Growing native grasses

Asked June 21, 2017, 2:24 PM EDT

I have 2 acres just north of Bend and would like to plant some native grasses to compete with the cheat grass. Do u have a publication on when and how to reseed with native grasees?

Deschutes County Oregon pastures and forages

1 Response

Good afternoon,

We don't have a publication specific to planting native grasses. We do have a publication of grasses common to central Oregon. Here is that link: http://onpasture.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/grassesOregon.pdf

In selecting the appropriate grasses to plant, you will want to know a couple of things about your site. Specifically what type of soils you have (sandy/pumice or more loam/sandy loam). That information is available by calling the Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA NRCS). Their office is located in Redmond on Salmon Ave., just north of the Redmond Airport. 541-923-4713, ext 118. They have a current soil survey for all of Deschutes County. The Deschutes County Planning office or the Deschutes County Library may also have that publication.

The other thing to know is a good estimate of your annual precipitation. Given your location, it is my guess that you are in the 10 - 12 inch zone.

When picking grass species to compete with cheat grass, you want to select grasses that have similar growth characteristics. Some of our native grasses don't start growing until late April or early May. Cheatgrass usually starts in March and is already going to seed by mid-May. Grasses that could work for you include:

Bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, june grass, sheep fescue, and sandberg's bluegrass.

Non-native grasses that look like our native ones and work very well competing with cheatgrass are siberian wheatgrass and crested wheatgrass.

All of these grasses are available for purchase here in central Oregon and many of the farm stores. Some companies like Helena sell seed mixes or you can purchase individual grass species and make your own mix.

Time of seeding is late fall or early winter. The best seeding time is mid-November to mid-March. Drilling the seed is preferred but broadcast seeding can work. Most seeds are planted at a depth of 3/4 - 1 inch deep.

When broadcast seeding, I recommend doubling the seeding rate (usually 10 - 12 lbs of pure live seed/ac = doubling is 20 - 24 lbs/ac) and then harrowed or scratched into the soil after you have spread it.

If you have a thick stand of cheatgrass, you might want to first treat the site with herbicides prior to planting. Plateau herbicide is a product that is sprayed in the fall to control cheatgrass. If you spray in the fall, do not plant until late winter (late March) or wait to plant until the following fall. The herbicide has a planting restriction, follow the label when using any herbicide. The label will tell you how many days/months you need to wait until planting.

I hope this information helps. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.