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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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Saturday - March 24, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seeds and Seeding, Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Dealing with rain runoff on a slope in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our lawn is a year old and slopes at about a 45 degree angle with a lot of small holes and tiny gullies from water run-off. I have tried packing them with soil, but it washes away in the rain. Would decomposed granite work and then the bermuda runners would cover it? If not, what should I do? Thank you very much.

ANSWER:

You got tricked by the lack of rain the last couple years into thinking you could just plant on bare soil and get no erosion. So, now it's raining (and you must be watering some, as well) and there is nothing to keep that soil where it was. If the soil you return to the gullies washes away, so will the decomposed granite.

We really don't know enough about your lawn to make very positive suggestions on what to do. Obviously, you have bermudagrass. Was it sodded, seeded and at what time of year? Does it get the 6 or more hours of sun it needs to succeed? Bermudagrass is not native to North America and is also considered one of the most invasive weeds in the South. We are tempted to tell you to simply start over but without those pieces of information, including the size of the property that is involved. We don't know how to give you more explicit information.

It sounds to us like your lawn needs a do-over. If you have 5-6 hours of sun a day, we would recommend Habiturf, devoped at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Please read our How-To Article on Native Lawns: Habiturf, The Ecolological Lawn. Mid-April is the optimum time to plant this grass, and you will have to make haste to do the work on the area to prepare for the lawn. Grasses are the very best plant to put on a slope to deal with erosion. Their long fibrous roots will hold the soil. Because of the slope, you might need to consider an erosion blanket to give the seeds the opportunity to begin to grow and put those roots down.

This probably sounds like a big job, but our opinion is you will never achieve a good lawn for your property until you have made the effort to deal with the erosion and to use plants native to your area, which is what the Lady Bird Johnson Willdflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is all about.

 

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