As much as I love my wood chips, they are ultimately sourced from outside of my control. Sometimes I end up with a stockpile that is closer to a high quality soil conditioner than a mulch. When I start having to weed the four foot deep mulch pile, it's probably time to find an alternative mulch.
One of the challenges I set for myself in gardening is figuring how how to develop self sustaining systems in my garden that look like a conventional (by Austin standards) ornamental garden. Believe me, I appreciate how eccentric the conventional Austin aesthetic can be. I'm seriously considering planting some large ornamental grasses towards the back of our property, specifically to be able to cut for mulch.
I'm leaning towards purple fountain grass. Supposedly the cultivar "fireworks" doesn't aggressively reseed. However, we seem to be right at the edge of where fountain grass may or may not survive our winters. Does anyone have experience with these (any cultivar). If it was easily regrown from seed (especially self seeding near the original plant) I think it would be worth it to me, to risk a winter kill. I don't really know a lot about ornamental grass. This one jumped out at me for being a manageable size and beautiful saturated colors If anyone has suggestions for tall perennial grasses that get cut back each year, please share. It would be an added benefit if it produced seed heads that could eventually be fed to chickens. In the long run we hope to have a chicken run near where I am considering planting these.
Eastern Gamagrass is a native that grows a large decorative clump. Switchgrass is another native good for mulch. I'm growing both of these kinds. I would personally avoid non-natives, because we have such great native grasses which host various native critters. If you have room for a barrel of water, Cattail is an incredibly productive grasslike plant. I stupidly planted them in my garden pond and they took over.
I went to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center with my family today, so I'm all excited about natives.
If it doesn't get too cold there vetiver is amazing. Can be used for mulch yes but much more. I use vetiver hedges instead of Swales ( due to being on only just over a half acre). As it grows you cut for mulch and drop it straight onto the tree line. It self levels too with caught sediment and so if your hedge isn't perfectly on contour it eventually will be. The cultivar grown here is sterile too and doesn't spread but can be rapidly divided if needed. Did some aerial photographs last weekend if you are interested in seeing it.
I've looked at the vetiver in the past. There are areas in the yard where it might serve as a wonderful low hedge. In this spot, though, I would really like some color.
Tyler, I was all ready to explain how I wasn't seeing any native grasses that had a comparable color and then I added the word red switch grass search. WOW, that looks like an even better color display. Thank you for the suggestions. That kind of input is exactly why I like to get input on this forum when I'm in the designing phase of a new project.
Considering how many other gardening chores I have in this season, I'm probably going to order it for planting in the fall. If I stumble across any before then I'm gonna take it as a sign from above and snatch it up then. I might cheat and actually look for it, maybe they have it at The Natural Gardener.
Okay, as far as signs from above go. Native switch grass has appeared exactly where I was planning to plant some this fall. I guess I'm going with a green variety after all. If I need more color I'll just have to plant more flowers.