Unirrigated native grass is common in landscapes developed after the year 2000. Many new developments could not afford the amount of water taps to irrigate an entire property. After 2002, many municipalities mandated a certain percentage of land developed be of zero supplemental irrigation areas meaning they were to be sustained enough on their own without additional watering but still have non-hard surface materials like plants. Naturally the designers started creating areas of which native grass was to be installed rather than the green turf grass you are used to seeing throughout the older parts of metro area.
Native grass has many benefits. First obviously is the fact it does not require supplemental irrigation water once established. Second among many more is the fact that it can thrive once established and prevent erosion and compete with noxious weeds. It does not like to be mowed regularly so maintenance is cheaper than turf grass as well. Also, native grass does well with the type of soils commonly found in the southeastern side of the metro area where most other plants do not.
Some of the negative things I have heard people say is that it looks like a big weed patch. It is true, weeds can and will grow in native areas especially in areas where it gets mowed.
Once mowed, it will go dormant and stop competing with weeds. Treating the native areas with selective herbicides is required no less than a couple of times a year to keep the weeds in check. The other comment I hear often is that it is not manicured. We do not manicure native as over time the weeds will take over which will create more cost to treat. Also over time the native will desiccate.
Desiccation is the extreme loss of moisture to the point where the plant will no longer exist. Once this happens, weeds will take the area over making any native grass establishment near impossible. In the best scenarios, native can fully establish itself within 3-5 years.
Typically though I expect more of a 5-7 year to fully establish itself.
Native is a plant and requires certain care in order for it to thrive. Once thriving, it can prevent weeds and erosion all the while requiring less water and maintenance costs. It should be left alone as much as possible.
Wheatlands has smaller areas along Wheatlands Parkway, Ider, Calhoun, Powhaton, and Pinewood that goes all the way to residential homes. We are to mow a "beauty band" approx. one mower width to prevent encroachment onto the residential lots. Once we do that, leaving a small swath of native un-mowed does not look very good so we mow the entire area as much as we can.
Larger native areas will only get the "beauty band" and the rest of the area is to be mowed once per year towards the end of the season in September or October. This type of care allows the native grass to fully develop a seed base and gets dispersed when we mow it down.
Native does require some care, but mostly to leave it alone.
We try to mow it as little as possible so it can thrive and prevent noxious weeds from developing. We thank you for understanding.