Question about going from lawn to native grasses-plants

Asked June 7, 2018, 9:01 AM EDT

Hi, I live in NE and have a steep slope in my front yard that is mostly creeping charlie and dandelions, with some turf grass mixed in. I would like to replace this with tall native grasses and some native plants if possible. The UMN website lists: Canada wildrye, side-oats grama, blue grama, and sad dropseed as some native grasses that grow well in sun or shade so I was planning to look for these types. I have some questions about the process and best plants to do this: 1. Kill the existing grass: is now a good time to put a tarp down or is there a better and healthier method to get rid of the existing plants on the slope this year? I don't want to use pesticides and fear tilling would just mix around the weeds rather than kill them... 2. Can I plant this year (fall) or should I plan to clear the hill this year and seed/add plants next spring? 3. Do you have suggestions of plants to add that would be similar height to the grasses to mix in? This area (I think) gets general partial sun. Fuller sun near the steps and fuller shade near my neighbors' hostas. Any suggestions you have to get me started would be great! Thank you!!

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

The kind of planting you have proposed is more suitable for a rural or exurban location than the neighborhood shown in the photos. Although some native prairie plants and grasses tolerate partial shade, most require full sun to achieve their potential.

Also, many prairie forbs and grasses grow so tall that they contrast unfavorably with mowed grass usually found along city streets. Unless they are carefully planned and managed, native plant gardens may be perceived as unsightly or even in violation of neighborhood norms and city codes.

Although native plants can be and have been used effectively and without controversy in lieu of traditional lawns, we recommend asking an experienced landscape professional to help you plan and implement the project.

The following bulletins contain information that will be useful as you proceed:

http://www.dmgov.org/Departments/Parks/PDF/WildOnesNaturalLandscapers.pdf

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/landscaping/maint/ts-using-native-prairie-grasses.htm