Planting a sedge lawn

Planting a sedge lawn

Experienced gardeners recite “right plant, right place” when choosing plants, yet so frequently ignore that advice when it comes to lawns. Most of us fight to create a lush green carpet bordered by shrubs and flowers whether conditions support the survival of grass or not. Lawns are visually pleasing and give us a defined space to run, play, wander and admire without trampling anything delicate underfoot.

I could go on about the financial and environmental costs of maintaining a decent looking lawn, but I’m not sure I have to. Most homeowners know that keeping a lawn healthy is hard. In many cases, the grasses we use are not really the right plant in the right place.

There are many lawn substitutes out there, but again, it’s important to take into account the environment you are planting into. After years of reseeding fescue, I tried to encourage clover to take over my front yard. Clover handles North Carolina summers better, stays green year round and keeps the bees happy. But two attempts to seed with micro clover failed; it couldn’t compete with the larger white Dutch clover already present and seemed to require just as much water as grass. Meanwhile a few patches of the Dutch clover thrived and spread, but wouldn’t journey into shadier areas.

I had to face it: my front yard was too shady, too hot and too dry for a grass lawn and many alternatives. I needed to research the right plant for the right place. This past weekend I took the plunge and planted Carex pensylvanica, a common sedge that grows in the woodlands of eastern North America. Pennsylvania sedge tolerates a dry environment and frequently grows under oak trees in dense shade.

This was not an inexpensive decision, and would not be feasible for a large lawn with heavy foot traffic. It’s difficult to grow from seed, so you must purchase plugs or bare root stock. I purchased 300 bare root plants from Tennessee Wholesale Nursery for about the same cost of reseeding my lawn with a high-end grass mix four or five times. I painstakingly planted them 10 inches apart, fertilized with a thick dusting of compost, watered the new “lawn” and crossed my fingers. I’ll update you as the plants awaken from dormancy and begin to grow and slowly spread. If my efforts succeed, I will have a lush green lawn that I mow twice a year, rarely water and never have to reseed.

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