Native grasses – to trim or not to trim

This time of year, with the absence of fires and grazing animals, native grasses are often trimmed (need hacksaw) or burnt as in Clifton Hill, but it’s a real hassle.

Phil read up on this – it is an attempt to find species and manage natives as aesthetic introduced grasses, with European tastes. That is why Poa siberiana has taken over from labillardiera (which is more robust but likes it wetter). Untrimmed, they might look scraggly, and prone to death by crowding

But, one school of thought says there is no need to trim at all.

My strip shows them spreading, dying, growing and germinating – looks good and adds to the ecology.

If we don’t have large monocultures of dried grasses, there won’t be the fire risk.

Without other forms of control, the extent of winter rains determines degree of decomposition. The ecology is complex: a dry winter/wet spring actually leads to big fungal emissions, whereas a wet winter decomposes the stubble before spring. 

We are on the edge of the grassy western plains, so grass plays a big role, but it is over represented because of

  1. death of mega fauna 50k years ago,
  2. aboriginal use of fires,
  3. our devotion to pastures and urban lawns and fields, but,
  4. rainfall places limits on tree and shrub density

So, it is appropriate not to follow standard nursery and home gardening approaches to native grass.

Of course, if it is introduced grass, for whatever use, that’s totally different management.

Grass breeding has now reached the point where lawn ryegrass should not be used in ryegrass pastures; it can be bad for the health of the cattle.

Philip Taylor


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