Native Grasses in existing "lawn"

rmverb

Hi all,

I recently built a new home on a rural 2 acre lot. This lot is in a development that was formerly all farm fields. The development plan calls for leaving areas of tall grass undisturbed and left to grow wild. There is a small area on my lot where this is occurring. I have left this area untouched, but I have mowed it along with the rest of the lot. I have no idea what type of grasses or vegetation is present, but it was pretty high when we moved in and looked like there were some weeds. I used a string trimmer to cut it all down and just began mowing it. I recently found out that I need to let it grow high again.

I would really like to "overseed" the area with native grass seeds such as Little Bluestem, Sideoats Grama, and a couple others. Sharp Seed Company has a mix that I was planing on using. You can see it here: https://www.sharpseed.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/plants.plantDetail/plant_id/100687

Can I just broadcast this seed into the area? Will any of it germinate? I'm not really allowed to kill this vegetation., but I'd like to get rid of any weeds and grow some more attractive native grasses.

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Comments (7)
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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Use of 2-4d herbicide will kill broad leaf weeds but will not effect most grasses. So, whatever grass you currently have in that location will be fine while allowing you to get the weeds under control.

Broadcasting grass seed into the already established grasses won't result in a lot of success unfortunately.


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rmverb

I really can't clear the area and start from scratch. There are some bare spots and I was hoping I could throw some seed over them and see what happens.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

How big are the bare patches? Could you start the seed as "plugs" and then plant those instead of seeding in place? This technique would work well with a species like buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) which will send out stolons and colonize a larger area than a bunch grass like little bluestem or a grama. Though, its not an overly agressive grass so it wont take over like Attila the Hun.

You can of course do the same with a bunch grass, start it in a container and plant it out once its is larger. By doing that you will have better control over germination conditions and the plant will be more robust and better able to compete with the existing plants. It would be helpful to know what species of grass you have there though because in some cases they might simply be too much for many native grasses. Smooth brome (Bromus inermis) for example is an rhizomatous grass species that creates a dense sod which will choke out pretty much anything you try to plant.

Grass is not broadcast seeded. You don't get the right seed to soil contact for it to germinate well and it will likely just blow or wash away or be eaten by birds. Instead it is either drilled to the proper depth or spread into a soft, prepared seed bed and "raked in" to cover the seeds and a roller than used to ensure good contact. Making sure that the seeds remain wet (they are only planted about 1/8" deep) up to, and even for a while after, germination is crucial. That is one of the biggest causes of failure when reseeding a lawn or a restoration site. Mulch is infinately useful. Depending on the size of the area you can use burlap or something similar (the seedlings will grow through it and it will decompose on its own) or a loose application of straw. Wheat is an annual so any plants that pop up won't really cause a long term problem. We even used it as a cool season cover crop in our restoration areas on occaision. I wouldn't use grass hay since its typically full of weed seeds and the grasses used are often exotic species that you probably don't want growing and crowding out your natives.

Given water and warmth grass seeds germinate readily and easily. They don't require cold treatment (stratification) or keep you waiting for weeks while water tries to enter a tough seed coat. But if that top layer of soil dries out, you're in for a lot of frusteration. If you don't live in an area that gets enough rain to keep the soil wet or you can't irrigate, I don't think you are going to get the results you want, especially just throwing them out and letting nature "take its course" so to speak.

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rmverb

Thanks for taking the time to reply. The bare patches aren’t huge but there are plenty of them. I really have no idea what type of grass is currently in this area. It’s probabky a total of 1/4 acre in size and it sits between my house and mu neighbors house. I can’t clear the area of vegatation completely and start from scratch because it sound cause erosion runoff issues.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Hey no problem. I know those sharp seed bags aren't cheap (I bought a 1# bag of blue grama from them a couple years ago and that was $20!) so I'd hate for you to spend that kind of money and only wind up disappointed.

All in all, planting native grass seed and planting a turfgrass seed like Kentucky bluegrass is virtually the same. So if you wanted to do some research on planting a lawn from seed, the information will be relevant to your situation, minus the getting rid of exsiting grass which you can't do.

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Native Dee

Most native grasses are bunch grasses. That means they grow in clumps with space in between. Your native area will not look like a lawn. But those empty spaces are important nesting sites and pathways for wildlife. When the grass is tall enough you won't see the empty places.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

These grasses that you are not allowed to remove. Are they alien ornamental grasses? If they are I would go before the people that made the rule and argue your case for wanting to grow native.

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