Need advice on planting a hillside

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

I have a large hillside that I want to plant in lots of flowers, reseeding annuals and perennials. It has grass on it now, but there is space in between the clumps of grass. Last year I tried just throwing seeds around. I think I provided an expensive meal for the birds. I have planted lots of daffodils out there, but I need a quick/easy way to get the flowers going.

So, I need a Plan B. It is far too large an area to grow from seed and then transplant out. How do I keep the birds from feasting again?
Here is a photo of the area.

Thanks,

Karen



Thumbnail by glendalekid
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

You could try putting straw down over the area like people do when they put down grass seed--the birds will undoubtedly still get some of your seeds, but it could cut down on the amount they find.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

ecrane3,

I had thought of dribbling potting soil on top, but I worried that I would bury the seeds too deeply that way. Never thought of straw. But the straw would still let the sun and rain in and maybe hide them from the birds.

I have an old bale of some kind of grass that was thrown away and a new straw bale left over from last year. Going to try that.

Thank you!

Karen

Vicksburg, MS(Zone 8a)

Another thing you could try that worked for me is to water after you put the seed out. It will help push them down into the grass where the birds won't see them. It will also help them make contact with the soil. Are you putting any ornamental grass? I have a very steep hill behind my house that I plan to naturalize with side oats gramma grass (very drought tolerant and good for hills), and several wildflowers. I'm starting out with blackeyed Susan and coneflowers. Will add other things as time and money become available, lol.

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Darn, that time and money thing is always a problem. Please post updates as my daughter has a hill that needs major help.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

NatureLover1950

Oh, the water is a good suggestion. I hadn't even thought of that. The hillside is already covered with grass, some St. Augustine and some is really ugly stuff that I don't know the name of. But there are a lot of bare patches, and I thought I would try to get the flowers started in those bare spots first. I'm hoping that eventually I'll get enough flowers started that it will be sort of naturalized. I've put about 300 daffodill bulbs out there.

There are several varieties of wildflowers that do come up there, so I don't want to clear the grass with chemicals or smothering large areas with plastic. I am putting in coneflowers and black-eyed Susans, too. A lot of the seeds I bought are supposed to be reseeding annuals -- so hopefully they will take care of reseeding themselves next year.

Every method I've thought of to actually clear out the grass is either very time-consuming or expensive, or both. That area is probably 3/4th of a acre.
There is a large patch of berry vines of some sort. Last year I had hoped to find out what they were when they bloomed in the spring. Then we had a late freeze at Easter which finished the blossoms. We've only been here two years this June, so I'm hoping again this year to see what the berry vines produce, if anything.

cathy4,

I'll let you know how this comes out. I'm going to put out a lot of seeds tomorrow as we are supposed to be getting some rain in the next several days.

Here's a photo of one of the wildflowers out there. I've tried several times to get an ID on it, but no one has yet suggested anything close. So I just call it "the little pink wildflower".

Karen


Thumbnail by glendalekid
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Your wildflower looks like one of the vetches (Vicia) Here are the ones that occur in the wild in Alabama, some of them there are pics on this site, others you may have to google to find pics. http://plants.usda.gov/java/stateSearch?searchTxt=Vicia&searchType=Sciname&stateSelect=01&searchOrder=1&imageField.x=38&imageField.y=14 I can tell you it's not V. sativa or V. villosa because we have those here and the flowers are a much darker pinkish/purple color.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

ecrane3,
Here's a closer pic. The leaves look closer together and seem to be thicker or sturdier than the vetches. It also does not have those little curly things on the end. It is very low-growing, lying pretty much on the ground. In this pic you can see the seed pods look kind of like those on the vetches, but the seeds are very round. That goofy weed I have all over the place is definitely garden vetch, though and this doesn't look like that one at all.



Thumbnail by glendalekid
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

It could be another closely related genus, there are millions of things in that same family. The leaves and the shape of the flowers look very much like Vicia though, so I still think it may be one of those. Not the same species as your other one, but there are tons of different ones. (The curly tendril things aren't always obvious, I rarely see them on my V. sativa which grows all over the place). I'd try posting this in the Plant ID forum, I bet you someone there will be able to figure it out.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

ecrane3,

It's probably in the same family, but I didn't see any in the USDA pics that looked like this one. As you say, it is a very large family of plants, though. The USDA pics that showed seeds didn't have any that looked like the seeds on this.

I watched it very carefully over the summer, and it didn't have the curly things at all. It didn't come up until the weather got really hot. The darned garden vetch came up when the weather got cool and has thrived and spread all winter. One thing is, it's sure not invasive like the garden vetch. I only had 3 or 4 plants of it, and there were another 3 on the neighbor's land up by the road.

I tried the ID Forum. You are much closer with your suggestion than the ones I got there. I got a lot of seeds from it, so I'm going to see if I can get more of them started.

Karen

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Hmmm...I wonder how I missed it on the ID forum, I hang out there a lot. Although I would have suggested exactly what I just did so you'd still be in the same place!

It's definitely from that same family as Vicia--if you were in CA there's a great website where you can search for all the things in a particular family that occur in the wild here and there are almost always great pics...unfortunately since you're in AL I don't know if there's a nice site like that which you could use! Just for kicks I might try looking in the CA one and see if I see one that looks like it, I'll let you know if I find anything!

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

Thanks. If you see anything, let me know. It would be nice to have a name for it other than "little pink wildflower". There is a Alabama Wildflower Society web site. I checked every single listing -- no dice. Actually nothing even close. None of the vetches were listed -- maybe the Society doesn't count them as wildflowers?

Karen

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I did check my CA site and didn't see anything, sorry! I didn't really have my hopes up because our weeds for the most part are different than yours, but it was worth a shot!

I'm not really surprised your wildflower society doesn't list them--typically organizations like that will only call them wildflowers if they're native to your area, and my guess is your plant was introduced and isn't native.

If you've got some time to kill, here are all the things in family Fabaceae that are found in Alabama according to the USDA plants database--I've found it to be pretty good as far as accuracy of what's found in a given area, and it includes introduced species as well as natives. There are only 800 of them, and if you are familiar with some of the genera in here you can probably rule a bunch out without even having to look at them
http://plants.usda.gov/java/stateSearch?searchTxt=Fabaceae&searchType=Family&stateSelect=01&searchOrder=1&imageField.x=61&imageField.y=6

Vicksburg, MS(Zone 8a)

glenda,
I feel for you--3/4 of an acre is a lot of ground to cover! My steep hill actually wraps around our house but I plan to tackle it a section at a time. The gramma grass is pretty year round and I found a site to order from if you're interested. It says it will reseed itself but isn't real prolific (which is actually one reason I'm interested in it). I want something that can grow on a dry hill but won't end up all over the rest of my yard. Another flower you might be interested in is cosmos. I sprinkled some in the grass along our creek the first year we were in our house and they came up real easy and bloomed prolifically--until the deer found them. But I'm planning to put some on my steep hill behind the house (thank goodness, the deer don't travel there). They are easy and cheap and that's a good thing when your budget can't handle a lot of expensive flowers, lol. Let me know if you find any other flowers that work well for you--I'm very interested.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

ecrane3,

Yes, it may be an introduced species. I had a small patch of wild johnny-ups come up last year, too. I'm hoping to see them again this spring. However, I did wonder about the Wildflower Society site as they only had about 50 plants listed, and I would think there should have been a longer list. Thanks for the link. I'll look them over and let you know if I find something. I really appreciate your efforts in this. Thank you so much!

NatureLover1950,

The deer like cosmos? Aaaargh! I had a bunch of cosmo seed and was going to plant some there. Guess they will go in the yard instead. I did buy lots and lots of cheap seed of fairly common flowers, reseeding annuals and perennials. Dollar General had their seeds 10 cents a package at the end of the season.

The only thing that came up really well from my efforts last year were the bachelor buttons. And the deer didn't bother them at all. They came up very early, bloomed, and then reseeded themselves and grew up and bloomed again. The rest of my seed planting last year seemed to have gone to the birds.

I have a bed of cannas, which apparently the deer don't like as they never even nibbled a single leaf. I assumed that it would take forever for them to get to blooming size from seeds, so I just chucked the seeds out onto the ground when I deadheaded them. Then I read on DG that they will bloom from seed the first year. Oh, the things we learn on DG. So, I went back out and picked up the seed heads. LOL. Got a great big bag of them that I'm going to try out there, too. They will, of course, have to be actually planted rather than just thrown around, but the hummingbirds and butterflies love them. At the bottom of the hillside is a short chain-link fence. I think I'll try them out there along the fence.

I do have a way to water out there when necessary. It's pretty low tech. I just ran a hose down the hill and left it there. Then when I need to water I drag the house hose over the fence and hook it onto the one I left. There are several honeysuckles and a wisteria along the fence that I had to water during last summer's drought.

I am so hoping this year will be a big success - but I'll settle for a moderate success. I'll let you know how it develops, which ones come up well, and which ones the deer like/don't like.

Karen

Vicksburg, MS(Zone 8a)

glenda,
I haven't had any problems with them eating my black eyed Susans or coneflowers. They also don't like milkweed (I have Joe Pye weed and butterfly weed (asclepia tuberosa).

south central, WI(Zone 5a)

Just a thought..how about seeding the patches and doing a bit of of lifting the grass out in linear sections (like contour plowing--but de-sodding instead) Will help prevent wash-out, until blooms established and can do a bit at a time..at my age...that is a good thing. I love Queen Annes Lace (don't know if deer do), but it has long tap roots, haven't had problems with bugs or disease hear and is drought tolerant. I also love the colors of chicory, re-seeding annuals like larkspur and poppies. Cannas aren't hardy here (after this winter, I am not either!!) Ladybells are very pretty and prolific..here I can pull out the spent bloom stalks and have a second bloom time if I want.
Daylilies are great, but deer love them, don't know about iris (often easy to get from older, overgrown gardens, as need to divide to bloom...maybe not so good to naturalize after all. I loved the wild single rose that grew along the roadside (not the multiflora type)
Ditto on straw-does "interfere" with bird brunch..and doesn't have weed seeds like the hay does.
Good luck.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

Marcia,

Thanks for the suggestions and the confirmation that the straw will cut down on the bird brunch. I will use it. I have some older straw from last year's attempt at strawbale gardening. I thought about taking up the sod a few patches at a time -- thing is, I no longer have the ummph to do that myself as it is rooted in very solid clay -- part of getting old -- so I have to find a willing grandchild, which is not so easy. However, there are bare patches in the sod, so I thought I would start with planting those.

Yep, daylilies are safely inside the fence. The deer don't seem to care about iris as there are many planted by the former owner on the slope behind us and I have yet to see any chewed. But as you mentioned, they are overgrown and need to be dug up and replanted/divided. Got to get that grandchild again!

Karen



Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Karen, grab the grand kid. Please provide us with some pictures of this project. This is very interesting. Thanks :)

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

doccat5,

I bought an 8" auger the other day. I thought that maybe it could be used to dig up the grass by whizzing over the top, just going down a couple of inches. It's worth a try, and that's one thing the kid likes to do -- use power equipment. He's coming tomorrow to weed-eat the Johnson grass for us.

Yes, I will post photos when/if I get some things coming up. Right now, it still looks like the photo at the top, except not as green. We are gradually getting more warm days and less cold ones, rather than the other way around, so it's time to get out there and get some things started. I am so hoping this works out.

Karen

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

I can relate, the DH is out turning the compost bin with the Troy. He's got a pickup load of cow poo he wants to add. Happy is the man/boy that has power toys, I guess. LOL

Anza, CA(Zone 8b)

Karen, thanks for posting this. I have a hill right below the house, and I threw out a bunch of seed exactly the same way you did - and all mine went to the birds, too!

So, now I will try with straw, and maybe section the hill off.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

rosewynd,

Sorry it didn't work for you either. I did it that way because there are instructions all over the internet saying that is the way to do it. Doesn't work, though. Better luck for us both this year using the straw. LOL.

Karen

Anza, CA(Zone 8b)

LOL, I am sure the birds were happy. I read the same directions you did - AND that's what it said on the box.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

Yep, that's what they all say. We have Carolina wrens here that don't migrate. They stay all year. I just bet my seeds were a real boon last spring before other plants were producing seeds! If they find them this time, they'll have to work harder for them. No more open buffet table.

Karen

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Just make sure that ground is wet before you toss your seeds. Maybe walk thru gentley tapping the seed down and then put on your straw and wet that too, so it will mat and hold. Good luck ladies, I'm doing wildflowers also, but I'm dealing with a fairly flat area.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

doccat5,

Thanks for the suggestion on that -- yep, if it isn't wet from rain, I'll make sure with the hose.

Karen

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Well everything I've read and asked around on here is those type of seed don't need to deep and will do fine. So that should help a bit. Just be careful if that hill gets a bit slick from the wet.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

We are supposed to have clear weather today, Tuesday, and Wednesday. So, I'll go out tomorrow and put in the seeds and straw. Forecast for tomorrow is near 60. The ground is still wet from the weekend rain. Hopefully, rain this weekend will help without washing my seeds away.

Burying the seeds too deeply is why I was worried about covering them with potting soil. I've got a set of old mini-blinds that I'm going to start cutting up for plant markers. I put a lot more bulbs out there several weeks ago. I didn't mark them, but I "sort of" know where they are.

I'll let you know how it goes. I am so hoping it will work this year.

Karen

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Good luck, I know the feeling. Aren't those mini blinds a wonderful idea? My DIL works for Lowe's and I got her to bring me a couple of buckets of their cut discards. I went thru them, most were usable. There is a rainbow of colors, though, so I shall be styling with color coordinated plant tags.......LOL

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

That's so funny. Love it. LOL.

Karen

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

The big garden in Vancouver, Canada uses colored pencils in the garden to mark the color of the planting.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

cathy4,

Okay, my curiousity has the better of me. Did they stick the colored pencils in the ground or use them to put names on signs in colors?

I've been to Vancouver, Canada just once passing through, but I lived for six years across the river from Vancouver, WA.

Karen

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Karen, I should have explained better. They stick them in the ground.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

cathy4,

That was my first thought. But the picture of the pencils sticking up out of the ground was such a great image -- I said, nah, surely not. LOL.

Karen

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

If you look really close, you can see the pink pencil to the left of the flower.

Thumbnail by cathy4
Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

That's great! Those pencils are expensive to use like that. The rest of us would just write "pink" on a piece of mini-blind. LOL.

Thanks, cathy, I love stuff like this.

Karen


Central IL, United States(Zone 5a)

I know it might get expensive in trying all of the different suggestions but one thing that came to my mind was to use tthose preseeded and fertilized mats that you just lay out and water them in. I don't know if the birds can still get the seeds but it would keep any of your seed from washing down the hill!?

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

I would think you would need to rake the area throughly first. Then cover it with straw once you planted.

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)

shakeyj11

If the seeds and straw don't work, I'll have to look into that. Have you had good luck with those? I've seen folks who have and those who haven't. But I've not tried them myself. Right now I have this giant box of seeds. Did I really buy that many seeds? I guess I must have.

doccat5,

We got half the Johnson grass mowed down last weekend. The rest goes this weekend. And I've got my hairy vetch seed ready to go. One giant weed, which I think is dog fennel, had to be dug up. Here's a pic of it in the trash can. Would you believe that the trash man went to the trouble to get out of his truck and throw it out of the trash can? Well, too bad, it's back in the trash anyway. LOL.

Karen


Thumbnail by glendalekid

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