En EspaŅol

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

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
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
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

Thursday - July 29, 2010

From: N. Reading, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grasses for hillside in N. Reading MA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am seeking a grass for a steep, sunny slope in the NE.

ANSWER:

You are wise to choose a grass or grasses for your steep slope. We will go looking for grasses that need sun and are native to the Middlesex Co. area in northeast Massachusetts. These will not be mowable lawn grasses, you wouldn't want that anyway on a steep slope.

We recommend grasses for controlling erosion because of their extensive fibrous root systems that serve to hold the soil in place.  However, seeding grass is not the whole process.  The seeds need moisture to germinate.  If the moisture comes in the form of rain, it is likely to wash the seeds down the bank  before they have a chance to germinate and take root. An erosion control blanket works by slowing the runoff water and allowing sediments to fall out rather than be washed away. Seeds are sown under the erosion-control material and grow up through the matting when they germinate. You can also insert plants into the soil by cutting through the matting. The roots of the plants that are growing through the erosion-control material anchor the soil to stop the erosion. If you use erosion-control blankets made of biodegrable material, they will eventually disappear leaving the plants to control the problem.  Many nurseries carry this erosion control fabric, and can help you with instructions. Go to our National Suppliers Directory, type in the name of your town and state in the Enter Search Location box, and you will get a list of native plant seed suppliers, nurseries and consultants in your general area. Many of them can provide you mail ordering of seeds, with help on when and how to plant. 

You probably should not plant seeds for these grasses until early Spring in USDA Hardiness Zone 6a. Grass seeds germinate in the Spring, and trying to get them started either in the heat of summer or just before the cold of Winter sets in are neither of them good ideas. Follow the links below to the page on each grass to learn the growing conditions, projected height and care for that grass.

Grasses for Sun in Middlesex Co., MA: 

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Bromus kalmii (arctic brome)

Calamagrostis canadensis (bluejoint)

Carex stipata (owlfruit sedge)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Hierochloe odorata (sweetgrass)

Phalaris arundinacea (reed canarygrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Andropogon gerardii

Bromus kalmii

Calamagrostis canadensis

Carex stipata

Elymus canadensis

Hierochloe odorata

Phalaris arundinacea

Schizachyrium scoparium

 

 

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Groundcovers for Kingsland TX
October 11, 2012 - I am looking for a list of native ground covers and grasses(not lawn grass).
view the full question and answer

Erosion control in West Union IA
June 22, 2010 - Erosion control and native grasses/plants for steep, shady slope in northeast Iowa. We are building a house in northeast Iowa (near West Union in Fayette County). The road that was graded to the ho...
view the full question and answer

Native grass mix for Bastrop County, TX
February 25, 2014 - I plan to put in a small lawn on a tract of land near Rosanky, TX in Bastrop County. There are scattered oaks but the yard space will be mostly open. Soil is basically sandy. Is there a good native...
view the full question and answer

Winter groundcover for shaded backyard in Austin
January 10, 2013 - I live in south Austin and have a shaded backyard. During the summer, the lawn died and the ground is now bare. I'd like to plant some kind of winter grass or ground cover that will hold the soil i...
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

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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center