Grass choice criticized at city project

St. Augustine not seen as drought tolerant

SAN ANTONIO - A call to the KSAT Defenders resulted in an interesting question about grass. The caller told about construction crews laying sod near a busy San Antonio street and wanted the Defenders to find out why St. Augustine grass was being used.

St. Augustine is a variety of grass known for requiring more water to stay alive than other varieties.

That type of grass was being put down along DeZavala Road after the completion of a $15 million project to widen the road and add sidewalks and some drainage improvements.

The project is $5 million under budget, which is saving the city some green. What is not green, however, is some of the St. Augustine grass that has been put down.

With high temperatures near 100 degrees and limited or no irrigation along DeZavala, some turf is toast. The San Antonio Water System approved extra watering but some of the grass still died.

St. Augustine grass is popular in San Antonio, especially in shady conditions, but Zoysia is more drought tolerant. And Bermuda is considered the best choice for areas without irrigation because it goes dormant when not watered and then springs back to life when it gets moisture.

St. Augustine does not, said Lesley Shoaf of Milberger Nursery. Asked what type of grass she would plant along a heavily traveled roadway without irrigation, Shoaf said, “Bermuda. Absolutely."

But Roland Martinez, spokesman for the city’s Capital Improvement Management Services Department, said St. Augustine was chosen for the project because it matches the grass already out there.

"What you see being planted out there is mostly St. Augustine, the Raleigh variety, which is classified as drought tolerant as well as some Bermuda which is drought tolerant as well," Martinez said.

Martinez also said the city will not accept the project until the grass is established. And that any dead grass will be replaced at the contractor's expense.

A city ordinance requires developers to plant grass that is able to go dormant in the summer. St. Augustine can't and the Raleigh variety planted is not one of those considered drought tolerant.

Click here for some links to information from the city regarding water conservation and drought tolerant plants and grasses.


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