Thursday, January 14, 2016

Where Can the Children Play?


I live on a quarter acre and would like to fill some areas with what I have heard is drought resistant turf that requires less water but provides a play space for children.  

What companies make drought resistant grass like they use in Phoenix?  

Where do I buy this product in San Fernando Valley?  

I am a pediatrician and the obesity crisis and motor development in children is also a challenge in this generation.  


Hi Frances,

After doing a little research I found out that a Bermuda grass variety called 'Midiron' is the most popular water saving grass for the Phoenix area. You can plant Bermuda in the San Fernando valley but you should be aware that because it gets fairly cold here compared to Phoenix that Bermuda grass lawn can take on a straw-like appearance from November through April when it goes dormant because of the cold. You can overcome this problem by over-seeding the grass with red fescue or you can spray the straw colored lawn with turf colorant (mostly harmless -just make sure you get a water or latex based type and not one that contains polyethylene glycol -the active ingredient in anti-freeze).

I would look at the following grasses (links provided for information and do not constitute a recommendation of the companies providing them):

A blend of California native and  U.S. native fescues developed for California. This preforms a little better in shadier areas or half sun in the San Fernando Valley and might be best mixed in with the others below for sunny areas.

Has a long establishment period and cannot be played on in the wintertime unless it is over-seeded with Red Fescue or Perennial Rye.

Great looking lawn that requires no more than once a week at the most watering, however playing sports on it could be a nightmare of skinned knees and twisted ankles as the texture of the thing is defined by the woody basal clumps it can develop. 

This can save maybe half the water of a traditional lawn and you can mow it and play sports on it (occasionally). It does tend to get lumpy when planted by itself. 

Besides what is mentioned above, Bermuda grass makes an excellent sports surface and requires half the water of lawns like dwarf tall fescue. Local sod growers will have varieties that perform better here in Southern California. 

A new introduction by Valley Sod Farm, this is like the traditional dwarf tall fescues like 'Marathon' except that it doesn't require as much water, about half of that of traditional fescues, and is does not get as lumpy as dwarf tall fescue lawns tend to get. 

Also, the UC schools are busily researching better alternatives to the traditional turf lawns. For more information on this quest go here.  

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