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Mr. Smarty Plants - Grasses for shady acreage in Paige, TX

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Tuesday - February 10, 2009

From: Paige, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Grasses for shady acreage in Paige, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My family recently bought property in Paige, TX. We thinned out the dense vegetation leaving pines and some oak and juniper. The ground is now bare sand throughout much of the property, except for the trees, which fully shade much of the property. We plan to host an annual festival on the land in late Feb, March, and early April. We are wanting to plant grasses, but will need it to be turf-like where the festival will be held. A family member has purchased gulf annual rye grass. However, I would prefer to use native grasses, especially since we have a large number of acres. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER:

We hope that when you say you will be hosting an annual festival in February, March and early April that you are talking about 2010!  Native plants are wonderful, but it would take a Superseed to be turf-like in two weeks. We will operate on that assumption and see what we can find for you.

The Gulf annual ryegrass is, as you know, non-native to North America and to the Central Texas area. It is apparently considered an additional support for grazing with (also non-native) bermudagrass. It will grow in sandy soils with 20" of rain annually, and continue to reseed itself. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are committed to the use of plants native to the area in which they are being planted. Because they are already accustomed to the environment by millions of years of experience, the will require less fertilizer, water and maintenance. 

While we can definitely recommend some native grassses for your property, you will probably be better off going to Native American Seeds, Junction Texas for information. They have an extensive online catalog, including grasses and grass mixes for specific purposes. From the home page, click on "Shop for Seeds" and from there, "Grass Mixes." First, because you have so many trees and shade, you might consider the Shade Friendly Grass Mix. This company can give you planting instructions, tell you how much to buy for a specific area, when to plant and how to care for the area. They have mail order service.

This does not, however, address the need for a turf-like area where your festival will be held. The fact that your property has a lot of shade complicates the search for a turf grass. Two shorter native grasses considered possibilities for turf grass, Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) and Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) are full-sun grasses. Back to the Native American Seeds selection, there is Prairie Wildrye which is suitable to  moist open prairie, but also found in shaded areas. It begins growth in the Fall, grows slowly though Winter, maturing in late Spring to early Summer. One problem there is that it likes moisture, and the way things have been going in Central Texas, that's pretty chancy. It would have to be mowed in the Spring to provide a turf like surface. Under the circumstances, we would say you might as well use the already-purchased Gulf annual ryegrass in the areas where you need the turf. It does not appear to be invasive and shouldn't disturb the native shade grasses you plant in other areas of the property. 

SOME OF THE GRASSES IN THE SHADE FRIENDLY GRASS MIX

Tridens flavus var. flavus (purpletop tridens)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Elymus virginicus var. halophilus (Virginia wildrye)

Setaria vulpiseta (plains bristlegrass)


Tridens flavus var. flavus

Chasmanthium latifolium

Bouteloua curtipendula

 

 

 

 

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