The Use of Alternative Groundcovers: Part 2

As a follow up to the previous article on alternative groundcovers, this entry will explore the costs associated with establishing and maintaining bahiagrass and perennial peanut lawns as alternatives to St. Augustinegrass.
Generally, the cost of establishing a lawn will increase if the vendor furnishes delivery and labor. To avoid these costs, the homeowner can pick up each pallet from the vendor and lay the sod at her or her home. This will require the use of a pickup truck as a pallet will typically contain 400-500 ft2 of sod or approximately 150-180 pieces. For many homeowners, the only practical option is to have the sod delivered and laid by the vendor. In addition, any existing vegetation in the area where the sod is to be laid should be removed. This can be accomplished by spraying all vegetation with Roundup. It may not be possible to destroy all existing vegetation, but as much as possible should be removed to ensure that the muck-side of the sod is touching the soil. In addition, any irrigation lines should be in place prior to laying the sod.
The following table represents cost estimates for each groundcover:

 Total Costs (including delivery and laying sod) per square foot
St. Augustinegrass45¢
Perennial Peanut$1.25

Bahiagrass is the cheapest sod and requires no watering, even in the dry season, if planted on a level surface. Perennial peanut requires little to no watering (except in periods of severe drought). By contrast, St. Augustinegrass requires approximately 20,000 gallons per 1000 ft2. This equates to approximately $15 per year for each 1000 ft2 of St. Augustinegrass. Therefore, the cost savings of Bahiagrass is approximately $165 per 1000 ft2 relative to St. Augustinegrass (planting and watering). Sodding perrenial peanut costs approximately $800 more per 1000 ft2 compared to St. Augustinegrass. Mowing costs for bahiagrass and St. Augustinegrass are relatively similar. By contrast, perennial peanut requires virtually no mowing. Depending upon the size of the lawn and cost of the lawnmower and/or landscaping fees, the higher establishment costs of perennial peanut may be well worth it in the long run.
Unfortunately, we were unable to locate any nurseries in West Boca that sell perennial peanut or bahiagrass. There are a number of companies in the Delray area that can special order bahiagrass at a rate that is markedly lower than St. Augustinegrass. For those not in need of an “instant lawn,” bahiagrass seed can be purchased at Home Depot or Lowes. The price is $66.98 for 10 lbs. of seed, which will cover 1,000 ft2 of new coverage or 2,000 ft2 of over seeded coverage. As discussed in the previous article, this is the cheapest way to establish bahiagrass and may be the best option for homeowners that can wait for the new lawn to grow in. The use of bahiagrass seed is another advantage over St. Augustinegrass, which can only be established with sod.
For additional information on lawns and lawn care, contact the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension office at (561) 233-1700.