A Pocket Meadow of Pennsylvania Sedge
There’s a small area between our Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) and the border along the back fence that is like the Valley of the Shadow of Death for standard turf grasses. The moisture gets sucked out of this shaded patch by the Maple and also by a Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata) that grows against the fence.
In the past I’ve tried to encourage the bits of grass that hang on grimly to life, but usually it seems what they really want is hospice care. Weeds, notably Common Plantain (Plantago major), were growing robustly enough.
I unintentionally smothered most of the grass here when I overwintered my pots planted with Tulips and other bulbs. So I decided to try something new: a miniature sedge meadow.
I say meadow, not lawn, because I didn’t pull out all of the potentially competing plants. I did pull out all the Plantain by hand, which was oddly satisfying (and surprisingly, it has been slow to grow back). However, I left the Common Blue Violets (Viola sororia). Either they will coexist with the Sedge or not. Based on their behavior so far in this area I don’t think they will squeeze out the Penn Sedge.
I also left a few bits of surviving grass, which everybody says not to do. But this grass never gets much over 1 or 2 inches tall, so what’s the harm?
Finally, I created a little border of pavers so that the “meadow” has a clear boundary with the lawn (such as it is) though both can be walked on.
Penn Sedge has a number of good qualities. It grows about 6-12 inches tall and can take moderate foot traffic. It tolerates shade and dry soil. It also has seeds that attract ground-feeding birds, especially Sparrows and Easter Towhees. With time it can form a solid ground cover.
The soil in this location is more compacted than it should be, so I’m going to top dress with compost in fall and spring.
Anyhow, this spring I planted 25 plugs and 25 bare root plants of Penn Sedge. The plugs all took, the bare root plants all died except for one. I have no idea why, but I’m definitely staying away from bare root sedges in the future.
In August I picked up a few more at a nearby garden center, during a stretch that was cool and rainy. This was a mistake, as the weather soon turned hot and dry (oh, when will I ever learn?). I kept the new Sedges alive only through diligent hand watering.
Late in September, when the weather became autumnal, I bought a few more. Those are doing fine.
Next year we should learn if this whole project was well conceived or not. I’ll probably want to plant a few more plugs, but I was thinking of mixing in some additional species of Sedge. I’m open to suggestions, if anyone has some.
Have you ever tried to grow a Sedge Lawn or Meadow?