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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native grasses for erosion control

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Monday - October 20, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Native grasses for erosion control
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have moved into a home that had vinca covering the front yard which slopes to the sidewalk (18'x15'). I have removed 3/4 of the vinca by the roots and have placed several gulf coast muhly across the front for erosion control, but would like to ask you this: should I spread rye grass (after removing all vinca) now to hold the soil due to the rains to come (we hope)? I am planning on planting native plants (decidious and evergreen) but cannot do it all at once..maybe over a period of 2-3 months. It seems so overwhelming - where do I start?

ANSWER:

First of all, Mr. Smarty Plants applauds you heartily for getting rid of the vinca, a non-native invasive plant.  Now about sowing the annual rye grass—sure, it grows rapidly and fills in areas that might erode; but unless you remove every bit of it before the seeds set and fall to the ground, you are going to have it to contend with it forever and it is a non-native.   Also, even though it does die out when the weather gets warm, until it dies it competes for moisture and nutrients with the native warm season grasses that are trying to get a start.  You are certainly right to think about planting grasses there since, because of their extensive fibrous root systems, they are the ideal plants for erosion control. But—why not plant some native grasses, instead of the rye grass?  For instance, you could sow a combination of Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) and Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama).  They are both short grasses (less than 12 inches) that should do well in your area.  They do like sun best, but will also grow in part shade.  You can purchase seeds of these from Native American Seed in Junction, Texas.  Along with the grasses you could add some wildflower seeds, also available from Native American Seed.  This is an ideal time to sow both grass seeds and wildflowers.  I am not sure of the size of your area, but no matter what the size is, you would probably benefit from reading the information in "Meadow Gardening" on our How to Articles page.  After you have stabilized the soil with the grasses and a few wildflowers you can begin to add more plants.  You can find a list of commercially available plants that are recommended for Central Texas by choosing that area from the map on our Recommended Species page.

 


 

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