Turf-type tall fescue can handle the traffic

We have a question about lawn ground covers that might grow in our local soil and hardiness zone. We’ve seen dichondra repens and different types of clovers online and wonder how those would do in our high desert area? If those would not do well in Grand Junction, what would you suggest for a nice looking small lawn hardy enough to live with our two collie mix dogs? We realize lawns and dogs don’t mix, but we are willing to keep trying.

— Trish

I’m afraid I can’t recommend either one. Dichondra makes a great lawn substitute, but it isn’t winter hardy here. We actually sell varieties of it in the spring to use as a foliage accent in people’s annual flower pots. 

Clover will overwinter here, but I don’t think it’s all that good for that purpose, either. It looks good for a couple of years, but then starts thinning out and looks patchy and ratty. It also tends to be invasive, spreading and seeding into areas you didn’t intend such as your shrub and flower beds or your neighbor’s lawn.

Have you tried a turf-type tall fescue for your lawn? Though it does have its limits, this grass is much more wear tolerant than bluegrass. It has been used for years for athletic fields since it holds up well under frequent foot traffic. It means reseeding the lawn from scratch, I’m afraid, but it works well for most folks.

What can you tell me about zoysia grass? It sounds so good in the magazine ads. Will it grow here? Is it really as low maintenance and wonderful as it sounds?

— Donna

The answer to your question is “no.” To tell you the truth, I’m not a big fan of zoysia grass here. In spite of what the advertising says, it’s much better in a milder climate. We can see winter dieback problems in this area.

Zoysia can become quite invasive and tends to form a thick thatch layer. It also needs to be mowed quite short (half to one third the height of bluegrass), which can increase maintenance. Zoysia is also a warm season grass, not greening up in the spring until May and browning out in late September to early October.

I still think our best “traditional” lawn grass around here is bluegrass.


Last fall we had a tree removed and the stump ground up. Now there is a space in the lawn approximately 8 feet by 4 feet which contains wood chips to a depth of 3–4 inches. We would like to put grass in the spot vacated by the tree and its stump. Should we seed or sod, and what should we do about soil preparation? I’m pretty sure the wood chips are not a good base for either method.

— Fred

As you’ve guessed, those wood chips won’t make a good base for your grass. The grass won’t grow well on them and, as they decompose, the area will settle and you have a low spot in the lawn.

You will need to remove them and replace them with some topsoil. Try to get as many out as you can. Leaving a few behind isn’t going to be a problem, but you want to get rid of the bulk of them.

Once the topsoil is in and firmed, you can plant your grass. It really doesn’t matter whether you seed or sod it. The sod is faster, but costs more. In the end, you’ll end up with the same thing.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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