Issue: Novem1er 10, 2001

Turtle Turf to replace Bermuda grass?


Do you have any information pertaining to a new grass called Turtle Turf? Is it a grass that remains green year-around and grows slowly? We now have a Hybrid Bermuda grass in the back yard, which our older Italian miniature greyhound dog seems to be highly allergic to (according to our vet). It has been suggested to replace the back yard lawn with this new grass (Turtle Turf) that has been recommended by a retired Parks Department employee who cares for our lawns. We moved into our new home in Las Cruces a couple of years ago and just this last year, the grass in the back yard became very uneven in growth and appears to be different types of grasses. Is it possible that the high wind storms we had this year blew in seedlings from other surrounding areas? Any information you may have about this type of grass (Turtle Turf) would be greatly appreciated.


I spoke with Dr. Bernhard Leinauer, NMSU Extension Turfgrass Specialist, who gave me a lot of good information regarding your question. He agrees that it is probable that the turfgrass marketed as Turtle Turf (also known as Crested Hairgrass) will remain green in Las Cruces through the winter if it is properly maintained (properly watered and fertilized). It is a cool season grass like fescue and bluegrass which can remain green when properly managed in your area. However, there is insufficient research data regarding the New Mexico performance of this grass from the Netherlands. Dr. Leinauer is currently studying Turtle Turf and will have more information in the future, but based on the information he has, it should perform as you have suggested (if properly maintained). He also stated he was aware of research showing that Bermudagrass has allergenic properties in humans (so it is also likely in dogs). Unlike many other grasses, Bermudagrass can cause allergies even when it is not producing pollen, and some people (and dogs) are allergic to the leaves. This should not be a problem with Turtle Turf.

His greatest concern is the difficulty of establishing this slow-growing grass in an area in which Bermudagrass is already established. It will be necessary to eliminate the Bermudagrass from your back yard before beginning to establish the slower growing turf. Eliminating Bermudagrass is not easy. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service office for information on eliminating the Bermudagrass. When I asked Dr. Leinauer how the cool season Turtle Turf would perform in Las Cruces in the summer under home conditions, he was cautious in answering. Under conditions at the commercial sod farm, which are different from home conditions, it establishes well, becomes dense, and looks very good. There is too little information to guarantee the same response under home conditions, but he is working on gathering information to better answer that question.

You have the opportunity to be a pioneer in growing this relatively new turfgrass in Southern New Mexico. Contact your County Extension Agent for detailed information and to report your success. Your experience can be helpful in increasing our knowledge regarding this turfgrass under our New Mexico conditions.

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Send your gardening questions to Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith NMSU Cooperative Extension Service 9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112 Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

Please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly garden program made for gardeners in the Southwest on: KNME-TV Albuquerque at 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, KENW-TV Portales at 10 a.m. Saturdays, and KRWG-TV Las Cruces at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays (repeated at 1 p.m. Thursdays.)