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Miscanthus screen planting
I have a couple of food plots that are kind of open on one side of the plot. I’ve used a couple of different options to close those sides in and create an edge (corn and Egyptian wheat) and both have worked ok, but they were both annuals and, as such, needed to be replanted each year. I was contemplating planting some cedars/plums/Redosier Dogwoods, etc, but unless you put a barrier around them, the deer here will still browse extensively on them. I didn’t want to have to fence them off, so, after some research, I’ve decided to try the Miscanthus Gigantis grass. It is suppose to get 12’-14’ high, get a bit thicker each year, hold up well to snow loads, plus the deer supposedly will not browse it.
I’m going to try and document the process (if I don’t forget to take pics!) I’d welcome any suggestions, tips, comments, etc. from anyone that has any experience in planting this, or any comments/suggestions in general.
This is a pic of what it can look like when fully mature, which is suppose to take at least 3 years.
I researched several ways to plant it and decided the best way for me would be to come up with some way of plowing some furrows with my tractor. I ended up buying a drawbar from Northern Tool, some flat steel and robbed a couple of shanks from an old 4 row cultivator. I wanted to be able to set the distances between my furrows to varying widths, if need be, so I welded the square stock the shanks were mounted to, to some heavy plate steel and drilled some holes in that to be able to bolt it almost anywhere on the drawbar. I can also remove either shank if need be as well. I had to add some flat steel to the sweeps to make a deeper furrow. The cultivator sweeps are designed to run fairly flat, just under the surface to plow out shallow weeds. McGyver, I’m not, but I thought it turned out pretty good and worked great.
I disced the ground several passes to work it up thoroughly and hit it with my culti-mulcher to have a good planting bed.
I couldn’t decide if I was going to plant 4 rows of rhizomes, or only 3. I ended up deciding to plant 3 rows of the rhizomes 2 feet apart. Here’s my McGyvered rig in action.
I ordered 2250 rhizomes from Maple River Farms in Michigan, for 3 friends and myself. (750 for me). They were great to deal with and Don will answer any questions you might have.
Are you doing this to try and funnel deer?
I had everything ready to go the day before the roots arrived, but, of course, 5 minutes after I got to the farm, it had to rain just enough to muddy everything up! I had to take a garden hoe to clean the furrows out a little bit, which made it more labor intensive, but I did end up getting this section all put it. I was going to lay out each rhizome 18” apart and stagger them in each row, but gave up on that idea pretty quickly. I ended up planting the roots in the first row roughly 15”-18” apart just by eyeballing them. I then covered that row before starting on the next one. I tried to position each root horizontally in the trench, raked a little bit of dirt over them, then pressed them into the dirt with my foot gently, before completely covering up the rest of the way with dirt. I was going to go over the finished planting with my cultipacker to firm everything thing up, but the rain screwed that idea up. I ended up compacting each row by walking over it, and that actually worked pretty well. When it dries up, I’ll go over it with the culti-mulcher and smooth everything out.
Correct, Ike. There’s several reasons, actually. I’m hoping that by closing the end of the field in, the deer will feel more secure coming into it earlier. Also, I should be able to get to a couple of my stands without, possibly getting busted. This spot is also kind of a bottleneck or narrow between two deep ravines. Whitetails like to cruise along the edges of cover and I’m hoping to create an edge that they will feel comfortable using.
I got roughly 250 rhizomes planted in about 3 hrs, including about a 20 minute rain delay. Hopefully, I can get the rest of them planted this weekend!
Are there any concerns regarding this particular grass being invasive?
Apparently it can only spread by rhizomes and not by seed so it's less likely to be invasive. Also, it is highly flammable and so could be easily burned back when dormant. Once it was burned back the new sprouts could be easily killed with herbicide if it was no longer wanted. t-roy has planted in an area that looks like it would be easily contained. The website link to invasive.org didn't have much bad to say about it and they usually say that the sky is falling.
Personally, I'm be very concerned about it escaping and getting into a creek bottom, where the rhizomes couldn't be killed back easily. I typically have to spray 1-3 acres of invasives (that I didn't plant) every year and it sucks big time.
elkstabber nailed it. Iowa State University as well as other universities have been doing research on it as a possible source of biomass to produce cellulosic ethanol. Their research findings are similar to the info in elkstabber’s link. It will spread somewhat, but VERY slowly. Thanks for the link, elkstabber!
T-roy, do think your deer will turn it into bedding/security cover? We have thick stands of cane grass here where we hunt and our deer love to use it as bedding cover. They seem to prefer it over almost anything else. The miscanthus looks really similar to our cane grass, 8-10 feet tall and thick as can be (I call it cane grass, it could be something else entirely).
No problem t-roy. As a sidenote, I've been doing some controlled burns recently and often there are patches of river cane (arundinaria) in the burn area. The river cane is extremely flammable and it makes a popping sound like a small caliber handgun when it burns.
it amazes me that this stuff can withstand a snow load! I have a gas line pipeline that needs a screen where it crosses the road, this might be the ticket. they come through and mow it every few years... how would this stand up to that?
That’s supposedly one of it’s strong points, grubby. It should hold up pretty well once it’s fully established. If you’re asking if it will survive being mowed occasionally, they say burning it off after it’s established is fine, as is mowing when it’s dormant. In colder climates, the leaves that it sheds help to insulate the ground and protect the roots from prolonged severe cold weather/deep frost.
Brotsky....initially, this screening will only be approximately 4’-5’ wide, plus it’s kind of in the open, so I doubt they will use it much for bedding cover in this area, but the Maple River Farms website has some recommendations on planting for that purpose.
Ver cool t-roy I'll be following this. Always been interested in these giant grasses and hope it works out well for you!
t-roy, have you considered using a dozer and making either a small ditch or small ridge along the same path and planting it with a 20-30 yard patch of oaks so that they'd have something they'd feel comfortable cruising along and would eventually provide mast and draw deer in besides supplemental feeding?
This is WAY cheaper, plus, we already have tons of white, red and burr oaks on the field edges and in the ravines here, and I’ve got several Dunstan Chestnuts planted on the north edge of this plot as well, which I hope will be a draw in a few more years.
We have some plants that look like that growing wild in a few spots that I've seen beside roads. That looks like it will work for your intended purpose.
But....you know McGuyver would have done it with a fingernail clipper ! :-)
I'm still jealous of the planter......I planted several hundred with a shovel!
Hey T-Roy good luck with the Miscanthus. I planted a couple hundred rhizomes a few years back. Unfortunately the following winter was super cold early and not much snow cover for insulation for most of the winter and the bulbs didn’t sprout well the following spring. I bought my rhizomes from Michigan too and they did warn me about the cold weather in MN may be an issue. It was- but I see you are from Iowa so may be it will work great for you. Good luck, keep us informed.
I just cut these stalks down yesterday.
I just cut these stalks down yesterday.
T-Roy, I tried it planting it two different years a few years ago. I also bought it from Maple Farms. I experimented with planting it in different areas. I didn’t go to the extent of bed prep that you did. My ph probably was not ideal either. All in all it didn’t work out to good for me. I have some patches that it is still growing and it stands up really well against the wet heavy snow in the winter. This winter was a good test. The leaves and tops blew off but the stalks were not phased at all.
Thanks guys. CAS....when did you plant yours? How are they doing?
Don....I ordered some cheap rubber bands from China off of EBay and the UV rays ate them up right away, plus, you can’t hardly find chewing gum in foil wrappers anymore!
Yeah, the possible winterkill is my biggest concern. Iowa State University has several research plots of it going with pretty good results so far. I’m about 30 miles from them, so, hopefully we’ll have a couple of mild winters and mine will get a good foothold.
Hunt98.....I’m glad those decoys worked out good for ya. Thanks for helping me out!
Please, please don't plant exotic invasives. There has to be better alternatives.
These land improvement threads are always refreshing. Nice job.
Troy......mine is on year 3. It just looks like stalks now bit is starting to grow again. Overall I am happy with it.
I'll take some pictures as it progresses this year......should be a pretty good screen year.....I hope.
CAS....feel free to share any pics if you’ve got em!
Got a new toy the other day. I should have bought one of these 10 years ago! This tiller prepared a great bed to finish putting the rest of my miscanthus rhizomes into. The rains we’ve been getting, kept me from being able to finish putting the remaining roots that I had left, in the ground. I finally finished with the remaining ones last night at 9pm, in front of the headlights on the tractor. Got another 3/10ths of rain overnight, so they should be poking through the ground in the next couple of weeks or so.
Ready to plant
Ready to plant
The tiller is the best implement we have invested in. Great for plot prep and super for fire lanes.
Last batch planted.
Last batch planted.
The last batch of rhizomes is looking great so far. The first two, not so much. On the first 2 spots, I disced up really well, but it rained before and during the time that I planted them. I mudded them in, for lack of a better term. I planted them, covered them up, then compacted the soil over them by walking on it. I’m thinking that the soil got too compacted, then crusted over hard. We have had basically zero rain since they were planted until a couple of days ago. There are some plants coming up, but not as many as should be, IMO.
On the last batch, I tilled up with the tiller, firmed the rhizomes into the soil, then simply covered back up with soil. They are coming up very nicely.