Creating a Native Grass Meadow from Seed

25 Oct

Now that the rains are coming, it’s time to think about seeding native grasses. Fall is the best time to start a native grass meadow, and it isn’t difficult to do.

If you are removing a turf lawn to replace it with native grasses, there are a variety of methods available. Lawns can be dug out, smothered, baked or poisoned into oblivion. Do your research, and choose the method that best suites your needs. From my experience, digging usually works fine, avoids the use of toxins and isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think.

Once you have a place cleared for your native grass lawn, you will have to select what type of grass you want to use. I highly recommend Eco-Lawn, which was developed by the folks at Wildflower Farm and is extremely well suited to the climate of the Bay Area. Here is their description of how they developed Eco-Lawn:

Years ago I had no interest in lawns. My passion was wildflowers. I knew nothing of the joys of fescue grasses. I’m still kind of startled to realize that I have become somewhat of an expert on lawns and ecological lawn alternatives.

My passion for fescues started innocently enough. My husband and I own Wildflower Farm, a native plant nursery and natural landscaping company. A number of clients wanted low-maintenance natural pathways through their new wildflower meadows.

We decided to trial the fescue grasses because of their reputation for high performance and low maintenance. Our initial fescue trials were discouraging. Though the fescues impressed us with their rich green color, soft and inviting texture, drought tolerance and the fact that these slow growing grasses rarely need mowing, the clumpiness of these lawns was a real turn-off.

For several years we worked to create a smooth and unclumpy fescue lawn by adding creeping fescues and eureka! We happened on a blend that created a luxurious carpet of green. Our clients liked their beautiful low maintenance pathways so much they begged us to rip out their old lawns and give them this new, low-maintenance fescue lawn.

Before this time I had been blissfully unaware of North America’s obsession with lawns. Once I began talking lawn with people, the flood gates opened. I learned of the agony of weed and insect invasions, the nightmare of outrageous water bills, and the dangers of costly chemical applications. I found the pressures neighbors imposed upon each other in pursuit of lawn perfection disturbing.

We subjected Eco-Lawn to two years of trials. It performed so well that we were suspicious. It seemed too good to be true. So, we trialed it for an additional year. Again, our blend of fescues came through with flying colors. We decided to market our fescue blend with a name that accurately describes its merits – Eco-Lawn.

We had created the dream lawn. Imagine a lawn that once established requires little or no irrigation, fertilization, or aeration and grows so slowly you only need to mow it once a month. This fescue blend can be grown in full sun, part shade, deep shade, and even under pine trees. It thrives in pure clay, sandy soil and even in pure sand if seeded into a thin layer of top soil. The roots of these wonderfully hardy fescue grasses extend some 9″ – 14″ down into the soil cleverly sourcing water from even the most drought-like soil conditions.

An accidental discovery made our lawn victory all the sweeter. It seems that grubs and cinch bugs have no interest in fescue grasses. June Bugs — the mommies of grubs — prefer a moist environment in which to lay their eggs, and the soil Eco-Lawn grows in is bone dry. And cinch bugs prefer to munch on the exotic grasses found in high-maintenance sod-forming lawn.

Interest in all fescue lawns has grown exponentially. It’s marvelous to observe how a single Eco-Lawn in a neighborhood multiplies within two years into an entire neighborhood of Eco-Lawns. North Americans are discovering the merits of fescue grasses!!

As described above, Eco-Lawn is both beautiful and easy to care for, and performs well in sun, part-sun or shade conditions. It is available locally from Annie’s Annuals and Perennials, or you can order it on their website: Eco-Lawn from Annie’s.

Another alternative is to seed with Festuca rubra, otherwise known as Creeping Red Fescue. This grass is native to our area. It spreads by underground rhizomes to form a lumpy, bright green meadow-like lawn. Easy to care for, it will stay green if given periodic summer water. Scatter in some wildflower seeds for a lovely natural meadow.







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