Carpetgrass is a sustainable option

John Young, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  7/24/2009 6:51:30 PM

Sustainable Landscape News From LaHouse

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Allen Owings and John Young

The trend today is to minimize fertilizer and chemical applications in the home landscape. If you are looking for a grass that is well-adapted to soil with high moisture levels and low fertility, common carpetgrass may be your most sustainable choice.

Most of us are familiar with the typical lawn grasses for Louisiana – centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda and zoysia. Bermuda is typically a higher-maintenance grass usually reserved for athletic fields and golf courses.

But did you all know we actually have a lawn grass that is commonly called “Louisiana grass”? It is common carpetgrass. Although you may be unfamiliar with it, chances are you have come in contact with it. Common carpetgrass looks so similar to centipede grass that seed mixtures of it and centipede grass are sold commercially.

Common carpetgrass is native to South America and was originally brought to the United States through the port of New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century. Intended for pasture use, this warm-season grass adapted well to the Gulf Coast region’s temperatures and heavy rainfall. It thrives from South Carolina to Texas and as far north as Tennessee.

This stoloniferous (creeping) grass tolerates high soil moisture and low soil fertility. The texture of its leaf blades falls between centipede and St. Augustine grasses.

One problem with carpetgrass is its prominent, tall seed heads that appear when the grass is not mowed weekly or on another growth-appropriate schedule. Plant growth regulators, however, have successfully reduced seed head height and quantity for up to five weeks.

Cold and shade tolerances also are concerns when compared to St. Augustine and centipede grasses. These properties, plus water and fertilizer requirements, are subjects of LSU AgCenter research.

Commercial seed is readily available as an inexpensive method of establishing a lawn. Soil temperatures for planting carpetgrass seed should be 69 degrees or higher, and the seed should be planted at the rate of 1.0-1.5 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Common carpetgrass establishes faster than centipede grass, but eventually centipede grass plants will dominate in well-drained and more fertile soils. We recommend a mowing height of 2 inches to maintain good turf quality.

Come to LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. Go online to Louisiana Yards and Neighborhoods for additional information.

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Editor: Mark Claesgens

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