Cutting Back Grasses in the Garden

Ornamental Grasses add beauty and texture to a garden. Grasses in New England start emerging from the ground in the spring as the weather begins to warm. By late spring early summer they are usually full grown and looking great! As the summer rolls along many varieties start to send up plumes/flowers. Others wait until fall. When the weather turns cold in the fall, all the of the green foliage starts to turn tan colored and most grasses will look this way all through the winter. There can be disagreement on the best time to cut back grasses. Based on my experience, the people who like an extra clean, neat, tidy appearance often cannot wait until late winter/early spring to cut them back. they might cut them back as early as Thanksgiving. However, the majority of people wait until March or April to cut them back because they enjoy and appreciate the winter appearance. The choice is yours, but everyone agrees it is best to cut Ornamental Grasses back before they start to grow in the spring. Try to get this done by mid-to late April. This removes all of last years tan, old growth. It give the plant a fresh start and nice clean appearance. If you wait until May, it will be much harder to trim out last years growth without cutting back the new green growth. The new green growth will soon emerge and replace all of last years growth and more. It is best to cut the grasses (aesthetically) as close to the ground as possible. I suggest using a pair of hand pruners for small grasses. Put tension on the the grasses by pulling up on the stems as you are cutting and they pruners are less likely to bind. For older grasses I prefer to use electric hedge shears. It saves a lot of time in the garden. Then I toss the clipping into a wheel barrow and dump them into a compost pile. Call us at Kennedy’s if you have further questions. Have fun in the garden!