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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.

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

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Friday - June 19, 2009

From: Bakersfield , CA
Region: California
Topic: Turf
Title: Low sedge for lawn in Bakersfield, CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a small area for a lawn, but would like to get away from a traditional "lawn". Can you recommend a sedge grass that would act like a lawn (not much foot traffic)that can be mowed once in a while and not take a lot of water. The temperature ranges from a few 30 degree days in the winter, to well into the l00's about 10 days a year in the summer. The area gets full sun most of the day. We live in zone 9.The soil is mostly clay.

ANSWER:

You can go to our Native Plant Database, select "California" and "grass or grass-like" on the pull-down menus for State and Habit, and click on the 'Submit combination box." When we did this, we got 248 possibilities for carex (genus for sedge) and other grasses, native to California. We narrowed it down to Carex native to California, and got 46 possibilities. When, however, we started checking with the USDA Plant Profile for some of these choices, we found very few that are native to South Central California in the Kern County area. It would seem that sedges, in general, are not fond of the environment in your area.

We wonder if perhaps we are barking up the wrong tree. We often suggest Meadow Gardens for people desiring to get away from the traditional lawn. Please read our How-To Article on Meadow Gardening and see if some of the ideas might be applied to your situation. Another article of interest in your situation is Native Lawns.  Unfortunately, the favorite native grass mix of Texas,  Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) and Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) does not appear to grow in your area, but there are other good suggestions in the article. 

To get some input from some experts a little closer to the situation than we are, we suggest the California Native Grasslands Association website. It has a number of links where you can get more information, particularly for your part of California. Another source of assistance on choosing lawn plantings is the Kern County Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. Also, consider contacting the University of California Cooperative Extension Office for Kern County.

 

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