Too late to sow grass seeds now?

mdahms1979June 25, 2013

I have planted an area with prairie grasses and forbs. The area is about 30 feet long by 10 feet deep and the plants were all either larger gallon sized or 4" pots.
I was able to get about a dozen little blue stem plants in gallon sized, a couple 6" pots of Panicum, 8 or so blue hair grass in 4" pots, and two gallon sized Indian Grass.

I recently recieved some seeds for big blue stem, blue Grama, and Prairie dropseed. Is it too late to start these seeds if they are species that do not need cold stratification? Would I be better off just waiting until fall to pot up and then stratifying them in my cold storage room until spring?

It has been raining often all season so conditions for the newlf planted bed are ideal. This is at least part of the reason I am hoping to get some of these grasses into the ground this season.

The area is full sun and a sandy loam. It is well drained and all the plants I have added this spring are thriving thus far.


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Mike, if I were you, I'd simply do a dormant seeding this fall. That provides any stratification needed, plus offers some other benefits. Seeds surface-sown in mid to late-fall are worked into just the right depth-ty[ically very little-by the action of the freeze/thaw cycle, such that they will be in perfect position for germination and growth next spring.

In my area, such dormant seedings are usually done some time after mid-Oct. You're probably in a similar situation. What you don't want is for there to be enough time and warmth for any seeds to sprout this year. Hence the wait until a little later.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 8:25AM
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Thank you for the suggestion to sow the seeds this fall. I think I will try both direct seeding and seeding in pots.

I was able to get several gallon sized pots of blue Grama recently. Now I can feel safe in experimenting with different seeding methods to see which one works best. The only grass I have yet to find as a potted plant is Big Bluestem. I will have to rely on seeds if I want to add that grass to the garden.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 10:20AM
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The best time to direct sow warm season grasses such as blue grama is spring. You can sow a warm season grass in summer if you are able to keep them well watered and its not too hot where you are. This is a fast growing grass that establishes quickly and easily from seed.

it is best to sow the cool season grasses in fall.

The Prairie dropseed needs cold stratification and is very slow going from seed. Its best to purchase plants unless you want to wait a few years for mature plants. Santa Rosa Gardens sells plugs for very reasonable, especially if you wait for their spring or fall clearance sales, although they seem to be out of it currently. Big bluestem is another one that takes quite a while to establish from seed as it spends the first year or two putting down deep roots.

You didn't mention one of the most beautiful and best warm season prairie grasses of all. Sideoats Grama. It is fairly fast to establish and forms seedheads rather early so its gorgeous all summer, fall and winter. Pictures do not do it justice, a mature plant is very stiff, impressive and upright and it can get quite large. The seeds germinate in early spring and it establishes fairly fast.

Another good one that adds hazy purple color contrast and light effects is purple three awn grass. Its a fine bladed cool season grass that blooms purple fading to beige all spring through summer. Comes up very easily and grows fast.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 4:16PM
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I live at 8000 feet elevation in western Colorado and blue grama grows very well. Although it's a C4 warm-season grass, it's our "state grass" and well adapted in this cool-summer, cold-winter area. Last fall I dormant over-seeded about a half acre of my property with a blue grama-wildflower mix without seed incorporation. A year later (late September 2014) the blue grama seed heads are waving in the wind and looking great (I hope it's reseeding itself too). Unfortunately sparse wildflower establishment, due perhaps to drought (I haven't watered but we get frequent afternoon thunderstorms in summer) or seed dormancy. To help get everything established this spring I controlled weed competition by weedwacking the cheatgrass and pulling perennial weeds all summer (bags and bags full - they just kept coming!!). In a couple more years I should have a pretty pure stand of blue grama (and wildflowers too?). I hope this post is interesting to anyone considering blue grama at high altitudes.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2014 at 8:41PM
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Hi Mike, i am right here in London in Old South. Check out the link i have posted to one of my "meadow" videos.

I have been managing my "Mike's Meadow" for 15+ years now. I often sow seed in the late fall. I like to spread them just before the first snow fall as that gives them some protection from the birds and squirrels. It is definitely not too late. I mix the seed with Pro Mix from the Ontario Growers Supply at #1 Adelaide St north.

Where did you get the big pots of Indian Grass, and the other grasses? It is my favorite, but has not taken well from seed in my yard.

There are 5 of these videos on my YouTube site, one for each season and one for spring preparation. Obviously, it is not really a meadow, more of a savanna i think.


Here is a link that might be useful: SummerTime in my Meadow

    Bookmark   October 6, 2014 at 7:50AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

What a wonderful setting. And I love the transition from the manicured yard to the wild area. Fun that you have hummingbirds visiting your Monarda. I bet you have all kinds of bird and insect activity that you aren't even aware of. What reaction have you gotten from neighbors? What was in that space before you restored it? Thanks for sharing, and thanks for going that extra step for nature.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2015 at 4:07AM
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