Grasses for backyard prairie garden
Would you give me some advice on planting the miniature prairie garden I'm developing? I'm trying to figure the quantity of native grass seeds I need and the best approach to getting them established.
Last winter I winter-sowed a lot of forb seeds in flats and got a good germination rate. Some the transplants died during the summer heat but I have quite a few in pots to plant out next spring. I will do some more this year.
For grasses I plan to start with three that are native to this area and supposed to be suitable for the soil and moisture. I don't want the very tallest ones so I have chosen Little bluestem, Prairie dropseed (Sprobolus heterolepsis) and Bottlebrush (Elymus hystrix/Hystrix patula).
This year I laid out a teardrop shaped area that covers approximately 1000 square feet in my backyard. This is zone 6, full sun, mesic in spring to dry in summer. It's Virginia clay soil and a neighbor enlightened me to why I was hitting a near impenetrable layer about 8 inches down in places Â an old railway bed ran through there years back.
This year I killed the grass with glyphosate herbicide and have repeated applications every month or so. Used a broadfork to break up the soil to about 12 inches. It has received most of this year's compost and fresh yard waste. By happy chance our town changed trash pickup rules and my neighbors have been bringing me grass clippings all season. It looks like I will have a good 4 or 5 inches of compost when I rake it out. I will need to do a couple of applications of herbicide in the spring before I plant. I have some awful perennial weeds to get under control. By the time I could direct sow grasses it will be getting too hot and dry here.
I would like to have some established plugs of the three grasses to sow next spring along with the forb plants. I then thought I would wait until fall and sow some more seeds to flesh it out. I got some great plugs of ceanothus and asarum from Ion Exchange last year. They do sell plugs of grasses or I could try buying seeds now and winter-sowing them in plug trays.
Do you think I should buy plugs?
Start my own plugs?
Wait all the way until next fall and direct sow the grasses?
How much of each kind of grass seed should I buy?
I know this is long and rambling but I would appreciate your advice.