How to Grow Switch Grass

Overview

Farmers grow switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) for livestock and erosion control. This grass also provides fuel for energy in biofuel programs. Home gardeners and landscapers plant switchgrass for its ornamental appeal and growth characteristics. This perennial grass reproduces from seeds and rhizomes. It grows most actively during the warm summer months and becomes dormant during the winter. Switchgrass grows anywhere between 2 and 5 feet high, making it a suitable grass for a variety of landscaping designs.

Step 1

Remove any existing weeds before planting switch grassseeds. Mow any weeds, groundcovers and grasses before they mature and produce seed heads. Roto-till over the cut weeds. Remove large, uprooted weeds and vegetation. Apply an herbicide containing glyphosate. Follow the manufacturer's instructions when mixing and applying herbicides. Use a rake to smooth the soil.

Step 2

Encourage seed sprouting by wetting the switchgrass seeds before planting. Dampen the seeds about a month before planting. Store the dampened seeds in an area with a temperature between 41 and 50 degrees. Allow the seeds to remain at this temperature for about a month. Remove the seeds from their cool storage and spread them over newspapers to allow them to dry.

Step 3

Broadcast the seeds over the prepared surface. Use a seed broadcaster to provide an even cover. Rake the seeds into the surface of the soil with a sturdy garden rake. Go over the seeded area with a seed roller, firmly pressing the seeds into the soil.

Step 4

Moisten the planted seeds by spraying the seeded area with a fine mist from a garden hose. Apply water regularly to keep these seeds a little damp during the first month of growth. Cut back on the frequency of watering after the first month, but continue to provide adequate water to keep the soil near the roots slightly moist at all times. The frequency of supplemental watering depends on your climate and soil conditions. Apply water more frequently during hot, dry months.

Step 5

Increase grass cover in bare patches of switchgrass by broadcasting a layer of seeds the following year. Use a seed broadcaster to spread seeds over the bare areas during the spring. This second seeding increases the thickness of your switchgrass crop.

Things You'll Need

  • Mower
  • Roto-tiller
  • Herbicide
  • Rake
  • Switchgrass seeds
  • Water
  • Seed broadcaster
  • Seed roller

References

  • Iowa State University: Switchgrass
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
  • University of Tennessee: Switchgrass

Who Can Help

  • Hay and Forage Grower: Secrets to Growing Switchgrass for Biofuel
Keywords: switchgrass, grow switchgrass, switch grass crop

About this Author

Laura Dee is a writer, artist, and the co-owner of Wallace & Wallace Copywriting,an online business which specializes in providing marketing materials and copy to various companies. She has written for Demand Studios since 2008 and is currently working on a series of childrens' picture books.