Marsh Grass Planting Program 2008
In 2002, NAPS began a spring program of planting marsh grasses in order to encourage the development of “living shorelines” as an alternative to rip-rap or bulkhead. Several years later we also began to use marsh grasses to “jump-start” marshes that we had sprayed with herbicide in the fall to eliminate invasive Phragmites. Since 2002, 94 sites have received grass, some more than once, and for the last 5 years we have averaged 32 sites each year.
This spring, 77 flats of 50 plants each were used at 32 sites. 13 of the sites received grass for the first time, and all except 9 were intended to stabilize the shoreline. The others were intended to re-colonize barren marshes where Phragmites had been sprayed.
Common cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) was the most common grass planted, between mid tide and average high tide. Small amounts of salt meadow or alkali bulrush (Scirpus robustus) were also planted along with the cordgrass near high tide at some locations because this species has excellent wildlife value, especially for ducks. Salt marsh hay (Spartina patens) was planted above high tide because this species, once established, forms a dense stand of grass that is both attractive and able to resist erosion.
The secret to a healthy marsh is full sunlight. Marshes can be improved by pruning overhanging limbs and other vegetation so as to admit sunlight. A bit of fertilizer like 10-10-10 broadcast on the marsh as the tide goes out, a couple times during the growing season, and especially where the plants are sparse, is also helpful. Don’t worry about the tiny bit of pollution the fertilizer might cause, because it will be more than offset in future years by a healthy stand of grass. A healthy marsh not only provides food and sanctuary for a host of organisms, it intercepts runoff and groundwater discharge and either consumes excess nitrate and phosphate, or, in the case of nitrate, converts it into harmless nitrogen gas.
If you want a “survey” of your marsh, or if you think you (or a neighbor) could use marsh grass in 2009, call Lynton Land at 453-6605 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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