Sage grass (andropogon virginicus L.) or broomsedge bluestem, is a tough and hardy grass native to the American continent. To the casual onlooker, the sight of sage grass flowing in the wind is a beautiful sight However, to many home gardeners and pasture owners, it represents a nightmare which must be dealt with. Sage grass is a perennial species that flourishes in conditions desirable grasses find intolerable. This means it does well in poor soil and can thrive during droughts. Not only that, it’s quick to grow and quick to reseed. So, as you can tell, controlling sage grass growth is almost impossible. As such, the saying “a pound of prevention is worth a pound of cure, is quite relevant here. So, without further ado, lets take a look at some of the best ways to deal with this undesirable species.
Benefits of Sage Grass
Before we discuss how to be rid of sage grass, lets take a brief look at its benefits. First, you may have seen sage grass in your local nursery. That’s right, sage grass is often sold and used as an ornamental plant for home gardens. In the wild, sage grass provides birds with a good supply of seed during winter. It also provides a secluded area for ground nesting birds to raise their families. So, if you’re one of the growing number of property owners looking to create a wildlife habitat on their land, then sage grass can be an asset when it comes to fostering wildlife.
Sage grass is also used to help offset the negative effects of soil erosion. This is a grass that does very well in areas that suffer from drought, so its healthy root system keeps soil stationary on hilly areas. If you’re thinking of using sage grass to avoid soil erosion on your property, know that it’s low maintenance. Just plant it and leave it grow. Finally, sage grass is known as an indicator grass. In other words, sage grass serves to alert garden and pasture owners that their soil lacks nutrients.
How to Get Rid of Sage Grass
Now that you know just what sage grass is, it’s time to explore ways to eliminate it. To begin with, if you reside in the USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, your land is highly susceptible for it. If you are in those zones, then know that preventing its growth will save you a month of headaches. Procedures that are ineffective are burning and mowing. Also, there are no selective herbicides that work only on sage grass, meaning application of herbicides risks killing off your desired vegetation, so broadcast spraying of herbicides is to be avoided.
As previously stated, the appearance of sage grass is an indicator of poor soil quality. Such soil is low in nutrients, phosphorus, and pH. So, what’s called for is a soil test. Depending on where you live, you can call your county agent to administer the test, or simply purchase a soil test kit online yourself. Once you get the test results you’ll be able to gauge the severity of the problem. Plus, you’ll be able to make adjustments by adding the proper nutrients to the soil.
If you lack lawn care or pasture care knowledge, then it’s best to contact a professional. They’ll know the exact nutrients your soil needs in order to eliminate sage grass, while fostering the growth of the desired grasses. Know that if you take this route, elimination of sage grass may take a bit longer, as sage grass is tenacious, and doesn’t take too kindly to being replaced by your vegetation of choice. In fact, did you know that sage grass produces an allelopathic chemical? This chemical is designed to eliminate the competition by preventing the competing plant life from growing.
One way gardeners halt the spread of sage grass is to remove the seeds before they spread. This method is fine for the small gardener, but can be impractical for larger agricultural operations. For homeowners, the key to removing sage grass is prevention. This means removing the seeds before they reseed and feeding your lawn the nutrients it needs to flourish.
Most small home gardeners simply remove the sage grass, roots and all. The only tools required are a shovel, strong back and wheel barrow. If you happen to life in an area that’s prone to soil erosion, you can then transplant the sage grass to the affected area to prevent or halt soil erosion. Also, remember that some gardeners actually consider sage grass to be an ornamental plant, finding it’s brownish coloring and texture a lovely contrast to the greens and colors of their flowering plants,
Application of Lime
The application of lime has been used for years to help get rid of sage grass. Lime works by raising the pH level of the soil, thereby helping to create an environment which is not hospitable for sage grass, but does support the grasses you’re looking to grow. Here’s the thing with lime. There are some pros and cons. Some pasture owners who’ve applied the lime state that it does nothing, while others swear by it. There could be many reasons for this. One could be that the land owners didn’t have their soil tested, so had no real knowledge of what their soil was lacking in the first place. Once the lime is applied, test the soil again after a month, to gauge the progress.
What About Chemicals?
While commercial chemical compounds can kill of the sage grass, they also kill desirable grasses, leaving you with nothing but bare ground. Plus, it’s been found that commercial chemical products such as those that contain glyphosate aren’t eco-friendly. In point of fact, if you do a web search for “glyphosate”, you’ll find that it’s a known cancer causing agent. If you do go for a herbicide that contains glyphosate, then special preparation and application is required. First, always follow the directions on the package. Second, remember to dress properly. For instance, before you apply any weed killer that contains glyphosate, wear protective goggles, and clothes that cover every inch of your skin. This means either a jump suit, or long pants and long sleeves. Finally, don’t forget the heavy duty gloves. In order to get the best results from the herbicide, prepare to spray it during the spring, when the sage grass is still young and vulnerable. When the fall season hits, prepare to give the area another dose.
There you have it, a brief and concise introduction to sage grass and how to control its growth. Due to its hardy nature, prevention seems to be the best route to take. So, if you reside in one of states that falls victim to this species, have your pasture or lawn tested right away. Be aware of the state of your soil, and always keep it properly fed so it favors the vegetation you wish to grow. Finally, take a look at its benefits. Who knows, you may be in the market for some ornamental grasses, looking to control soil erosion on your property, or perhaps are considering providing a wildlife habitat on your land.