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New ideas for lawn Part 2: Carex pansa, Carex texensis

As promised, here is the second of the two part series on meadow making in California.

The first of the entries covered fescue as a lawn substitute.  But I have come to prefer Carex pansa.

Carex pansa is a native sedge.  Sedges have edges, so to speak, while grasses don’t.  It is a clumper, like all the native grasses of the West, and spreads very nicely.  Once established, it requires watering only about every 3 weeks or more, depending on your site, and mowing no more than 4 times a year!  I do have clients that keep it very ‘lawn-like’ and mow it ever two weeks, but since it only grows 6″ high, that isn’t necessary.

Dry Gardening lawn

Carex pansa front yard lawn

Carex pansa can tolerate traffic.  I have clients with kids who play on the lawn.  But it isn’t for intensive traffic.

The planting/preparation method is simple.  Prepare your bed as if you were going to plant a conventional lawn, in other words, good soil, lots of compost, rake out the clods, bed should be to finished height.  I always install a conventional irrigation system–better safe than sorry and its so much easier for the homeowner.  In the beginning you will need to water the plugs till established and the first summer while filling in, water a few times a week.  So a watering system on a timer is essential.  This means the pvc should be installed prior to planting.  The sprinkler heads can be installed and then adjusted to correct height once the Carex is in.

Dry gardening lawn

Carex pansa in a large backyard situation

Carex pansa needs a good edging as it will spread beyond your beds without one.  Its not a weed nor really invasive, but, like grass, it will grow outside its borders if given water and good soil.  Depending on your design, you might even want to pour a concrete edging.

Carex pansa is great for full sun and its evergreen.  But if you have a shadier spot, I put in Carex texensis.  You can mix the two in a lawn if you have sun and shade, but the Carex texensis is deciduous.  On the other hand, I’ve had some tough spots where its too shady for a lawn and the C. texensis is a life saver.

C. Texensis under tree.  Can be deciduous but was not here in the Bay Area.  Good for dry shade

C. Texansis under tree. Can be deciduous but was not here in the Bay Area. Good for dry shade

For a full discussion on soil preparation, spacing, watering schedule, mowing,and where to order plugs, see my eBook Gardening for a Dry California Future.

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6 Responses

  1. […] New ideas for lawn Part 2: Carex pansa, Carex texensis […]

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  2. Thanks for those tips! As you know places like Southern California are facing a water shortage and gardening consumes a lot of water. Hence we need to be careful when using water. http://j.mp/1aRMnV will provide you information on using the right amount of water for your garden or landscape every week.

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  3. We live in western Sonoma County, California, about 10 miles from the ocean. We’re considering replacing a small lawn with carex pansa. We want to know how much it looks like a lawn when mature and whether it will stand up to a couple days of badminton games and frisbee over the course of a summer? Does it look inviting to play on?

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    • Hi Gary, as you might have noticed, I am a landscape designer working in Marin/Sonoma counties during the winter months. I have installed many Carex pansa lawns at this point. One of the last ones there were middle school children who play occasionally on it. I am a huge fan. See my web site, http://www.ecoscapes.net, for more photos and articles on C. pansa. Sure, you can’t put it on a football field, but yes it will take traffic and some easy sports. If you put it in now by plugs, it might grow a little, but will basically sit there over the winter, then grow mightily in the spring as the roots have established. Must be put in by plugs, and I’d recommend the closer the better, say 4″ o.c. If you mow it every 2 weeks, it will look just like lawn. You must have full sun for C. pansa, just like regular lawn. If you have some shady spots, then use C. texensis in those spots. If you need professional help, I’ll be in CA this winter and you can continue this discussion by phone listed on my web page. Thanks

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  4. […] New ideas for lawn Part 2: Carex pansa, Carex texensis […]

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