Beware Sunday newspaper ads for grass seed

I’m going to quickly make you an expert in turfgrass varieties for all of Southeast Texas. We only grow three for permanent lawns:

  • St. Augustine
  • Bermuda
  • Zoysia

And only one of them can be grown from seed in our region - Bermuda. The good news, though, is that now is the time to start. Usually, I recommend waiting for April-June for the best germination. But with the many 80-degree days we’ve enjoyed lately, you can get busy germinating Bermuda seed today.

I bring this up so you won’t be sucked in by grass seed advertising that is again popping up in Sunday newspaper supplements. This one was found in last week’s Houston Chronicle.

In recent years, similar too-good-to-be-true products have also been promoted on the internet and late-night television

In 2016, I published some advice that is still applicable today:

There really are only three grasses that work consistently during the spring, summer and fall in Texas: Bermuda, St. Augustine and zoysia. I'm bringing this up because of the prevalence of Scott's grass seed for sale right now in the Houston market. Plus, there will certainly be a new seed mass-marketed, (especially on cable TV) like last year's Grassology. The year prior, it was Patch Perfect. And back around 2000, when I first started hosting GardenLine, there was one known as Canada Green. Do not be taken in by the marketing of such grass seeds. Why? Because none of the seeds incorporated in these blends can handle our heat and humidity.

Other than Bermuda, almost no grass seed will work in Southeast Texas - definitely not blends of fescues, bluegrasses and ryes. And that’s exactly what Canada Green is. Winter rye is an exception - it will work here as a seasonal cover, but I don’t recommend it.

Scott's does sell a Bermuda seed that’s usually quite good at germination because it's been scientifically developed to work with scant moisture. But they also offer scores of fescues and likely some bluegrasses and ryes. Big-box stores and mass merchandisers’ rarely stock seed designed for Southeast Texas, so read the label carefully if you buy a seed blend. The seed content is listed, just like the ingredients on a pesticide label.

And here’s another thing to consider: There's really little difference between one Bermuda seed and another, but the ones sold at local nurseries and feed stores are radically cheaper than the stuff you’ll find at national chain stores. Some bags of seed claiming "water-smart engineering" or a coating of fertilizer can cost over $150 per bag. Meanwhile, a five-pound bag of common Bermuda at independent feed stores is often less than $20. And it only takes about two pounds to properly cover 1,000 square feet. Just remember ... to germinate properly, it has to make contact with dirt and be sown by the end of June.

Also, don't be fooled by claims that a Bermuda seed will work in shade. It won’t. Only some zoysia grasses and very, very few St. Augustines have a fighting chance in shadier environments. And don't forget … zoysia and St. Augustine grasses are not sold as seed, only as solid sod.