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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native grasses for central Georgia

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Saturday - August 06, 2011

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southeast
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Turf, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native grasses for central Georgia
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We've just bought a 1990 circa house in Dallas, Georgia. It sits on a .62 acre lot. One half of the lot is woods, the rest is lawn. The lawn is covered mostly with weeds and wild strawberries. We don't live there full time so landscaping needs to be weed and maintenance free. We would prefer to not mow, but we'll do what we have to do. The soil is Georgia clay, rocks, and hilly. Bermuda grows great there, but I don't like it's encroachment into flower beds. I would prefer to use a native grass that grows slowly and cuts down on mowing. Is there a native grass that we would plug into lawn as it is now and then the plugs would eventually choke out the weeds? Thank you

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants believes that your best bet would be to choose from native bunch grasses that grow well in your area.  They may not be quite as fast and effective as turf grasses, e.g., Bermuda or carpet grass, in choking out weeds, but they would not be invasive into flower beds.  A number of potential choices are listed in this web site for Piedmont grasses,  I would suggest Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem), Aristida purpurea (Purple threeawn), Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly) or a mixture of these for the sunny areas of your lot.  A lower-growing, somewhat weedy choice would be Paspalum setaceum (Thin paspalum), which will grow in full sun but prefers partial sun.  For the shady areas near the woods, Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) would thrive.  Seeds of these species should be available from local suppliers, such as Rock Spring Farm, or Native American Seed.  The preferred time for planting the seeds is spring.  Till the soil no deeper than two inches; rake level, and roll the soil lightly to make the bed firm. Remove all existing weeds. Because tilling often stimulates weed germination, it is advisable to water the bed one to two weeks before planting. This encourages weed germination. Weed seedlings can be killed by hand-pulling, laying a sheet of plastic over the weeds until the sun cooks them out, or by using a post-emergent, non-residual herbicide. You may need to repeat this procedure several times to ensure a clean bed. Starting with a clean bed is much easier than eliminating weeds after planting.  Planting can be done by hand-broadcasting or with a garden planter. If you hand-broadcast seeds, be sure to distribute them evenly, then cover the seeds with one-half inch or less of soil or a light layer of compost. This can be accomplished by raking in two different directions in loose topsoil.  Water new plantings regularly to assure germination and root establishment. Optimum growing temperatures are 80 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and around 68 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

 

From the Image Gallery


Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Purple threeawn
Aristida purpurea

Gulf muhly
Muhlenbergia capillaris

Thin paspalum
Paspalum setaceum

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

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