En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - September 19, 2008

From: Van Alstyne, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Wildflower meadow for birds
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I put in a wildflower feed plot for the song birds 3 years ago. We prepared the bed by first using Round Up to kill all the grass then lightly tilled to scratch the surface and planted the wildflower seed. The first year it was a gorgeous bed but the grass continues to come back. I want to throw more seed down this fall. The garden is next to our native grass prairie. Thank you!

ANSWER:

Why don't you begin by reading our How-To article on Meadow Gardening. You will note in that article that experts consider that a wildflower garden should have 50 to 80% in grasses. Obviously, you don't want non-native or invasive grasses or weeds in that garden, but neither can you expect to have nothing but wildflowers. The grasses will protect and support the wildflowers, and fill the space when the mostly annual wildflowers are dormant. Permitting the wildflowers to self-seed, as well as re-seeding, should continue the show into future years. In the long run, the grasses will probably dominate. Using an herbicide will only kill the plants that are above ground at the time of application, but many grasses have extensive underground root systems, and some have rhizomes that are little affected by herbicides. We do not recommend continued use of herbicides, as it will inevitably destroy some desirable plants and, over time, affect the quality of the soil. Since most annual wildflowers reseed themselves in the Fall, you can possibly mow, at a high setting, some of the grasses in the area, and certainly pull out any aggressive weeds. Mowing the grass before it sets seed is the most effective way to prevent it continuing to spread. However, there will always be seeds in the wind or carried in by birds, no matter how carefully you protect your area. Pulling out weeds, particularly before they flower and set seed, is hard but about the most effective way to control them.

We would also like to suggest that you read this article on Wildlife Gardening. You may find that you can offer a haven for other wildlife than just birds, enriching your experience with your garden.  The more diversity of plant life you have, the richer the experience for you, your birds, butterflies, and other small creatures. 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Getting rid of King Ranch bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum)
December 12, 2007 - I ranch approximately 1500 acres of land seven miles southeast of Marble Falls , Texas . At present, the land is inundated with King Ranch Bluestem; which as you know, kills by smothering all other na...
view the full question and answer

Plantings for sides of retention pond in Willits CA
July 02, 2012 - I am looking for recommendations for ground cover for the outside of embankments which impound wastewater. This is to improve the aesthetics and deter weeds. The slopes are 1V:2H, so if we can avoid...
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive bermudagrass from Memphis TN
August 17, 2012 - I live in central Memphis and have well-drained clay soil. I have converted much of the front yard from turf grass to beds of native plants, which survive our hot humid without supplemental watering e...
view the full question and answer

What flowers will ducks and swans not eat?
January 11, 2009 - I live by ducks and swans. They love eating my flowers. Any suggestions on what flowering plants they won't eat?
view the full question and answer

Replacement for Love Grass in Michigan
July 27, 2015 - need a replacement for Love Grass at Shops of Willow Bend in Plano. The entire perimeter of this mall has Bermuda and Love Grass. The Elms and Oaks have grown so the Love Grass is mostly gone. Ther...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center