Although Dog Tuff grass is marketed as being able to withstand the particular wear and tear a dog puts on turf, the real benefit is its ability to withstand drought, according to Kelly Grummons, a horticulturist who developed and trademarked the product.
“In hindsight, I probably should have chosen a trademark name that reflected how drought tolerant it is,” Grummons lamented, “because in reality, it virtually needs no irrigation once it’s established.”
“Virtually” no irrigation doesn’t mean that it needs no irrigation. Especially when first installing the plugs, lawn companies will need to “water and feed the heck out of it for about a month,” according to Grummons.
However, he continued, “by the second season, you’re down to watering once a week or less. By the third season, you’re down to watering once a month or less in the summer. By the time it’s established, we’re looking at 75% to 90% less water [use] than bluegrass or fescue.”
Dog Tuff is a cousin of African dogtooth grass, Grummons said. He says that Dog Tuff is drought tolerant, resists burning from dog urine, and resists wear and tear from foot (or paw) traffic.
In spite of tolerating most environmental factors, one thing the grass can’t handle is shade. Grummons noted that “it doesn’t like the shade at all; it just gets stringy and ugly looking whereas in the sun it’s tight and glossy.”
He added, “Our average customer has a small urban lawn. … We don’t sell a lot of it in big, older neighborhoods like in Parker. It’s really a good product for suburbs and semi-rural areas.”
Grummons estimates that the grass is hardy to Zone 5 and higher, but he noted that he has customers in Genesee and Larkspur where it has thrived. “It seems to love heat, so I’m surprised how well it’s done in those cool areas,” he said.
As a warm-season grass, homeowners might be surprised to find that it’s only green from roughly June to late September. Even if clients are okay with that, some homeowners associations may be miffed if the lawn is in a visible area.
“Some HOAs will not tolerate that look for long, so what we’ve been doing is overseeding the plugs with annual ryegrass,” Grummons suggested. “It looks like Kentucky bluegrass, and within eight days, it’s completely filled in. … The ryegrass dies the first winter, so it works pretty well.”
Dog Tuff is only available in plugs, and contractors must wait until after the last frost before planting.
The first step is to get rid of a client’s existing lawn. “You have to kill whatever’s there, or start with clean ground, because it doesn’t look good mixed in with all other grass,” Grummons said. “Some people use Roundup, some people put down plastic or smother it.”
Grummons recommends planting each plug about a foot apart. After heavy watering and feeding in the first season, the grass should be completely filled in by September, he said.