Low maintenance grass garden?

castorpApril 15, 2005

I want to plant an extremely low-maintenance garden for my parents, and I was wondering if a grass garden is the way to go. Ideally I'd like something they only need to hack down or even burn once a year. Is it possible? Or will they end up with a weedy mess?

They have a large area (200 ft x 20-30 ft) on a very steep slope by a lake. There's a seawall and it's dangerous to mow.

Basically what I would like to do is create a large grass garden or small controlled prairie for them. I would sheet mulch the area (in sections, a bit each year) plant large patches of mostly native and naturalized grasses (muhly, fountain grass, bluestems). I would interplant with perennial wildflowers for a prairie effect.

I THINK it would be low maintenance because it's almost always seen from a distance and so it would still look good without much weeding--especially if I plant it with wildflowers.

The garden will border a lawn. Will the lawn take over? (I think there's Bermuda in it). Or will the ornamental grasses hold their own once their established? Will lawn weeds eventually take over? Or will a solid stand of grass usually shade them out?

The garden will be in South Georgia (Zone 8). It is full sun, sandy soil, with some irrigation. Again I'm going to try for super tough natives.

Any experiences or advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

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This has been sitting here for almost a week, without reply. Perhaps it's because most of us would give a body part for a 6-8,000 square foot, full sun garden, with irrigation.

Have a ball with it, but don't hold your breath for low maintenance. A garden that size, unless you grow only meadow grass, and can burn it when necessary, will require some TLC and attention.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 4:59PM
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I'll give it a shot. Since this is a steep slope, you might consider planting weeping love grass there. The Georgia DOT plants a lot of this along steep slopes on highway cuts, particularly in the mountains. I think it would grow OK in South GA.

Low maintenance is a relative term. There is always some maintenance involved, if for no other reason because weeds and trees will always start to invade a planting area over time. However, you could annually burn off the weeping love grass and that should control weeds and trees.

Check with your local extension service about love grass and how to plant and grow it. I am sure you have seen it before. You usually see it on steep slopes along highways. It has a very fine texture and long grass blades, giving it a weeping form. It's very attractive.

(I grew up in GA, but now live in NC.)

    Bookmark   April 22, 2005 at 8:40AM
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Thanks for the replies. I do know that the main grass I'll be using is Gulf Muhly. I need something taller (3-5 feet) in some areas, and I haven't decided what yet. Any suggestions? Dwarf pampas? Fountain grass? It must be tough and drought tolerant (not all of the area is irrigated).

I realize that there will always be some maintenance. I just want to keep it to a minimum because my parents do not garden. They were talking about covering the slope with an evergreen groundcovers, which they would have to weed, and I thought the grass would be more interesting and less work for them--if they only need to mow it down/burn once a year, maybe pull an occassional sapling out or something. It's really more of a controlled prairie than at garden.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2005 at 8:59AM
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Muhly grass might be a great option. The NC highway department plants it along some of the freeways here on the slopes at exits ramps and bridges. It is very showy and impressive when it blooms in late summer, although pretty nondescript the rest of the time. The pink flowers really show up nicely when planted in mass.

Broom sedge is another native grass that is pretty in the fall and winter when it turns orange. You usually don't have to plant that in Georgia, however, it seems to come up everywhere in old fields.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2005 at 11:29AM
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