Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

Commentary by a National Wildlife Steward who helps Zilker neighbors establish native plant gardens

Category Archives: Grasses

Adding a Pocket Prairie to the Urban Landscape

There’s no doubt we live in an urban area. Lots ‘o concrete – which is so hot in the summer! I love the cooling effect plants have on the ecosystem and the human body (and wildlife bodies). Our house had lots of rock landscaping and grass when we bought it in 2009. A few years ago, we unfortunately had to remove 5 agaves from the hell zone strip near the street. In doing that, I added wildflower seed that love the harsh climate in that area. The wildflowers bloom from February – July and then dry out. I usually cut them back in September, and they soon start growing again and present as small green plants for most of the winter. In any case, let’s move on to my last “rock zone” that I replaced in the last year.

This rock zone had an agave on it near the street (which we removed) and added, in replacement, a Texas Red Bud. We added a vegetable garden, but I found that I was not a great vege gardener or that the creatures got everything first. As the years went by, the area became a bermuda grass rock haven that we had to weed whack since there were so many rocks. I decided to kill the grass with my solarization method (I used black plastic) between December 2012 – March 2013. When we removed the plastic, we had dead bermuda grass and still a lot of rock.

Picture of yard area with dead Bermuda Grass

Side of yard with dead Bermuda grass after solarization for 3-4 months

We put out a call to neighbors who wanted rock. People came and shoveled it into their trucks, and we got rid of it. I hired some guys to dig up the dead Bermuda (you think it’s dead but it seems to come back to live with the least water and a tad of a root). I made them dig deep to pull out all the dead grass. After they left, I went through it AGAIN myself and got more of the dead clippings and roots. At that point, the area looked like this:

PIcture of area with no grass.

Grass removed by hand, ready for seed.

There was still a bit of rock in the soil, but that’s certainly OK for native plants and grasses. I bought a Pocket Prairie seed mix from Native American Seed for this area. This has so many different types of seeds, you’ll have great plants in your garden year-round. I spread these seeds in March 2013 which is not optimal. It would have been better to do it in the Fall but alas, that is not when I was ready. So I did it anyway. And it worked just fine! When you spread the seeds, I just threw the seeds around on the ground, then hoed very, very lightly so about 1/4″ of dirt gets moved on top of seeds. Then I watered it for about 15 days until I saw sprouts. Then I just left it. I’m not sure I even watered it. First, the grasses grew, so I had nice grasses this past fall. Now, the flowers are growing. The best part: I haven’t seen any bermuda grass (I hate to even write that down but it’s true for the moment, anyway). I had a few weeds this spring but dug them out easily. In addition to the Texas Red Bud, there’s a Mexican Plum (provided by the City of Austin) and a non-native Loquat tree that was here when we bought the house. View the slideshow the current show that’s happening.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Native Plant Swap 5/3/14

Another great event is coming in about a month: PLANT SWAP! This is hosted up in the Hyde Park neighborhood but all are welcome. Start potting up some of your natives to exchange for others. See you there!

CONFIRMED DATE for 2014 Spring swap: Saturday, May 3rd
Location: Mother’s Cafe and Garden Parking Lot; 4215 Duval St, Austin, TX 78751
(THANK YOU MOTHER’S)
Time: Around dawn until 9:30am

Attached is a picture of a small sampling of plants that I have so far for the swap: Fall Aster, American Elderberry, Mexican Feathergrass, Skullcap, Cowpen Daisy, LOTS of milkweed to be given away to swap participants (will send pics of milkweed seedlings later).

Spread the word…the more people that know about it, the more great plants to choose from!
Carleen
Hancock resident
NWF Habitat Steward
Picture of native plants in pots on rack

Natives potted up

Mueller Prairie (free) tour & native grasses identification walk

Brian Loflin, co-author with Shirley Loflin, of Grasses of the Texas Hill Country will lead an in-depth identification walk of the Mueller Prairie.
October is the ideal time for identifying native grasses because many of them are in bloom and producing distinctive seed heads.
Participants will also learn how to identify exotic invasive grasses that can out-compete our native grasses and wildflowers.  This will help the Friends of the Mueller Prairie to better understand the scale of this threat to the health of our prairie.
Brian Loflin is a professional photographer and dedicated naturalist.  He and Shirley have written and photographed two field guides to native Texas plants, Grasses of the Texas Hill Country and Texas Cacti: A Field Guide.  If you own the Grasses book, bring it along.  Brian will gladly autograph your copy, plus the book will be very helpful on the walk.
This workshop is especially-designed for folks who want to accurately identify the native grasses in our Mueller Prairie. A notebook and a camera would be helpful.  Study footwear and clothing suitable for walking into the grasses is advisable.  This is going to be a Mueller Prairie Safari!
WHERE:  Meet at Demonstration Garden in the Mueller Prairie (Southwest Greenway) (near Tom Miller and Sahm)
WHEN:    2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27
WHO:      Friends of the Mueller Prairie and others interested in prairie grasses
COST:    FREE!
SPONSORS:   Friends of the Mueller Prairie and the Mueller POA Landscape Committee
%d bloggers like this: