NWSG planting.......switchgrass "grid"?


Active Member
We are planting a few acres of NWSG this winter and I am debating on my strategy. I was planning on a mix of forbs and switchgrass, Indian, and big blue stem.

The more I think about it the more I question mixing them directly due to the ability of the grass to out-compete the forbs.

So......I am seriously thinking of planting the forbs throughout and them coming back over that with the grasses but seeding them in a grid type pattern to provide pockets of forbs withing an array of grasses. Seems like it will offer more variety and maybe be better for bedding and general wildlife use.

Seems good in my head......any thoughts?
I think it's pretty well a fact that NWSG will choke out forbs about everytime in a while.One of the methods of maintenance.is light discing.This stirs up weed seed and thins out the grass some which if it gets to thick can actually trap and kill game bird chicks.I have said this before and this is my personal opinion.I think that if you plant a straight field of NWSG I compare to a brand new watershed.Fish can live in it but they will just swim around same in NWSG wildlife can live there but add structure and thats the areas they will live.This can be weeds,cedars,patch of shrubs etc.With some planning this can be done and still be able to do grass management.In my instance I have a farmer swath and bale a portion each year and I don't have to burn this and risk shrub plots and trees
Disking will set grasses back and bring forbs back to the forefront.

Big Bluestem is a beautiful grass but one very bad to topple in the winter. It will generally topple - even without snow. On some ground, it can also become dominant over the others and start taking space from them. The toppling is a good thing for small game but a bad thing if you want a tall screen all winter. If winter screening is important to you, I would suggest not planting it in the mix.
Switch and Indian are the two I'm adding this yr. I planned on doing rows, but may do grids now that you brought it up.
When I planted mine it was drilled and the switch was the only thing that really did much. The Indian grass and big blue didn't do near as well (and they tend to be more expensive as well). The switch stands well - I can tell you that. I will also say that the switchgrass will actuall grow grass up to roughly 5 feet or so and it's not just seed head. As for forbs I didn't mess with it. Mother nature has provided me all sort of ragweed, iron weed, jewel weed and various other wild flowers and the like. If your concerned about your forbs being taken over you may have to consider planting them in a separate strip with your grasses on the outside or the like or back off of the seeding rate of the grasses to help give the forbs some space. You can always do some discing later as well and then plant or see what mother nature provides. I planted mine for screening and cover.....to be honest I don't recall the rate at which we drilled mine. It will however easily hide a deer, not a 6 foot tall man so much, but a deer with no problem.
Native.....you suggest just Switchgrass and Indian for the tall grasses?

Yes, I do. And if you can get a tall cultivar of Little Blue like I have, I suggest adding it in the mix. I don't know the cultivar of my Little Blue, but it came from Roundstone, and they are generally easy to contact. My Little Blue grows eye level to me, and I am 5' 9''.

The only other information I will add is that both Indian and LB are somewhat late in the year to bolt and achieve their ultimate height, but both will bolt well before hunting time. If they make up a substantial portion of the mix, your fields could look "too short" to you early in the year.

Switch, on the other hand is extremely quick to bolt. That's one of the reasons (although not the only one) that some people prefer to plant a monoculture of it. Big Blue is not far behind Switch in achieving substantial height quickly, and is an excellent NWSG in all respects except for the one weakness I have already pointed out - its inability to stand up during winter.

If you could be sure that Big Blue wouldn't ultimately dominate a stand, I would like to have it as a small element of the mix, but in some soils it will outcompete even switchgrass.

You can't believe everything you read about how switch is always the one that dominates a stand. BB and Indian can do the same thing. Lots of things you read about issues like this are where one person noted something at one place, wrote about it, and then the "drive by media" picked up on it and proclaimed it to be the gospel for all situations everywhere.

Good luck..............
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Man......I forgot how damn expensive for mixes are!!

I bought enough for an acer earlier this year and I appear to have banished that from my mind!

I'll keep looking, but it may end up solid switchgrass unless I can find a more reasonable source!
Man......I forgot how damn expensive for mixes are!!

I bought enough for an acer earlier this year and I appear to have banished that from my mind!

I'll keep looking, but it may end up solid switchgrass unless I can find a more reasonable source!

CAS - I remember Indian grass being real expensive then the bluestem and the switch was far more reasonable. What burnt my butt was how the switch by far and away did the best. I planted an even mix of 1/3 of each and essentially I have a stand of switchgrass. When I expand my planting I will simply use switchgrass and move on. The others also required a drill, where the switch you have some options.
How much seed do you guys buy at a time? I collect my own and a little goes a long way. I either plant it directly or in cells to plant plugs in the spring. I wouldn't want to do whole field this way but a grid or row wouldn't be a problem. I've even transplanted switch that I dug up with success when I wanted some plants on a more "immediate" time frame.
How did transplanting turn out?

What time of year did you transplant?

Curious if this is feasible

Here's the one I planted in the yard (I tend to plant one where I can watch it when I'm trying different stuff). This one was moved a yr ago and is over head high. I transplant in the fall. Takes more work than seeding but is quicker to produce.

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I have dug and transplanted NWG clumps anytime during the dormant season. I moved some clumps into my yard, wouldnt want to do 40 acres that way, but it does work.