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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


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


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





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