There are eight common turf grasses in Texas: Common Bermuda, Hybrid Bermuda, St. Augustine, Centipede, Zoysia, Buffalo, Tall Fescue, and Rye (for over-seeding in the fall). The two most common turf grasses in Texas are common Bermuda and St. Augustine.
Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Howard Garrett summarized things saying, “Grasses should be selected on horticultural requirements. For example, large sunny areas that will have active use should be planted in common Bermuda grass or Buffalo grass. Shade, less used areas should be planted with St. Augustine. Buffalo grass should be chosen for areas that will not get much water. They Hybrid (Bermuda) Tiff grass should be used in areas that need a smooth highly refined surface. Rye grass and other winter grasses can be used to provide winter color and to eliminate early spring weed problems. Winter grass used for over-seeding can also help speed soil improvement (Garrett’s Plants for Texas, p. 4).
Narrowing the comparison down to common Bermuda and St. Augustine, here is how they compare: 1.) Best adaptive: Common Bermuda – almost all regions. St Augustine – where temperatures do not fall below 15 degrees. 2.) Shade tolerance: Common Bermuda – Low, must have 8 to 10 hours of sunlight per day. St. Augustine – Good, but grows best in full sun. Requires at least 4 hours direct sunlight daily to hold its own, more to cover bare areas. 3.) Traffic tolerance: Bermuda – High. St. Augustine – Fair. 4.) Drought tolerance: Bermuda – Survives drought well, but must have adequate water to maintain color. St. Augustine – Fair (Neil Sperry’s Complete Guide to Texas Gardening, Second Edition, pp. 184-185). Neil Sperry writes of Common Bermuda – “Most widely grown lawn grass in Texas. Aggressive, can be invasive in flower, shrub and ground cover beds… more likely to cause allergy problems (from molds) than most other turf grasses. Among our most tolerant grasses to a variety of weed-killers” (ibid). He writes of St. Augustine – “very popular in South Texas… Able to crowd out Bermuda and other turf grasses when given good care” (ibid). It is also able to crowd out most weeds because its runners are above ground and grow like a vine on the ground surface and its height and large leaves tend to shade out other grasses.
Which is better? Overall, Bermuda is probably the hardiest if the area is not too shaded. However, they each have their strength and weaknesses. Some of the best lawns are actually a blend. This allows the strengths of each to offset the weaknesses of the other.
While visiting relatives, I listened to two men discussing the qualities of these two grasses, and which was better. I immediately thought about a spiritual application. Many argue over which preacher or church member is the best. The truth is: we each have different talents. One may be better at one task, and another better at a different task. In the church we should all use our talents and blend them together for the common cause, and the glory of God. Consider: “We have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given us, let us use them: if prophesy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:4-8). “The body is not one member but many… and if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Corinthians 12:14, 19-21). “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 4:10-11).