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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.

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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Tuesday - February 28, 2012

From: Nashville, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Planting, Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Need plants to control erosion on a hillside in Nashville, TN.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Recently, a rogue contractor scraped all the sod off of my Tennessee hillside. Now the clay soil is exposed and washing away quickly. The hill slope is approximately 30 degrees. In the spring I'd like to cover the hillside with a really fast growing grass, to help slow down erosion. The hillside faces south and gets plenty of sun. What's the best grass to plant? And what's the best method for planting it? Thank you for your assistance.

ANSWER:


You are correct in selecting grasses for controlling erosion. Their fibrous root systems are great at holding on to soil particles.

To look at some possibilities for planting, go to our Native Plant Database and scroll down to the Combination Search box. Make the following selections: select TN under State, grass/grass-like under Habit, and perennial under Duration. Check Sun under light requirements, and Dry under Soil moisture. Click on the Submit combination Search button, and you will get a list of 20 grasses and sedges that you can choose from. Clicking on the scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page that has plant characteristics, growth requirements, and in most cases, images. As you go through the list, look for plants that match your growing conditions.

Take a look at our "How To" page and check out the articles under the title "Large Scale Wildflower Plantings" for some more tips.

Since you are planting on a 30 degree slope, you might consider using an erosion control blanket to prevent your seeds from washing away.

You may also want to contact the folks at the Davidson County office of University of Tennessee Extension for some help closer to home.

 

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