Helping restore the native landscape for over 50 years
Founded by Calvin Ernst in 1964, Ernst Conservation Seeds is the largest native seed producer and supplier in the eastern United States.
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As a result, we have found some repetitive themes relating to these failures – site conditions, weeds, excessive cover crop seeding rates, or use of an inappropriate cover or companion crop.
Issues with an excessive rate of cover crop have generally been confined to the use of annual ryegrass. Excessive annual ryegrass applied to sites planted with native species smothers growth of the native meadow. We have not had complaints when annual ryegrass was used at 10-12 lb per acre.
We do not recommend the use of bahiagrass, bermudagrass, or tall fescue as cover or companion crops in our native meadow mixes. Bahiagrass or bermudagrass as a cover crop will be impossible to control prior to new growth of perennial native species and will likely smother out the native species when used as a companion crop.
We do not recommend the addition of the following legumes to native meadows as they also tend to take over and smother out native species: Lespedeza cuneata (Sericea Lespedeza), Coronil/a varia (Crownvetch), Lotus corniculatus (Bird’s Foot Trefoil), Trifolium pratense (Red Clover), or Trifolium repens (Ladino Clover). If already present on the site, control these species by spot spraying with Roundup® (glyphosate).
If a legume is desired in a meadow mix, we recommend such native legumes as Baptisia alba (White Wild Indigo), Baptisia albescens (Spiked Wild Indigo), Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo), Baptisia tinctoria (Yellow False Indigo), Chamaecrista fasciculata (Partridge Pea), Chamaecrista nictitans (Sensitive Pea), Desmodium canadense (Showy Ticktrefoil), Desmodium paniculatum (Panicled Ticktrefoil), Lespedeza capitata (Roundhead Lespedeza), Lespedeza frutescens (Shrubby Bushclover), Lespedeza virginica (Slender Bushclover), Senna hebecarpa (Wild Senna), and Senna marilandica (Maryland Senna).
We recommend the following cover crops and seeding rates:
These seeding rates are based on our experience with native meadows as well as our desire to establish strong, individual native plants. Planting cover crops that are too aggressive or thick diminishes the long-term viability of the perennial meadow plants. We have concluded that annual small grains, such as oats and rye, are the best cover crops or companion crops to plant with native seedings when there is a need. Grain cover crops can reduce competition from aggressive weeds because they grow quickly and reduce the potential for erosion by providing quick cover. We generally do not recommend annual ryegrass as it is too aggressive and volunteer seedlings can be persistent. When using annual ryegrass with native species, do not exceed 12 lb per acre.
In much of our market area, crabgrass, giant foxtail, green foxtail, and ragweed can smother a meadow in the establishment year. If overtaken by these weeds, use a brush hog mower or string trimmer to trim the meadow to 8″. Trimming below 4″ will kill seedlings of many native species. A lawn mower is not recommended. O
Tridens flavus, Fort Indiantown Gap-PA Ecotype
Panicum amarum, Atlantic-VA Ecotype
Centaurea cyanus, Tall Mixed
Verbena urticifolia, PA Ecotype