Blooming Garden Designs

Specializing in Natural and Sustainable Landscapes

Have Spring Fever? Start by Cutting Back Grasses

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Now is a good time to start light spring garden clean-up.

Pennisetum villosumOne of the quickest and easiest chores is cutting back the winter grasses.   Unfortunately, the more full and beautiful an ornamental grass is, the messier it is when cut down. To lessen the mess of long grass blades spilling throughout your garden, use this quick and easy technique for cutting back ornamental grasses.

Wrap paper or vinyl tape  around the circumference of the grass. Any wide tape will do, as long as it’s sticky enough to keep a hold on the grass blades. A strong masking tape is preferable if you plan to compost the grass.

Depending on the width and height of the ornamental grass, you may need to wrap tape in 2-3 positions along the height of the grass and possibly divide the grass blades into 2-3 bundles.Image

Now that your ornamental grasses are neatly bundled, it’s much easier to take your pruning shears and prune the grass back at ground level. Because the tape is holding the grass blades in place, you can lean the ornamental grass bundle away from the base as you cut, to make cutting easier.

If your ornamental grass is well established, you may prefer to use a power hedge trimmer to do the job. Either way, pre-bundling the grass will make it an easier job than grabbing handfuls of grass blades and hand pruning.

spring grasses after clean-upIf the base of the grass is very compacted or you notice that grass is not growing in the middle of the clump, now is a good time to burn the grass.  With a rake pull back all dried materials, using a lighter, light the dry clump of grass.  Make sure the fire or sparks don’t jump.   Grass needs fire to live—so do this every 3-4 years for healthy grass. 

Now all you are left with is a neat and tidy ornamental grass bundle. There will undoubtedly be a few renegade blades to clean up, but nothing like the messy sprawl it could have been.

Picking up the ornamental grass bundles to take to the compost pile is an easy enough task, but removing the tape can be a major hassle. That’s why I would recommend using a good quality paper masking tape, rather than a vinyl tape. The masking tape may tear more easily, so you will need more of it to hold the ornamental grass bundle together, but you can then toss the whole bundle into the compost and not worry about the tape remaining there forever. Of course, you can always sieve out the vinyl tape, so don’t waste your patience trying to remove it before composting.

More information can be found at:  http://urbanext.illinois.edu/grasses/care.cfm

 

 

 

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