How to have a green ‘lawn’ in summer with little watering

SAN ANTONIO – Summer is upon us and you know it when the lawns in San Antonio start to quickly go from green to brown.

As scary and non-traditional as it sounds, have you ever considered replacing your yard with a native ground cover?

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A question common from viewers over and over is, “how can I keep my grass alive in the summer?”

Well, there are two main reasons why lawns begin to die during the summer:

  1. The extreme heat and drought cause lawns to die quickly, no matter how much you hand water. It’s a losing battle.
  2. Most lawns are planted with non-native grasses like Bermuda and St. Augustine grasses (as these are the most common types of grasses you buy as sod from big box home improvement stores).

These type of non-native grasses have shorter roots and aren’t meant to endure extreme heat and drought. The shorter the roots, the less tolerant the plant is to drought or extreme weather.

So what if you planted something other than grass as your “lawn?”

KSAT12′s Sarah Acosta did just that last Fall. She planted a native ground cover called Frogfruit. It’s much prettier than grass. Frogfruit is a native groundcover that is a vigorous spreader and has little white and purple flowers that pollinators love. And here is the best part: it stays green through the summer with very little water once it’s established.

Frogfruit will stay green during the drought with very little water because native plants have long roots. Long roots reach down deep into the ground to find water and can withstand drought. Non-native grasses like St. Augustine and Bermuda grasses, have shorter roots that need constant watering to stay alive.

Another plus for my friends in the Hill Country is that it’s “supposed” to be deer resistant. However, nothing is 100% resistant.

The Frogfruit established throughout the Fall and winter. Because it’s native, it is also freeze tolerant. No need to cover it when it freezes. You just need to plant it once, and it will die back in the winter and come back with a vengeance in the spring.

Homeowner associations are becoming more flexible when it comes to replacing lawns of grass with native groundcovers or native beds, because its a way more sustainable option.

A low growing green native ground cover that produces flowers that stays green in the summer, is much more attractive and appealing than brown dirt patches that you aren’t allowed to water because of drought restrictions.

Here’s some before and after pictures. Before I had a strip of sad “Bermuda?” grass that was always brown and basically dirt from May to October.

Before, sad patch of dirt or “Bermuda” grass. (Copyright 2024 by KSAT – All rights reserved.)

Two dozen pint sized Frogfruit containers were planted in September that I got from Pollinatives — a local nursery that carries all native plants — feel free to check them out in Converse.

Planted Frogfruit in September, about a dozen pint-sized plants. (Copyright 2024 by KSAT – All rights reserved.)

The Frogfruit got a deep watering at least twice a week while it was being established in the fall, right after planting. In the winter, it was rarely watered. It went dormant after the first freeze.

May 2024, after planting Frogfruit. (Copyright 2024 by KSAT – All rights reserved.)

In the spring it came back with a vengeance, and didn’t need to be watered at all until May, when the heat started to turn up. It’s watered about once a week, with a deep watering.

Rainbow Gardens also carries Frogfruit. You can find it in the ground cover or native plant section.

And yes, you can mow or weed eat it down if it gets too long. You should wait for it to establish, like through the entire fall after planting before mowing.

Before mowing in the spring, wait until it is done blooming, or it may take a long time to recover. I highly recommend weed eating it, because you can cut it at anytime without damaging it, especially if it’s not being cut at the root.

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