How to Establish Switchgrass


Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a native perennial grass found throughout much of the United States. It flourishes during the heat of summer between May and September. The grass is being studied as a possible renewable fuel source because of its ability to turn cellulose into ethanol. The grass is also an excellent forage choice for livestock. The grass contains 16 percent crude protein. Switchgrass makes an excellent spring grazing grass. The grass tends to be quite slow to establish itself until the second year. Switchgrass enjoys being grown in soil that offers a pH balance of 5.0 to 8.0.

Step 1

Soak switchgrass seeds for 24 hours in buckets of water. Drain the water completely and store the seeds for three to four weeks at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. A refrigerator can be used to keep the seeds cold.

Step 2

Till the soil completely where switchgrass is going to be planted. Remove all weed and root growth. Rake the field and flatten it. The field should be free of all dirt clogs.

Step 3

Plant switchgrass from mid-April to July. The soil temperature should be above 60 F. The soil does not require any additives because switchgrass will readily grow in soil that is nutrient poor. The grass does require that the soil be free draining.

Step 4

Sow seeds at a ratio of 10 lbs. per acre. Spread the seeds evenly using a seed spreader. Rake a quarter inch or a half inch of garden soil over the seeds tops. Water the seeds thoroughly.

Step 5

Water switchgrass once a week during the first year. Once established, the grass will depend on natural rain unless a drought should occur.

Step 6

Fertilize switchgrass during the second year of growth using nitrogen at a ratio of 60 lbs. per acre in early spring and mid-summer. Water the nitrogen into the grass thoroughly. The grass does not require fertilization during the first year of growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Bucket
  • Refrigerator
  • Tiller
  • Rake
  • Seed spreader
  • Nitrogen


  • Mississippi State University: Establishing and Managing Switchgrass as a Forage
  • Blade Energy Crops: Switchgrass
  • Auburn University: Switchgrass Profile

Who Can Help

  • Floridata: Panicum Virgatum
Keywords: establishing switchgrass, growing switchgrass, care of switchgrass, planting switchgrass

About this Author

Kimberly Sharpe is a freelance writer with a diverse background. She has worked as a Web writer for the past four years. She writes extensively for Associated Content where she is both a featured home improvement contributor (with special emphasis on gardening) and a parenting contributor. She also writes for Helium. She has worked professionally in the animal care and gardening fields.