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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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Friday - May 06, 2011

From: Bastrop, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grasses to stabilize creek bed in Bastrop County, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello, we have property in Bastrop county, the soil is sandy loam with clay underneath. We need to stabilize a creek bed, can you suggest any particular grasses (seed) for this? Know it's not the best time of year but need to get something down and then pray for a bit of rain. Was thinking a native grass mix..?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants isn't sure exactly what you are wanting to do.  Is the creek bed always dry?   Are you wanting to stabilize sloping banks along the stream or a meadow-type area beside it?  If you are looking for a mix of grasses and wildflowers to fill a meadow around the creek, the Coastal Prairie mix from Native American Seed would be a good fit for your area since you live in Bastrop, a unique region with its pines at the edge of the Blackland Prairie and Edwards Plateau.  Starting the project arlier in the spring (March and early April) would have been better, but it could still work if you are willing to give the seeds water to germinate and establish them—and if you prepare the ground.  In order to germinate, the seeds must be in contact with the soil.  If the soil can be raked or lightly tilled it will be even better.  Our How-to Article, Meadow Gardening, has helpful advice and as well as the article, A Guide to Native Plant Gardening.

If you are trying to stabilize sloping banks along the stream, you might consider Native American Seed's Dam Slope Mix, that consists of several different hardy native grasses.  To keep the seeds from washing off any slope that you might have, you could consider using erosion control blankets.  The erosion-control fabric 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.

If the edges of the creek bed or the area around it stays moist or will be inundated when it rains, you need to think of different grasses or other plants to use there.  For instance, most sedges (e.g., Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)) do well in wet areas.  Grasses such as Andropogon glomeratus (Bushy bluestem), Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass) and Tripsacum dactyloides (Eastern gamagrass) do well along damp stream banks.

 

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