Lets face it, most buffalo lawns, especially those grown in full sun, will have a limited lifespan. The main reason for this limited lifespan is the ever increasing thatch layer of buffalo grass which just keeps building and building, higher and higher, until in many cases the buffalo lawn will need to be removed and a new lawn planted.
There are ways to manage this thatch layer which we discuss in other articles. However, dethatching buffalo is a difficult task because this grass doesn't have underground runners to regenerate from. Buffalo is a shade grass, and when grown in shade will develop far less thatch problems than when this grass is grown in full sun. And if regular yearly dethatching isn't undertaken on buffalo, it becomes almost impossible to ever cut back the thatch layer as it builds from year to year.
To prove this point, one of my own family members went to the hire shop to hire a Kanga digger to remove their Couch lawn for a new garden bed. The hire shop manager asked if it was to going to be used to remove a very popular brand of buffalo grass. On questioning the manager, he revealed the number one reason why homeowners hire a Kanga is to dig out this one brand of popular buffalo grass!
How To Kill or Remove A Buffalo Grass Lawn
Once the decision has been made to remove an old buffalo lawn, the next question arises how to do this quickly and effectively. Should we poison the lawn several times prior to removing the lawn like we must do for Couch, or is there an easier way…
The good news is that because Buffalo Grass doesn't have rhizomes (underground runners), once we remove the above ground runners (stolons) which make up the lawn, the job is almost done. Because buffalo grass doesn't have these underground runners like other warm season grasses, the turf cannot regenerate itself once the top thatch layer is removed.
The best, fastest and easiest way to remove an old buffalo lawn is to hire a Kanga digger from the hire shop. A Kanga digger is best suited to remove buffalo lawns which have only an inch or two of thatch built up.
Once we have greater levels of thatch, from between 3 to 10 inches high, then we must switch over to hiring a bobcat operator to remove the old buffalo lawn for us, and to take away the rubbish for us, because there's going to be a lot of it, especially on larger lawns.
Our last option to remove unwanted buffalo lawns would be by the use of a rotary hoe machine, where we would dig through the old turf and soil and churning it up, and then removing the old lawn pieces with rakes and by hand. The rotary hoe method would not be suitable for heavily thatched lawns, and would best be suited for buffalo lawns with only an inch or two of thatch. Just be prepared that this will be a dirty and hard job.
Soil Cleanup After Buffalo Lawn Removal
Using a Kanga or a Bobcat to scrape off the thick buffalo thatch layer may remove the lawn and will stop any further possibility of the turf ever regenerating again, but after this we do face another problem…
The root system of buffalo can be deep and extensive. And planting a new lawn or even a new garden bed on top of soil such as this would be a very bad idea which would lead to future poor lawn or garden health.
We must also remove the old buffalo root system too.
The best and easiest way to do this would be to go through the soil with a rotary hoe, really churning up the soil and old roots as much as possible. We then work through the soil with rakes and some hard work to remove as much of the old buffalo root system as possible.
The soil is then compacted ready for planting the new lawn or garden bed.
Another option to remove these old buffalo root systems would be to use the same Kanga or Bobcat, and to dig much deeper into the soil to remove as much of the old matted root system as possible, and then to replace the topsoil with sandy loam ready for the new turf, or a garden soil mix ready for a new garden bed. Just be aware that this option will be far more expensive than removing the old root system by rotary hoe.