yourself what will be the primary purpose of the lawn and how much foot traffic will it potentially receive? Will it be be strictly ornamental or will the lawn be used as a family picnic area or for light recreational play?

Photo © tfross99

The little lawn pictured above is used by this homeowner much the same way traditional, non-native turf is used. This lawn consists of mowed clustered field sedge (Carex praegracilis), a native to most of the U.S and Canada. Sedges are an excellent grass-like alternative when selecting plant species for your native lawn. Below is young sedge lawn, just beginning to get established.

Photo © Susan Harris

Before you begin the conversion process, there are a few more points to consider to help determine which species, or mix of species, will perform best:

Sowing Native Grasses: How To Plant Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis)

Blue Grama Grass Seed is a warm-season grass that needs heat to grow. It does best when planted after spring night temperatures warm to 60 degrees.

By David Salman

You don’t need an expert when planting Blue Grama Grass. Native species like Blue Grama Grass provide property owners with a resilient, fine-textured grass that withstands drought, provides ornamental seed heads in late summer and habitat for numerous beneficial insects, songbirds and small animals.

Here are easy step-by-step instructions for preparing and sowing Blue Grama grass seed.

Make Sure to Match Blue Grama Grass Seed with Your Region’s Rainfall and Climate

  • Blue Grama grass is a warm season grass (greens up and grows when the weather is warm).
  • Blue Grama is best used in regions where the average annual precipitation doesn’t exceed 25″ annually, making it a good choice for the western half of the US. (Western half of OK, KS, NE, SD. All of ND and all states west to the Pacific ocean.
  • The exception to this general rule of thumb is the western side of OR and WA (the coastal side of the Cascades) where the rainfall amounts increase dramatically from the much drier eastern parts of those two states.
  • This species grows well in a wide range of soil types, from sandy to loam to heavy clay.
  • It grows well over a wide range of elevations up to about 7,500 ft. in the southern parts of the West to about 6,000 ft. in the northern tier Western states.
  • Cold, short season areas of the Intermountain West with only 3 to 4 months of non-freezing weather are NOT a good match regardless of elevation.

Blue Grama Grass has unique eyebrow shaped seedheads that look beautiful when wafting in the breeze.

A Few Tips for Planting Blue Grama Grass Seed

  • Timing is the key to success. Being a warm-season grass means that you need to wait until mid- to late spring for the day and night temperatures to warm up.
  • In spring, wait until the night temperatures are consistently 50° F or warmer and the day temperatures are reaching even higher.
  • The season for sowing Blue Grama grass extends through summer into late summer/early fall (August/September) depending on your elevation. At higher, cooler elevations, the sowing date moves back earlier into August. As a general rule of thumb, Blue Grama grass needs to be established 6 to 8 weeks before the start of freezing night temperatures.

Preparing the Soil For Seeding Blue Grama Grass

  • Clear the area of weeds and any remnants of former lawns.
  • Most native grasses adapt well to poor soils making soil enrichment unnecessary.
  • Loosen soil to a depth of 3-4 inches using a rototiller. Rake the area with a bow rack to break up dirt clods and create a good seedbed.
  • For areas that have been overgrown with weeds for a long period of time, it’s highly beneficial to make the extra effort to kill the weeds before you sown the Grama seed. Rototill to a depth of 3-4 inches. Then water the site to encourage weeds to germinate. Rototill again to kill the young weeds. Re-water the site to get a second germination flush. Rototill one last time and rake the area with a bow rake to break up dirt clods and create a good seedbed. Then you’re ready to sow.

Preparing the Seed and Sowing Blue Grama Grass Seed

  • For a Blue Grama lawn use 3-4 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft. If your sowing less than 1,000 sq. ft weigh out the amount needed using the above rate. For example, a 100 sq. ft. mini-lawn needs 1/3 of a pound of seed.
  • Mix weighed seed with slightly moist sand in a ratio of 2 parts sand to 1 part seed so sowing is even.
  • Add Plant Success Granular mycorrhizal root inoculant to improve seed germination and get young seedlings off to a faster, more vigorous start.
  • Gently rake the soil surface with the back of the bow rake to create a smooth, even seedbed.
  • Broadcast the seed/sand mixture by hand.
  • Use a lawn roller or small piece of plywood to press the seed firmly into the soil.
  • Mulch with a thin 1/4″ layer of clean wheat or barley straw to retain moisture. NEVER use field hay as this will contaminate the area with many noxious weed seeds.

Watering Blue Grama Grass Seed and Germination

  • Set up a sprinkler(s) that provides coverage of the area, so that you can turn on the water without having to drag a hose and walk across the soggy soil of the newly seeded patch. After sowing, water the area thoroughly such that the soil is wet to a depth of 4-6 inches.
  • For the first week to 10 days, be prepared to water twice daily for 10 to 15 minutes, morning and evening to keep the top 1 inch of the soil damp.
  • Continue twice-daily watering until the grass germinates.
  • Once the grass germinates, over a period of a couple of weeks, cut back to once daily then every other day. Watch the young seedlings carefully and don’t let them wither. But don’t overwater and drown them. Watch patches of seedlings in low spots and reduce watering frequency if they seem to die off.
  • Depending on how hot it is, watering can be tapered off to once every 3 to 7 days. Check the soil moisture after you water with a hand trowel, to see how wet it is and how deep the moisture goes. Warm night temperatures and moist soil help germination, usually within 7 to 10 days. If the seeds have not germinated within 15 days, re-sow.

Weed Control For Blue Grama Grass Lawns

Weed control is essential to establishing your newly sown blue grama grass. Hopefully, by pre-germinating weed seeds (see “Preparing the Soil”), the amount of weeding needed will be greatly reduced. But some weeding is always needed.

  • Don’t weed when the soil is moist from daily or every other day irrigation. This will compact the soil and kill tender young seedlings.
  • Unless the area is quickly overrun with broadleaf weed seedlings, it’s best to wait about 4 to 6 weeks after sowing to begin weeding. When watering has been reduced to weekly intervals and the soil is firm between waterings, it’s safe to walk over your new lawn/meadow. At this point, mowing the grass to a height of about 1 ½ to 2 inches will help it to thicken up and weaken weed competition so that the grass can crowd out the weeds. Repeat every couple of weeks or as needed.
  • For small patches of Blue Grama, hand weeding can be done in place of mowing. Use a board or small piece of plywood to kneel on to avoid crushing the young grass seedlings with your knees.

Blue Grama Grass is shown here mixed with native shrubs and perennials, including Rabbitbrush.

Integrating Wildflowers into Blue Grama Grass

It can be challenging to seed wildflowers at the same time your sowing warm season native grasses like Blue Grama.

  • Weeding your grass planting can be very difficult unless you have an experienced eye to distinguish between weeds and desirable wildflowers.
  • But if you choose to do so, be sure to select wildflowers that germinate in hot weather and don’t require winter cold to condition the flower seeds to germinate.
  • If a wider range of wildflower types is desired, you can leave long rectangular bands or irregularly shaped areas in the grama grass unsown with grass seed. This allows you to go back in the fall to sow wildflower mixes that require winterizing (“cold stratification”).
  • Alternately, you can transplant potted wildflowers into the established grama grass, choosing flower species that are good re-seeders to act as mother plants that will scatter seed naturally and fill into the grama grass over time.

Water Established Blue Grama Grass

  • Once established (4 to 5 months after sowing and beyond), this native grass is very resilient to dry conditions. To keep it green and actively growing, some extra water may be needed during the hottest part of the summer when there has been little or no rain.
  • When watering established grama grass during dry spells, irrigate long enough to put down 1/3 to 1/2″ of water. Any less and the water won’t penetrate deeply enough into the root zone to be of use. Blue grama is very deep-rooted.
  • Use several coffee tins or other flat-bottomed containers scattered across the area to capture sprinkler water. Time your irrigation, then measure the water in the containers with a ruler. Then you’ll know how long to run the sprinklers to put down adequate amounts of water.
  • Un-irrigated Grama grass may brown out in extended periods of hot, dry weather but quickly green up again after a few good rains.

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

© All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without written permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass

DESCRIPTION

Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass
Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’

‘Blond Ambition’ has a unique, flag-like flower, unlike any other. A profusion of chartreuse blooms appear in mid-summer attracting butterflies. As the flowers mature they take on a blond color, quite nice in floral arrangements. Ground feeding birds enjoy the seed in autumn. Easy to grow, deer and drought tolerant, a low maintenance gem.

BENEFITS

An ornamental grass unlike any other in cultivation
Resilient stems stay upright even in heavy snow
Attracts butterflies and birds, host plant for skippers
Was selected as the best perennial by Plant Select in 2013
Deer resistant and extremely cold hardy
Drought tolerant, easy to grow, low maintenance

NATIVE INFO

Native Range

Found on dry prairies. A dominant grass in dry shortgrass prairies. An understory grass in moister, mixed prairies.

Interesting Facts

A skipper or skipper butterfly is a butterfly of the family Hesperiidae. They are named after their quick, darting flight habits.

GROWING TIPS

Cut back in mid-spring as the new green shoots begin to sprout.

Mature Size: 30-36in. Wide x 30-36in. Tall

Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Sun Exposure:

VIDEO

Coming Soon!

What Is Blue Grama Grass: Information On Blue Grama Grass Care

Native plants are becoming more popular in garden and home landscape use due to their low maintenance and ease of care. Choosing plants that already fit into the local fauna gives them a high incidence of survival and growth with minimal effort because the area already matches their requirements. This reduces the use of herbicides, pesticides, and even water, and provides a sustainable landscape that blends and accents the natural region.

Blue grama grass is a bunch grass native to the Great Plains found in pastures, grazing land and open unmanaged fields. Some information and knowledge on what is blue grama grass will help you decide if it is a good fit for your location.

What is Blue Grama Grass?

Blue grama cultivars are part of turf grass and ground cover areas with low moisture. It is a warm to temperate zone grass that requires sun and dry earth but tolerates a range of soil types, from rocky to sandy, with moderate to alkaline pH levels.

About the only condition it cannot stand is boggy or overly wet sites. It is a low growing grass that spreads from rhizomes and spreads slowly. The native perennial is found across North America in plains, mesas and even open woodlands. When mixed with other turf grass species, it makes an

excellent low maintenance lawn.

Blue Grama Information as Turf Grass

The native grass starts growing in May to June and flowers at the end of the summer season. It is often used for grazing but also performs well as a lawn with minimal mowing, watering or fertilizing. It is not suitable for most northern climes and performs best in western Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, although it tolerates drier parts of the Pacific Northwest.

‘Hachita’ is the most drought tolerant of the blue grama grass cultivars but ‘Loving’ and ‘Alma’ are also high performers with ease of care and low maintenance requirements.

One of the more important pieces of blue grama information is its ability to be used as an ornamental. None of the varieties gets taller than 12 to 18 inches without mowing and they produce abundant purplish inflorescences in late summer that are attractive and provide delightful movement and wild animal fodder.

Planting Blue Grama Grass

The ideal time for planting blue grama grass is two months before the first frost in fall. 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.

The seed is fine and should be mixed with sand for sowing at a rate of 3 pounds per 1,000 feet. You can load a seed spreader to the desired ratio and then lightly water the area after application. Keep the bed moist in spring, but not soggy, until germination which generally occurs within 7 to 10 days once soil temperatures warm up.

Blue Grama Grass Care

This lovely fine-leaved bluish grass is easy to maintain and requires little of the standard turf grass treatment that other cultivated varieties seem to demand. If you do fertilize, feed in early spring with a low nitrogen grass feed.

The grass has no thatch buildup and grows slowly, which requires minimal mowing. Mow at a high level of approximately 4 inches for best grass health.

The biggest problem with the plant is rust, fungal rot or smuts. Any of these can be prevented for the most part by following good blue grama grass care and only watering in extreme drought and only when the blades of grass have time to dry in the coolest part of the day. Wet foliage in high heat tends to form the fungal diseases that cause these major problems.

Blue Grama Grass Seed – Native Grass

Bad River blue grama demonstrates good drought, fair salinity, and moderate alkalinity tolerances. In its dormant state, it will also tolerate burning. Blue grama will not tolerate dense shade, flooding, a high water table, or acid soils. This native grass is a densely tufted, perennial, warm-season, native short grass distributed throughout the Great Plains and Southwest. It is found on open plains and rocky slopes. It is best adapted to medium and fine textured, relatively deep soils of rolling uplands.

Blue grama is suitable for mixtures of grasses used in erosion control, low maintenance turf plantings, and surface mine revegetation. Establishment, as with all native grasses, proper ground preparation is one of the most important considerations. The seedbed should be firm but not solid; cultivation to kill the roots of cool-season grasses is essential. Planting may be done by either drilling or broadcasting, with the seed being sown no more than 1/4 inch.

Blue Grama may be confused with buffalograss, with which it grows, but blue grama lacks the creeping stolons of buffalograss. In short grass sod, it frequently is the primary dominant. Reproduction of blue grama is primarily by seed and short rhizomes. It spreads outward slowly from parent plants by tillering, frequently creating a sod appearance. Bad River ecotype does not differ significantly from the general taxonomic description of blue grama. Its leaf blades are 1 to 6 inches long, light to medium green, curled, with prominent veins (above and below) and rolled at emergence. Most of the curly leaves are at the base of the plant. The inflorescence is a panicle with 1 to 3 spicate primary branches. This is a very popular native grass used in both lawns and pastures.

Characteristics

  • Very tolerant of drought, heat, cold, and most soils including sandy and finer soils
  • Requires very little maintenance.
  • Moderate durability
  • Mixes well with Buffalo grass
  • Survives wide temperature fluctuations

Seeding Rate & Time

  • 8 – 12 PLS lbs per acre or 1/2 – 1 PLS lb per 1000 square feet for lawns or ornamental plantings.
  • Seeding date: When sustained soil temperature reaches 60 degrees and minimum of 8 – 12 weeks before frost

PLS pounds: Pure Live Seed, or PLS, is the percentage of viable seed in a given lot. It is calculated by multiplying the purity percentage by the total germination percentage. Multiply the purity percentage by the germination percentage. For example, 95% purity multiplied by 85% total germination equals a 80.75% PLS. This means that out of every bulk pound of that bag of native grass seed that you plant, 80.75% of it is actually seed of that tagged variety and has the potential to germinate. Weights listed are bulk pounds.

Hachita Blue Grama Grass Seed – 1 LB

Grass Seed Step-by-Step Planting Instructions

View Complete Grass Seed Planting Guide and Soil Preparation Guide

1. Preparing the area for planting. We recommend leveling the planting area as much as possible to eliminate high or low spots. Till the soil if possible about 4-6 inches deep, as the soil should be loose and clump-free before planting. If your area is already somewhat bare and even, we recommend skipping the tilling process as it can promote new weed growth or unwanted grass growth. You can then add Plant Success Granular Mycorrhizal Root Inoculant to improve seed germination.

2. After your soil is prepared, apply the seed at the recommended rate. Planting rates vary depending on the size of the seed:

Blue Grama Grass Hachita: seed 4 lbs covers 1000 square feet
No Mow Lawn Grass Seed: 5 lbs covers 1000 square feet; 10 lbs covers 2000 square feet
Low Work and Water Dwarf Fescue Grass Seed: 5 lbs covers 500 square feet,10 lbs covers 1000 square feet.

To make sure you’re spreading the seed evenly, scatter 1/2 of the seed walking north to south and 1/2 of the seed walking east to west.

3. If you have poor soil, you could lightly apply an organic fertilizer after seeding, although this is not a necessary step for strong growth. We recommend using Yum Yum mix to amend your soil.

4. Many choose to cover their grass seed after planting, even though this is not necessary. If you do choose to cover your seed to help retain moisture and hold the seed in place, we recommend a maximum depth of 1/4”. You can cover the seed with topsoil, clean wheat or barley straw, or peat moss. Coated seeds such as Bermuda and Clover seeds should not be covered more than an 1/8” deep.

5. Water gently and regularly, keeping the seeds moist until they begin to sprout. This could mean watering more than once a day if you’re having a dry spell. Once the seeds sprout, water deeply and less frequently. This helps to ensure a deep rooted, healthy lawn or meadow.

6. Do not mow until your lawn is at the recommended height. For most grasses, this is about 3-6 weeks after planting, but could be longer depending on growing conditions. Remember to be gentle when mowing the first few times — the seedlings will be somewhat tender.

7. After mowing several times, you can apply an organic fertilizer to promote strong growth, but this is not a necessary step.

Remember: It may take weeks or even a month for the seeds to grow.

Blue Grama

Sold by the PLS pound

Botanical Name: Bouteloua gracilis
Cultivars: Bad River, Hachita, Lovington, Native
Height: 12-18 Inches
Spread: 6-12 Inches
USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-7

Bouteloua gracilis: Blue Grama Grass is a major, warm-season grass found throughout the Great Plains. The plant is fairly short, reaching 10 to 20 inches with narrow basal leaves of 2 to 6 inches. Blue Grama grows in definite bunches and reproduces by tillering and by seed. Mature seed hands are curved, resembling a human eyebrow. Blue Grama can be found growing in association with Buffalograss, Western Wheatgrass, Neddlegrasses and some areas the Blue Grasses.

VARIETIES

Bad River Blue Grama was a selected release from the North Dakota PMC, North Dakota Association of conservation districts and the North and South Dakota AES in 1996. Its origin is Haakon County in central South Dakota on the floodplain of the Bad River. The intended use is the Northern Great Plains, USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 3. Bad River establishes readily and has consistent plant performance compared to native harvest materials.

Hachita is a cultivar released by the Soil Conservation Service in New Mexico. It has outperformed other Blue Gramas in production (seed and forage), drought tolerance and ease of establishment under droughty conditions. Hachita performs well at higher elevations and has a minimum precipitation requirement of 10 inches.

Lovington is a good forage and seed producer that is well adapted to areas of 12 or more inches of precipitation in eastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado and western Kansas. It was selected for its outstanding seedling vigor and forage production, and grows best on upland sites with medium to fine-textured soils. Seed maturing is very dependent on moisture availability at critical stages in the spring and early summer. Forage yield is higher than other Blue Grama varieties and it is free of diseases.

Native

Growing & Maintenance Tips

As with all native grasses, proper ground preparation is one of the most important considerations. The seedbed should be firm but not solid; cultivation to kill the roots of cool-season grasses is essential. Planting may be done by either drilling or broadcasting, with the seed being covered with no more than ¼ to ½ inches deep at a rate of 1 to 3 pounds PLS/acre. Seeding in late spring is recommended in the Great Plains, somewhat earlier further south. In the Southeast, seeding should be done during the period from June 15 to July 15. Mulching and irrigation is recommended on harsh sites. Soil tests should be made to test the soils for deficiencies Blue Grama will tolerate soils that are low in nutrients better than acidic conditions. Planting should be done by a native grass seed drill. In western areas plant Blue Grama in a sorghum cover crop (in stubble or in with the crop itself).

Once the grass is established, it is very palatable to the livestock all year long. Since growing points are at or near the ground surface, the grass withstands fairly close grazing. For best yields, defer grazing every 2 to 3 years during the growing season. It cures well on stem, making it a good grass for grazing during the dormant season. Renovation of sodbound stands is also recommended. Weeds can be controlled by use of herbicides, mowing or controlled grazing. Seed yields can reach 150 to 200 pounds per acre under irrigation and cultivation.

Interesting Notes

Blue Grama grows as a bunch grass, forming open sod mats. As it matures and is grazed on by animals, the bunches grow together and form a thick sod.

Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis) is a major warm season grass found throughout the western United States and Great Plains. It is fairly short, reaching an average of 10 to 20 inches. It grows in definite bunches and reproduces by tillering and by seed. Blue Grama grows as a bunchgrass in southern states but in northern states or areas of heavy grazing pressure it is a sod former. Blue grama can be found growing in association with buffalograss, western wheatgrass, needlegrasses and in some areas the bluegrasses.

Blue grama demonstrates good drought tolerance. It has fair salinity tolerance and moderate alkalinity tolerances. In its dormant state, it will also tolerate burning. It will not tolerate dense shade, flooding, a high water table, or acid soils.

Blue grama is suitable for mixtures of grasses used in erosion control, low maintenance turf plantings, and surface mine revegetation. Establish as with all native grasses. Proper ground preparation is one of the most important considerations. The seedbed should be firm but not solid; cultivation to kill the roots of cool-season grasses is essential. Planting may be done by either drilling or broadcasting, with the seed being sown no more than 1/4 to 1/2 inches deep at a rate of 1 to 3 pounds PLS/acre. Seeding in late spring is recommended in the Great Plains; earlier seeding is recommended in areas further south. In the Southwest, seeding should be done during the period from June 15 to July 15.

Blue grama will tolerate low-nutrient soils better than acidic conditions. In western areas plant blue grama in a sorghum cover crop, stubble, or in with the crop itself.

Once the grass is established, it is very palatable to livestock all year long. Since growing points are at or near the ground surface, the grass withstands fairly close grazing. For best yields, defer grazing during the growing season every 2 to 3 years. Blue grama cures well on stem, making it a good grass for grazing during the dormant season.

***click the “Additional Information” tab for more seed facts.

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