Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Thursday - August 23, 2007

From: PARADISE, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Encouraging native grasses to flourish
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

We have been trying to restore the yard around the house with native grasses and forbs for the last two years. The soil is clay and nothing seems to grow. We have distributed 5 truck loads of mulch, planted little bluestem, planted side oats grama and all is so slow to grow. Any suggestions of another grass that we might try to use on the grounds adjacent to the yard. The rest of the property is covered with native trees. Husband is getting "antsy" as all looks rather unkempt and even ugly because the grasses are so sparse and keeping out the Johnson grass, ragweed, bermuda (where did that come from?) is not so easy for us old farts!

ANSWER:

Although it doesn't sound as if you are trying to establish a turf lawn, Mr. Smarty Plants is going to recommend an article, "Native Lawns", from our How to Articles. This article features Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss), a grass you didn't mention in your question. If your area gets full sun, buffalo grass would be ideal because it loves the sun, doesn't require much water, and doesn't grow tall. I am supposing that you sowed seeds for your other grasses. You can do this for the buffalo grass, too, but you can also buy sod. Sod is more expensive than seeds, but you can separate the sod into "plugs" to plant so that you can cover a greater area. Combining seeds and plugs should give you nice coverage. although you can sow grass seeds in late summer, spring is really the best time. Sod or plugs can be planted anytime.

Another shorter grass that you might consider is Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama). Another attractive shorter grass that does well in our area is Aristida purpurea (purple threeawn).

Native American Seed in Junction also has a good article, Planting tips for Native Grasses, that might be helpful.

Depending on how your five truckloads of mulch were used, they could have been either helpful or a hindrance to developing your landscape. If you were trying to improve your soil, then compost or good topsoil -- not mulch -- mixed into the clay would improve the soil. Mulch should be used only as a surface cover to help retain moisture and control some weeds.

Johnson grass and ragweeds are denizens of disturbed soils. Once other vegetation is well-established and the soil is no longer being disturbed, Johnson grass and ragweed tend to disappear. Bermudagrass is another story. It will grow persistently wherever it gets enough light. The trick to eradicating Bermudagrass is to be even more persistent in removing it. It will not be a simple process.


Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Aristida purpurea

 

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Damaged oaks from Hurricane Ike in League City, TX
August 25, 2009 - After hurricane IKE, one of our oak trees (in front yard) was partially uprooted from the ground. We did place it back, and tie it down with supports. Further, we inserted fertilizer spikes, and give ...
view the full question and answer

Failure to come up of blackeyed susans in Lancaster PA
June 28, 2009 - My blackeyed susans have been blooming for ten years. All of a sudden this year they didn't come up at all..why?
view the full question and answer

Transplanting adventitious shoots of a mountain laurel in San Antonio
August 20, 2009 - Is it possible to transplant branches (shoots) growing from a mountain laurel that was chopped down? Some are two years old and several feet tall (but not yet blooming) and some as small as a foot. ...
view the full question and answer

Deer-resistant groundcover for New Braunfels, TX
September 24, 2011 - Could you recommend some deer resistant ground cover plants for the New Braunfels area? We have tried Ajuga and Katie's Ruellia and they have been eaten.
view the full question and answer

Various holly hybrids or selections for Pflugerville TX
March 24, 2011 - I love Savannah Hollies. I used them all the time in the Dallas area. Now that I have moved to Austin, I am wondering if I can plant them in this area. I have a soil pH of 7 and drainage is moderate. ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.