Browse the Site
Quick Links to the Reviews
Buffalo Lawn Care
Maintaining Your Buffalo Lawn
How To Take Care of Your Buffalo and Protect it From Pests.
By Todd Layt
Maintaining your Buffalo lawn requires different maintenance schedules than other types of turf. Firstly, Buffalo only has stolons and no rhizomes, so it is very important not to burn it off with chemicals or fertiliser. With Couch varieties, damaged areas can often but not always reshoot from rhizomes. I always recommend a good slow release fertiliser for Buffalo to be applied in early spring and early autumn for cooler areas, and mid-autumn for warmer areas. I find the autumn fertiliser is the most important, especially for those varieties like Palmetto® and Sapphire® Buffalo that have good winter colour, as this is what keeps them greener in winter. Too many fertilises per year are not only a waste, but can lead to excess maintenance, including more mowing and increased watering requirements. The only exception to this can be highly sandy soils, where extra fertilising may be required.
Buffalos are generally better at out-competing weeds than turf varieties like Couch, Kikuyu and Fescue. However, if you do get weeds in them, more care must be taken to remove them. If broad leaf weeds get into Buffalo, there are some chemicals that can be used in some varieties. Never use Dicamba, as this is generally deadly to Buffalo. The most widely available chemical is Bromoxynil plus MCPA (Bromocide MA, or Bindii and Broadleaf for soft leaf Buffalo by Yates). These are generally safe on Buffalo lawn, provided you follow the instructions on the label, although you have to be extra careful using any of these chemicals on the ST varieties of Buffalo, as I find they burn very easily. ST varieties may need to be hand weeded for Broadleaf weeds. Provided the label is followed, I find that Palmetto®, Sir Walter and Sapphire® have good tolerance of these chemicals.
To remove grass weeds from Buffalo is a little harder. To remove tufting or taller growing running grass weeds such as Kikuyu, one method I find that works well is using a wick wiper. As most varieties of Buffalo grow slower than these faster growing weeds, you can simply use a wick wiper filled with Glyphosate to wipe the weeds, being careful not to get any chemical on the Buffalo. You may need to do this two or three times to remove the grass weeds totally. For better Buffalo varieties, once the turf is well established, it will generally out compete the weeds, so this weed control is usually only an issue for the first 6 months.
If you are in a particularly weedy area, then an application of pre-emergent, particularly soon after laying the turf, may help. The best pre-emergent for this task is Ronstar. Apply this strictly as per the label, and you will find it works well, and is much milder on the turf than some other alternatives. Turf farmers often use this when they are planting runners to stop weeds coming in. It basically stops weed seeds from germinating for a considerable period of time, often up to 2 to 3 months. You will need to buy this from a rural supply company like Elders, or a turf chemical company. It is not available in consumer packs.
One of the great aspects of Buffalo is that it only has stolons (above ground runners) and no rhizomes (below ground runners). This is the main reason why Buffalo is generally less invasive to gardens, and it is what allows mowing home owners and contractors to easily keep a tidy edge.. In the summer months simply edge with a brush cutter or edge trimmer at least every second mow. A good border of concrete, or even a simple spade edge makes this much easier. Don’t leave it until it’s too late to start trimming the edges, as the effort that is required then is much higher. Unlike Buffalo, turf types such as Couch and Kikuyu have deep underground rhizomes which constantly creep into the garden. A Buffalo lawn makes a mowing contractor’s job much easier.
When choosing mowing heights, you must consider things like thatch development, watering frequency and shade. If you want a tight non-thatchy lawn, then a mowing height of 30mm may suit. If you want to reduce watering and can handle a slightly more spongy feel to a lawn, then a mowing height of 50mm may be the best height. Mowing heights should be between 30mm to 50mm depending on preferences, except for shaded areas which you should try not to mow at less than 50mm to 60mm in height. Short mowing in shaded areas will kill any lawn. As to the question of how much shade can Buffalos take, well that depends on many factors, including wear, trees, reflection of light, soil, fertiliser, mowing height etc. Generally I would say 2 to 3 equivalent direct sunlight hours per day, depending on the above factors. To further improve a Buffalos performance in shade, try pruning back shade trees and improving drainage and compaction can also help.
On some types of Buffalo, particularly Shademaster and Matilda Buffalo, thatch build up can be a problem. The lawn can become very spongy. This can be solved by using a dethatching machine once every couple of years. If you do not have access to this, you can simply scalp the lawn hard, say down to 20mm to 25mm, collect the clippings, and wait for the lawn to recover. This is best done in spring. I find I get better results if I do it 2 weeks after fertilising, and when the lawn is not too stressed. This way it rejuvenates quicker. Understand the lawn will look bad for a few weeks.
If you have Palmetto®, Sapphire® or Sir Walter, watering is something that can be done infrequently, except in very sandy soils. In most areas of Australia except Perth and northern Australia, once a Buffalo lawn is established, it is best to give it one heavy water each one to two weeks in summer, once a month in spring and autumn, and not at all in winter. Frequent light waterings promote shallow root systems, whilst infrequent heavy waterings promote deep root systems. If you have one of the more shallow rooted Buffalos such as the ST types, more frequent watering is required. In humid areas, morning watering is better than afternoon or night watering, as disease pressures are greatly reduced.
Occasionally Buffalos get grey leaf spot. This usually occurs in more humid areas. With the better varieties, the turf will normally grow out of the problem. It may simply require reducing the frequency and time of watering. Some poorer varieties may require an application of a fungicide such as Mancazeb to inhibit this fungus problem.
In the warmer months, Web Worm, Army Worm and African Black Beetle can cause problems for Buffalo lawns. Some of the better varieties cope far better, but still occasionally require treatment. If your job is to maintain Buffalo lawns, or if you want to save your home lawn from a possible outbreak of these bugs, it would be worthwhile reading the next part of this article thoroughly.
Lawn Armyworm (Spodoptera maurita) are a major pest during summer and autumn, causing severe damage to turf surfaces where they attack leaves, stems and seedheads. Infestations in turf gradually extend outwards from gardens or higher cut turf areas as these plants are used as egg laying sites. Severe damage is predominantly caused by the later instar stages and as populations increase, the larger armyworms tend to move in groups into unaffected grass areas, hence the name ‘Armyworm’. Armyworms characteristically have stripes or triangular patterns along their smooth body, differing from that of the sod webworms.
Armyworms are the larvae of moths of the family Noctuidae. The female moth may lay more than 1000 eggs, sporadically in clusters within 4 to 10 days, depending on temperature. The newly hatched Armyworms stay together feeding on the same plant until it is devoured. The larvae are usually most active in the evening or at night, except in overcast weather conditions. During the day they hide under the safety of the lower grass leaves.
An Armyworm will undergo 6 to 9 instar stages before it is fully developed. This will take 21- 35 days and at a mature instar stage, the insect will reach 3-4 cm in length. When fully fed, the Armyworm will work its way into the soil profile where it pupates. 10-14 days later the moths emerge. There may be 2 or 3 generations of Armyworm during the summer and autumn periods.
There are several options for lawn Armyworm control. Chlorpyrifos 500, Bistar, and Lepidex are useful options in controlling these pests. For most effective control, application should be made late in the afternoon.
African Black beetle
African Black Beetle (Heteronychus arator) is a scarab species causing most damage to grass in September to February. The adult female beetle can lay up to 80 eggs that hatch in 2-5 weeks, depending on temperature. The larvae develop through 3 stages, each stage deeper in the soil profile feeding on grass roots. The adult provides little damage to turf.
The first instar stage larvae feed on decaying matter near the soil surface. As they go through they feed exclusively on grass roots. The fully grown larvae (3rd Instar) are about 25mm long, creamy white in colour and curled up with 3 pairs of legs. They cause extensive damage when present in high numbers.
When the larvae are fully grown they build an oval chamber, empty the hind gut and become a pre-pupae. After about a week, the pre-pupae develop into pupae. The pupae develop into adult beetles after 1-3 months and emerge after rain or irrigation.
Weather patterns affect the number of African Black Beetle and can affect the potential for turf damage. After 2 successive dry spring and summer periods, the number of Black Beetles can reach plague proportions in the second year. During plague seasons on warm, humid nights in spring, the beetles emerge and swarm to find new feeding and breeding sites. At these times green, succulent and intensively maintained turf is attractive to beetles as they search for lush food. The beetles are sometimes attracted to lights.
Application of pesticides is best carried out at the first sign of activity in September/October.
Meridian, Merit, Chlorpyrifos 500, Pennside will provide control of larvae. Baythroid and Chlorpyrifos will effectively control adults.