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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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Wednesday - September 02, 2009

From: Gloucester, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Grass in mixed wildflowers in Gloucester VA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a acre of mixed wildflowers which is in its 3rd season. I now have some grass issues. I have sprayed for just the grass but still have too much. Should I bush hog, disk and replant ??

ANSWER:

Grasses appearing in wildflowers is a natural progression. If you felt you had to spray an herbicide, we hope you sprayed an herbicide for monocots, or grasses. If you sprayed a wide spectrum herbicide, you may have wiped out your wildflowers, too. Without knowing what grasses you have, we can still bet they are as native to your area as the wildflowers are, and will certainly prosper there. If you manage to exterminate the grasses, they will come back, from wind blown or bird borne seeds. If you have grasses you feel are non-native or overly invasive, pull them out or mow them before they go to seed. We have two How-To Articles we would like for you to read to help you understand our approach to wildflower gardening. The first is Meadow Gardening and the second is Recreating a Prairie.

Consider this, when your wildflowers are dormant or have died after seeding, what is your property full of? Is there anything there to hold off erosion, to give forage and protection to wildlife, like birds and butterflies?  If you want to choose your own grasses, you can go to our Native Plant Database, go down the page to Combination Search, select Virginia on the drop-down menu for State, "grass or grass-like plants" under Habit, and then click on Submit Combination Search. When we did that, we got 349 results, which is probably more than you want to plow through. So, go through the same process, but select Light Requirements, "sun" being 6 or more hours of sun a day, "part shade" 2 to 6 hours, and "shade" 2 hours or less of sun a day. You might want to choose between "perennial" and "annual" under Duration, and certainly choose whether you typically have dry, moist or wet soils under Soil Moisture. We did this, selecting "perennial,""sun" and "moist" and got 49 possibilities.  You can go through this list, clicking on the scientific name of any grass you are interested in, and go to the webpage on that individual plant, where you will learn what size it should be, propagation, etc. There will also be pictures of many of them, and a link to a search on Google for that plant. You may very well find some of the grasses on your property, and can decide if you want to keep them or not. 

We don't recommend you remove grasses from your garden, but if you insist on trying, mowing and pulling is about the safest thing you can do. And they will still come back.

 

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