Cutting grass down for the winter

strouper2October 13, 2007

Does anyone have any idea how early I can cut down my Maiden Grass without harming it? I'm filling in a hole and would sure like to kill 2 birds with one stone by getting rid of the grass and using it as a fill in the hole but I'm going to need it real soon.

Thank you,


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webkat5(Z6a MO)

It is generally not the best idea to cut them down until late winter or early spring....the old blades help keep excess moisture (from snow and ice) from reaching/parking on the root ball.

I wait until I see new grass in the spring...

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 12:23AM
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Most deciduous ornamental grasses can be cut back in late fall, just as one would do with end of season perennials. The convention is to leave them up through winter as they provide interest and food/shelter for wildlife but there is no "rule" that says this must be done. As long as they are sufficiently hardy for your area, the above ground foliage provides minimal additional winter protection. If hardiness is questionable, mulching just like you would do with any other perennial will suffice. This is a pretty common practice with many commercial plantings of OG's - depending on the species and exposure, many become very messy with winter winds and weather and start to break apart anyway. Early shearing or cutting back is just a way of keeping things tidy and preventing stems, etc. from dispersing all over parking lots, etc.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 10:35AM
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I've cut back lots of ornamental grasses at almost every time of year without issues. As mentioned, it can be a cosmetic decision.

I prefer the look of winter grasses uncut, but I've been through enough storms to know what a mess they can be if left to nature's doing.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 9:17PM
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webkat5(Z6a MO)

Guys, we are in cold/wet winter zones...which can be hard on ornamental grasses...

Maybe your zone 8 doesn't have to worry....

We (cold zoners) actually do have a reason for not cutting them back too early...

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 8:42AM
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My comments were not restricted to zone 8. There is no significant cultural reason that you must wait until spring to cut back ornamental grasses. Cold is not an issue, if the grasses are fully hardy for your zone. And I'd bet good money that my PNW winter is a good bit wetter than 3 times wetter :-) Heck, we had nearly 13 inches of rain in just November last year, a bit more than you get on average for the full 6 months of winter.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 8:23PM
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webkat5(Z6a MO)

After reviewing my notes from the classes conducted by our local extension office, I am going to stand by my recommendation for leaving the foliage until spring....

No offense gardengal....but a wet freeze on our ornamental grasses (fully hardy or not) can do some damage...I have actually seen the results...nothing but spongy mush. It is even advised to leave the lawn a bit high....
We also get amazing amounts of freeze/thaw action and extended warm periods followed by negative degree temps (in less than 24 hours) which is very difficult for gardeners...probably the most challenging of any other areas...entirely unpredictable and disheartening at times.

When something is fully hardy, it is implied that its natural state be observed.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 2:32AM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

Why don't you wait? Grass isn't going to fill a hole very good or very long term anyway. Wouldn't hard fill be better?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 6:59AM
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The typical Maiden grass (Gracillimus) is pretty hardy if already well established.

Maybe you could leave two feet high of grass for winter protection, and remove the rest.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 8:58AM
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Yes sandy that is true and just like any gardener I've changed what I want to do anyway. What I forgot to mention is that I live in a condo and getting rid of excess plant material can be kind of a pain plus I've been reading more and more about layer gardening and I would like to use the grasses for this. My only access to green materials, since all are grass died this year, are the plants that I'm going to be getting rid of for the winter and the grasses would provide the bulk of it. I have access to a great hedge trimmer so I won't have any problem cutting them into small pieces and they could be left on top of my beds to decompose over the winter. I have raised beds that I've filled with a decent topsoil but the soil is still crying for more organic material. So after reading all these great post I think I'm going to do like Noki suggest and just cut them way back toward the end of Nov. Hopefully they'll make it through the winter and next year I'll have a bigger compost area available so I won't have to worry about this problem come next fall.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 9:21AM
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caroline_2008(Z 6)

I have had my pink pampas for 3 years now, and I have always cut mine down in Feb. My plant people tell me that is the time to do it. It has always started the new green leaves soon.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 10:17PM
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