Explore Plants

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
    
 

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

Plants for banks of a retention pond in Alabama
April 24, 2009 - What can we plant on the inner and out walls of a detention pond to stop erosion? The pond is located in a neighborhood in Mobile, AL and the walls are 9 ft high with a steep slope.
view the full question and answer

Wildlife and bird friendly hedgerow for Chicago suburb
November 30, 2013 - Want to plant a wildlife/bird friendly hedgerow in suburban Chicago. Looking for a recommended mix of understory trees as well a shrubs and grasses. Site is part shade with average to wet soil and tr...
view the full question and answer

Restoring tornado-damaged property in Alexander City AL
January 29, 2012 - Dear Mr Smartypants, We were struck by the outbreak of tornadoes last spring and our wonderful woods are now unsightly sloping pastures with erosion problems.. many stumps and coils of roots. We are...
view the full question and answer

Non-native ligustrum in non-native fescue in Medina TX
May 22, 2013 - Is there an effective way to kill baby ligustrums coming up in my fescue yard without harming the grass?
view the full question and answer

Plants for narrow strip between sidewalk and fence
May 01, 2008 - I have a strip of land about 5 inches wide and 30 feet long -- between the fence and the sidewalk -- that I would like to plant something that would look nice and wouldn't require the weedeater every...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.