Explore Plants

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
    
 

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:

 

 

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Native grasses for medians in Colorado Springs
June 11, 2010 - Our city has stopped watering our historic landscaped medians due to severe budget shortfalls. The medians were historically tree boulevards but have had curb and gutter and blue grass added over th...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for hill in Saint Mary's County, Maryland
September 18, 2010 - Is there a native grass or grasses I can mow on a hill that faces south and is too large to water in Saint Marys County, Maryland?
view the full question and answer

User comment on native grass mixes from Robstown TX
March 21, 2014 - As a followup to my question on seed spreaders, native grass and prairie seed mixes seem a good fit for my location in far western Nueces County which is more semi-arrid than 30 miles away in Corpus w...
view the full question and answer

Plant for deep shade in Pennsylvania
April 09, 2013 - Hi! I am landscaping our house and trying to use only plants that provide seasonal benefit to bees, butterflies, birds etc. not the deer though. My question is that I have a fairly steep slope of abou...
view the full question and answer

Identification of red-topped grass blooming in Comal County
May 21, 2013 - I live in Comal County and right now (mid May) there is a beautiful, red topped grass growing along the side of country roads. It is maybe 1 foot tall, and waves in the breeze. Do you know what kind o...
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.