Make your own plugs of Ornamental Grasses with Winter Sowing
Ornamental grasses are a beautiful and stylish addition to any garden, they work well in both formal and informal gardens. They're very easy to maintain...just cut them back to the ground in early Spring and they'll sprout with new fresh growth as the weather warms. They're an excellent choice for xeriscape gardens where there is "low or no" watering allowed.
So....you make the decision to go to the nursery and get some ornamental grasses to put into your garden, you pick out a few that are pretty to you, and go up to the register and you get a major case of STICKER SHOCK!$!$!$!$! These grasses can cost big, VERY BIG, bucks.
Winter Sowing ornamental grasses is fun and easy, AND keeps your money in your pocket! Here's how:
Take a whole packet of seeds and sow them into a container made from the bottom third of a cardboard beverage carton. To make the container wash out a 1/2 gallon sized cardboard juice or milk carton. Cut it down to about a third of its height. Use a sharp paring knife and stab the sides (close to the base) several times to make slits for drainage.
Fill the container with soil to about an inch from the top. Water the soil very well and let it drain.
Sprinkle the seeds onto the moist soil and give them a bit of a rubbing in...and that's it. They are not deeply sown at all, maybe 1/16th of an inch under the soil surface or they're mostly laying on the soil surface itself.
Slip the container into a baggie, and close it either with a knot or a twist tie. Use the paring knife and stab some slits into the top of the baggie and into the bottom of it too. This is for air transpiration and drainage. Now it's ready to go outside for the Winter.
Grass seeds do require some warmth to germinate, so you can expect them to sprout sometime around the middle of Spring (give or take a week or two) but once they germinate they grow very fast. Start hardening them off when the bulk of the seedlings are about an inch high. To harden them off simply open the holes in the top of the baggie a little bit wider each week for the next two or three weeks. Keep an eye on the moisture while you're hardening them off.
Once they're hardened off you can transplant them quickly. To transplant the grass just remove the plastic baggie and tear away the cardboard juice carton and plant the whole thing as a "plug". Ornamental grasses grow well in either full sun or part shade, they grow well in "plain dirt" or you can mix a shovelful of compost into the hole before you plant the plug.
Most perennial grasses will start to set seeds in their second year. Don't feed them frequently, if at all, because the food will produce huge lush green leaves, but very few seed stalks. I give my grasses a few bucketfuls of compost as a topdressing/mulch in the spring and that's seems to be all they need to keep growing well and still produce their seed stalks.
Good luck to everyone, growing ornamental grasses via Winter Sowing is fun, easy, and saves LOTS of dollars.