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Grass seed types for woods and flood plain areas


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#1 Guest_<Hank>_*

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Posted 01 December 2002 - 02:36 PM

I need to find the best type of grass to plant in an area that will receive no care other than cutting. No irrigation, no fertilizer-just cutting at about 4" in height. I see grass planted along the roads going up north and along paths in the woods at various parks and am wondering what type it is. Some of the area will get plenty of sun the rest will get filtered sun. The area gets quite dry in the summer. I tried tall fescue which did OK but would like something that would spread more aggresively to crowd out any weeds that crop up. Any help would be appreciated.
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#2 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 14 December 2002 - 06:04 PM

Hank, what you're trying to do involves more than just selecting a type of grass seed.

First, it's chancey to base your assumption about what you can grow on occasional looks at a "wild" area, especially one seen from a car, at speed. What looks good to you, what makes you say "that would be fine for my property", might be a plant seen during its two weeks of peak beauty -- unless you make a point of returning to the same site throughout a year and over years you don't know that it "does just fine on its own" or looks like you want your yard to look. When you see grass growing along the side of the road, from a car, you probably focus only on what looks good right now.

That said, there are plants that, ONCE EXTABLISHED, can be kept mowed and look presentable in woods and seasonally-flooded areas. They are not, for the most part, the types of grass seed that we use for lawn and are available in bulk almost everywhere. There may be some bluegrass and some fescue in every "wild" area you see (even though neither of these is native here, they do move around from our planted areas into the wild; and they do have native relatives out there.) But over years, if such an area was originally seeded with lawn grass, other plants move in and either make it because they can tolerate the mowing, or don't, and when they die they leave room for yet another sepcies to move in.

So the area that looks like grass in a woods may be 10% bluegrass, 10% native sedges, 20% scouring rush, and 70% mixed "Weeds" mown short. The mix may have taken decades to make, and may still be in flux.

So you might try to replicate it by seeding in a lawn grass and then acquiring other seed from specialty companies, once you identify other plants that have started to take hold wherever your seeded-in grass died out, unable to live in the wet or the shade their species isn't suited for. Or you can kep mowing and look the other way -- but some of the things that will seed themselves in will be fast-growing weeds that will require either eradication or more frequent mowing.

Tell me what you think of these first thoughts, before I go on at any more length.

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#3 Guest_<Hank>_*

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Posted 15 December 2002 - 02:57 PM

Thank you for your response . I was looking for the possibility of finding out what kind of grass gets planted in these areas to begin with. such as by the Highway department along the roads. If you can recommend something else in these areas that would look good mown I would apprciate that as well.
Thank you as well for answering my question about vines damaging trees.
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#4 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 18 December 2002 - 11:50 PM

If the areas you're seeing are right alongside a road and were seeded by the highway department, they were seeded with a bluegrass blend or a tall fescue blend (this only done in some areas, and only during about the past 5 years; more common that bluegrass blend is used). From then on, nature would have started amending the mix to add some of the things I listed and others.

There are also a few areas along State highways (not many -- the project was discontinued for lack of funds and champions years ago) where native wildflowers were seeded in. Michigan Wildflower Farm in Portage (aw shoot -- PortLAND? The inland city west of Lansing but not as far as Grand Rapids) supplied the seed from native sources.
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#5 Guest_<Hank>_*

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 08:02 PM

Thanks again for your time. By the way I really enjoy reading your column every weekend over Sunday morning coffee.
Hank
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