Gardening Texoma: Native Grasses, Part II

By: KXII Staff Email
By: KXII Staff Email

This is the second show we have done celebrating the heritage of our prairie grass lands. We are at Austin College's Sneed Prairie restoration site.

Imagine yourself in the mid 1800’s. You would have encountered prairie grasses such as Indian grass, Blue Stem and Switch Grasses in abundance at heights that would cover a majority of a horse. The soil, having been built through 10,000 years of decomposition and regeneration, has become some of the best soil on the planet. Cotton farmers considered the soil here as good as gold. Due to soil mismanagement and the destruction of these wonderful grasses for crop land, some of the soil in the Texoma area has been reduced to parent material and the nutrients depleted.

The root systems of these native grasses are very deep and thick which prevented soil erosion and held moisture nicely. When these native grasses were not in place, heavy rains, periods of drought, erosion, reduction of humic matter, and exposure to high winds created a gradual depletion of the land. To this day, only a limited amount of standing native grasses can be found. Only through education, preservation, and awareness, will we be able to rebuild the lush soil of the Texoma area.

A. The Top 4 native grasses of Texoma area
1. Switch grass- likes damp areas, can grow up to 3-9 ft tall
2. Big Blue Stem- can grow up to 1-5 ft tall (seed head will reach up to 8ft)
3. Little Blue Stem- can grow up to 1-3 ft tall (seed head will reach up to 5ft)
4. Indian Grass- can grow up to 3-5 ft tall (seed head will reach up to 8ft)
(depends on amount of rain fall )
B. Texas State Grass-Side oat grama
C. Other grasses of interest
1. Island sea oat
2. Lindheimer Muhly
3. Gulf Muhly
4. Mexican Feather Grass
5. Annual Pennisetum- Purple Fountain Grass (beautiful, but short lived and seasonal)

Wildflowers: Native Spring Beauty
Today’s show deals with a new methodology of sewing wild flowers.
In the past, a heave tiller was encouraged to prepare the soil. What we know now is that it caused too many vagrant weeds. What is encouraged now is to:
• mow the grass very close to the ground (low setting)
• with stiff rake or toe of your shoe, rake back some of the decomposing grasses and organic material to expose the bare soil.
• Do this in a systematic pattern so that you can expose the soil.
• drop the seed
• then rake the soil back over the top
• move on to the next point.
This method has proven to be very successful in various experiments conducted. The key is that the seed has to make contact with soil. Covering the seed with a light film of organic material (decomposed grass, mulch) is encouraged.
(Note: It keeps wildlife from eating the seeds.)
• Do not add any soil amendments to the soil (fertilizer etc.)
• It is encouraged to do a mixture of types of wildflowers
• Don’t expect them all to come up at the same time. Some may sit dormant for a very long period.
• Be sure to allow a few areas that will not be mowed for a longer period so that the standing Cyprus and late blooming wild flowers will have a better chance.

Suggested Wildflower seed:
1. Texas Bluebonnet
2. Blue Flax
3. Cornflower
4. Sweet Alyssum
5. Scarlet Flax
6. Black-eyed Susan
7. Sulphur Cosmos
8. Baby Blue Eyes
9. Painted Daisy
10. Purple Coneflower
11. Rocket Larkspur
12. Drummond Phlox
13. Baby’s Breath
14. Evening Primrose
15. Plains Coreopsis
16. Indian Blanket
17. Cosmos-Sensation
18. African Daisy
19. Dwarf Red Plains Coreopis
20. Poor Man’s Weather Glass
21. Yarrow

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