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need advice on establishing my LBS meadow

Posted by joe_trumpet RI (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 7, 09 at 22:29

I'm hoping that someone with some experience at establishing Little Bluestem can advise me on my home project. I'm in northern Rhode Island and have a small area of about 1,500 square feet that I am trying to establish as a native meadow. I killed all the vegetation in the area by leavng it under black plastic for a year. Then last November I raked off all the dead vegetation. Around the beginning of December I broadcast Little Bluestem seed, along with smaller amounts of some other native grasses and some wildflowers. Here's my problem. This May a bunch of crabgrass has come up, fairly thickly in some areas. I've mowed the entire area once to about 4 inches, but the crabgrass is still rather thick. Will the LBS make it if I keep mowing the area to 4 inches? I don't know how to identify the LBS, so I can't even say how it's doing. From what I've read it grows mainly downward for the first couple years. For all I know it's doing fine, but I'm a bit worried by this crabgrass.

Any adviced or encouragement much appreciated!!!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: need advice on establishing my LBS meadow

Crabgrass, like a lot of other noxious weeds, thrives in poor soil. Adding zeolite will help a little bit. You need to find out for sure if your LBS has germinated and if it has, put down corn gluten meal. The corn gluten will inhibit other weeds from germinating but it won't do anything to the ones that already have or to your LBS. If you are wanting to go to all organic methods be assured you're not going to have a beautiful old growth meadow in a season. You will have to give it 3-5 years to get established and in the mean time you might have to apply elbow grease to those weeds to keep them from taking over. Cheryl

RE: need advice on establishing my LBS meadow

Baby LBS looks like someone shut it in a book or a flower press. Like an iris, but obviously much smaller. You unlikely to find it the first year.

Set the deck on the mower as high as possible (8-10 inches is ideal), and only mow off the top of the vegetation. A thick mat of dead crabgrass stalks will kill LBS more quickly than live crabgrass. With crabgrass competition, you are unlikely to see robust LBS for a few years. But if the site is hot, sunny, with droughty soil, you should see some LBS eventually.

Here is a link that might be useful: Missouri page on LBS

RE: need advice on establishing my LBS meadow

Thanks for these responses!!

I might try the corn gluten meal idea next spring. It's a small enough area that right now I can control any weeds by hand that are not controlled by mowing. What I'm worried about is whether the LBS needs much sun the first year. The crabgrass, being prostrate, is sufficiently thick even after mowing in some areas that any LBS seedlings could not be geting much light. I have no reason to believe that there was any problem with the germination of the LBS, and I seeded at 1.5 times the recommended rate. We have had an unusually wet and cool spring here in New England, and I don't know if that affects the germination rate of LBS seed. Presumably, if the LBS grows mainly downward the first year or so, then it is drawing most of its energy from the seed rather than from photosynthesis. If that's the case, then perhaps I'm not in bad shape, since as long as I don't let the crabgrass set seed, it should not come back as aggresively next year.

Does anyone know whether the LBS needs a lot of sun the first year? If so, should I mow the area shorter, to cut down the crabgrass?

Again, much thanks for the responses!

RE: need advice on establishing my LBS meadow

See comments on crabgrass question I posted. Also I have found that LBS growth is underground/root first year or so,a cool season grass. See for basic info.

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