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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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Wednesday - July 25, 2012

From: austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seasonal Tasks, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Using a brush hog on acreage on Bear Creek in Austin, TX.
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

We have 8 acres off 1826 situated on Bear Creek. It has open areas with scattered large trees (cedar elm, live oak, white oak). Cedars or junipers only along the the lot lines. We've been told we need to brush hog so as to not mow to closely. How often and when should we mow if we want to maintain the "park like" tree meadow look? How tall or high should we mow?

ANSWER:

Mowing is a good suggestion since,  in central Texas, if you're not grazing your pastures and meadows with livestock, they will soon become juniper/mesquite woodlands.  Research done at the Wildflower Center has shown that periodic mowing or controlled burning is an effective management technique for controlling unwanted shrubs and some grasses and forbs.

Since you live nearby, we would highly recommend that you visit the Wildflower Center's Restoration Research Trail and see for yourselves how different management regimens produce different results.  Since many of our mowed areas are studded with exposed boulders, most of our mowing is done with a slightly different type of mower – a flail mower – but the net result is the same.

If your meadow is not rocky and does not have other hard obstructions to deal with, a regular lawnmower may be used to mow if so desired.  If wildflowers are desirable, a mowing just after most of the spring wildflower seeds have ripened in June or July and another mowing in late fall or early winter works well.  Four to six inches is a good mowing height for most meadows.

You might take a look at our How To Article ”Meadow Gardening” for some ideas about how you can enhance your acreage.

 

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