Substitute for Cheatgrass?

magnoliaroad(5)January 20, 2009

Can anyone recommend a substitute for cheatgrass? I like its short stature, colorful fall foliage, and interesting shape. Thanks!

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david52 Zone 6

Around here, cheat grass refers to an invasive weed from Eurasia that is considered a major pest - it has really sharp seeds that will stick to any and everything, and has usually gone to seed by mid-may, dry as a bone in June. It's a major fire hazard. In the fall the seeds germinate and just stay low until spring. Certainly nothing with remarkable fall foliage.

Perhaps you're thinking of something else?

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 3:46PM
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I was requesting a SUBSTITUTE for cheatgrass, for all the reasons you listed. I was hoping someone could suggest a grass that is short, colorful, and has an interesting shape to replace the cheatgrass that I already have. TIA.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 5:11PM
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Are you looking for something that is warm season or cool season?

Blue grama doesn't get too tall if it isn't watered. It's a bunch grass and has interesting looking seed heads (one nickname for it is eyelash grass because of the seed heads). It's a warm season native grass, although it is green longer than most warm season grasses.

Sheep fescue is another short bunch grass. It's a cool season native grass (although some varieties may come from other countries originally). It's very fine bladed. Some varieties are very dark green, but there are some that are blue.

Streambank and western wheatgrass are both cool season native grasses that spread via rhizomes. They can get fairly tall. Streambank wheatgrass is light green and western wheatgrass is a blue green,

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 6:07PM
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    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 9:20PM
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I was thinking Blue Grama too, but know that I have very limited knowledge when it comes to grasses... It won't have as much of a full look to the seedheads as cheatgrass I think, but they look pretty nice.

Now, if I could only figure out what kind of grass lives in a small area of my back yard that stays dark green without watering and stays green late into the fall...I'd love to have lots more of it...

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 9:47PM
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"Now, if I could only figure out what kind of grass lives in a small area of my back yard that stays dark green without watering and stays green late into the fall...I'd love to have lots more of it..."

Does it grow faster or slower than the rest of your lawn (which is probably KBG)?

What about blade width? Are the blades thicker than your other grass or are they extremely fine?

Does it stay green into winter? If not, how early does it green up in the spring?

Do you mow it? If not, how tall does it get?

Does it grow in bunches or does it fill in bare spots? If it fills in bare spots, does it do so by way of underground roots, or are there above ground "runners" (like strawberries, etc)? The below ground spreading roots are called rhizomes and hte above ground runners are called stolons.

By dark green, do you mean a green like the color of KBG (maybe even a little darker) or do you just mean that it doesn't go dormant in the summer?

My first guess is that it's some type of fescue. If it has very fine blades, it's probably a fine or hard fescue.

If it has wide blades, it could be K31 tall fescue. K31 is really more of a pasture grass than a lawn grass, but it's often included in cheap drought resistant seed mixes. It's very drought tolerant and will often stay green without water, but it's clumpy and grows a lot faster than KBG so it tends to stick out in a lawn with other grass. It might look ok if you had a lawn of all K31, but you'd need to overseed every couple of years.

If you can answer the questions I posted, I might be able to come closer to an answer. It's probably snow covered now, but if you post a picture next year, somebody might be able to ID it. Another option would be to take some to the county extension office. It would be especially helpful if you could take some with roots (and seeds if you get them).

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 1:01AM
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Dan Staley

bpgreen has excellent questions, and in my mind, there is no way to answer this inquiry without first knowing:

Is this a turf replacement or in an ornamental bed?


    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 10:36AM
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It's just a meadow in which the tall grass overshadows the few wildflowers.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 4:29PM
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Here is a guide to grasses that will give you more details about the grasses I briefly described as well as many others.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 6:04PM
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david52 Zone 6

You can get surprisingly good control on cheat grass by spot spraying roundup in the winter when it's the only thing green. If you get a bit of spray / drift on the other grasses, it won't hurt them - but don't spray with a boom or something. It may take a few years to irradiate it completely, and it will likely eventually show up again, but if, say, your dog is constantly getting the seeds in the ears and so on, it's worth the effort. I got rid of about 95% of mine with one spraying.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 7:04PM
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jaliranchr(z5 EC CO)

How much acreage are you talking? Pawnee Buttes or Sharp Brothers have good mixes. Warm season? Cool season? or a mix of both?

Here is a link that might be useful: Sharp bros.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 7:31PM
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Another couple of options:

Southwest Seed
Mountain Valley Seed
Round Butte Seed Growers
Biograss Sod Farms

Biograss Sod and Southwest Seed don't seem to post their prices online. But they're both very helpful if you call or email.

Mountain Valley seed has the least expensive Streambank wheatgrass seed I've found, but their site seems to be down at the moment (may be up by the morning). I've placed online orders with them but never talked by phone. They have a more limited selection.

Round Butte Seed has pretty good prices overall. I've ordered over the internet but never talked on the phone.

Since Mountain Valley website is down, I don't know about them, but the others all offer meadow mixes. I think Biograss will create a custom mix for you if you know what you want and they have the seeds.

You could also try calling or emailing a few of these places to see what they would recommend for what you want to do.

Par of the reason I've bought individual seed varieties instead of pre made mixes is that I prefer a native (or mostly native) mix and if I pick the seeds, I know the mix.

Another part of the reason I've gone that route is the huge difference in seed size among some of these. I'd be afraid the smaller seeds would all drop first and the larger seeds last, so the seeds would not be evenly distributed.

I just reread Jaliranchr's post and realized that my situation may be very different from yours. My lawn is about 4000 sq ft, so it's less than .1 acre. If you're planting a large area, you don't want to have to make multiple passes in multiple directions with a handheld spreader.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 2:14AM
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The area I'm discussing is about an acre in size. In the fall, my husband seeded another area with a "Low Mix" from Arkansas Valley Seeds. It's basically a mix of all the grasses that you've all recommended. I'll keep an eye on it this year and may just go with that. Thanks for all your responses.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 3:25PM
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