Transplanting Bunchgrass and Zauschneria Seedlings

On to the practical side of the propagation posts I'm doing today. First to set the context: above I show some Nassella lepida, Foothill Needlegrass - growing wild on the sunny south slope below our house, and fortuitously just to the right of the stairs, where I want to plant the ones I'm propagating. They are a bit clumped up so you don't see the form - and it's early in the year so the lovely feathery plumes are not fully out. But I hope you can see that this grass is quite pretty and garden-worthy.

BTW you can buy similar ones in native plant nurseries - Nassella pulchra, Purple Needlegrass, the state grass of California. The one I'm growing is a related species and looks similar. Not so purple, but just as filled with pulchritude (raise your hands all you puellae pulchrae who took Latin in school... and just in case you didn't, puellae pulchrae = girls pretty ;->)

Here's another view showing the hillside I want to plant. We cleared the Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) from here - Chamise is one of the most flammable of chaparral shrubs, and it's very bare right now:

And here's a gratuitous picture of a Fence Lizard who was watching me take pictures. He was a tiny monster, only about 2 inches long, tip to tail. I love my superzoom Olympus SP-570UZ (but I wish it had a more memorable name).

So - my plan is to plant grasses up the side of these stairs, and along some rough terraces which I will put in, using more of those round and reddish-brown Sonoma field stones, to make planting places and give access to same. (It is as steep as it looks, if not steeper.) I'll also plant the Zauschneria and hopefully the native monkey flower on this hillside - I'm hoping that it will be planted with 100% wild indigenous natives, arranged a bit artistic, like (she said uncertainly, not being strong on the artistic side of gardening as yet).

BTW the bunnies don't seem too fond of the bunch grasses. While they are seedlings even deer- and bunny-resistent plants can get munched, before unpleasant taste or texture develop. I hope to get a nice display even though the critters may munch at things some. Here is a cotton tail I shot through a glass darkly on a misty morning recently ...

I'm very proud of the stairs, btw. They're the first ones I have built according to good principles. (I built some unprincipled stairs before - with predictably disfunctional results). These have survived all our winter storms without shifting. They're a bit eccentric, built using left over materials - Arizona sandstone resting on boulders of Sonoma field rock. But I dug them into the hillside and rested the boulders for the next step up on the step below, just like you oughter.

I already potted on the zauschneria which remains tiny.

I could only find 3-inch pots so that'll have to do.

I decided to plant in mostly native soil, but I took it from below the brush pile where we also dumped a bunch of composted horse manure a few years ago - so there is actually a fair bit of organic matter in the mix. I also threw in whatever was left over from the potting soil I used to when I planted the seeds. I sifted the soil to get it nice and smooth - I felt like I was making baby food.

So - on to the bunch grass planting. I managed to get a few pictures of the process.
And here's a tip from Denise. When you are potting seedlings, first put some mix in the pot diagonally. It's easy to do, you just squish the soil over to one side kinda with the flat of your hand.

Then get your seedling. These were in plug trays (not sure the official name) and I used a fish knife to slide around the edges and dig down deep to pull out the seedling:

You can support the seedling between the knife blade and your fingers.

As Denise mentioned - native plants have roots from here to eternity. Here is an average example. I removed soil so you could see. Some had even longer roots:

Next you just lay the baby on the diagonal slope of the planting mix, so its roots can be all the way down and spread out. While supporting it there, fill up the pot with more mix. Squish down the mix fairly firmly around the outside, keeping the seedling's leaves above ground of course, and adjust by adding more mix and squishing it down on the already filled-up side - which will also need a bit more mix as you firm things down. It sounds complicated but try it, it's easy. Remember what Denise said - you can bury a seedling's stem and it will be OK; it doesn't matter in this case about the crown being below ground (the crown being the part where the stem ends and the roots begin) - though in most planting situations, that is a no-no.

The seedling ends up more or less in the middle when you're done. I couldn't get a picture of this as I was working alone and my hands were too grubby. Here's a not particularly good example of a seedling just before doing a bit of final squishing and arranging.

There are also a few seedlings in one bunch here so it doesn't look that great. But they've perked up and are doing fine.

I put them in different sized pots. I have about 10 in gallon pots, a few in 4" pots that I found lying around, and the rest in the 3" pots. The 3" pots are not ideal, not a lot of room for root growth though a bit better than the plugs.

But I have a plan... I got some bird netting (it says it's totally humane so I hope not to see any tangled up birds or bunnies in there!) and I plan to prepare the hillside and do some planting ere long. The hillside is close to the house, and a hose - so I will just try to keep them going over summer, and then use the bigger plants from the gallon containers to fill in where needed. I think the Zauschneria and Mimulus (monkeyflower) can wait till Fall. I didn't get too many mimulus to sprout and have yet to transplant those. But it only takes a few of them, they do get to be nice and big.

So I hope I can make more posts in this series as time goes by. Only time, and mother nature, and my diligence, all combined - will tell!


Katie said…
Oh my, so many things to say!

Love the steps. And the idea to fill below them with Nasella and other grasses. Great design.

Be careful to keep the netting off the ground where the fence lizards can get into it. Speaking from experience, it is the kiss of death for them.

The sideways pot idea is a trick I will definitely try next time I'm transplanting! Thanks!
lostlandscape said…
Cool series. I'm looking forward to the progress of your slope.

I haven't grown this nassella, but really like the related N. cernua, another of the native not-state-grass nassellas.

My zauschnerias even in plant form even are slow to get going until the weather warms. I wouldn't be surprised if the seedlings are on the same clock. Once they get going, you're going to have some really bright patches of color--a flaming slope without the fire.
wow, i admire your diligence! hard work and stick-to-itive-ness count for a LOT! I hope they all grow for you (or at least, 'most'!)
Country Mouse said…
Thanks for the tip about the netting. I'm a bit iffy about it all together so I'll make sure it won't harm the beasties.

Thanks for the tip about other nassella, and encouragement to stick with the Zauschnerias, lostlandscape.

And thanks for the encouragement, Jan!
Town Mouse said…
Well done! I'm starting to understand why those plants from the nursery cost so much.

I should have read your posts instead of haphazardly transplanting a few more things this weekend. We'll see who survives. My big conundrum is how much sun, how much water, I hope you'll get to that in an upcoming post. I moved some baby blue-eyes into more sun (they only bloom in full sun) but I'm not sure whether I'm killing them.