Indigenous Nursery News Blog

Plant a Grassland Garden with indigenous plants in 10 steps

It is important to distinguish between a grass garden and a grassland garden. Grass gardens are planted up purely with grasses.

Grassland gardens, on the other hand, include indigenous veld grasses, wildflowers, bulbs, Aloes etc., and non-living elements (wood, stone and often, water).

They are full of life, with a multitude of creatures visiting and living in them. Selecting indigenous plants suitable for grasslands and meadows will result in good biodiversity (plant, animal and micro-organism).

Here are 10 steps to create a wild grassland:

  1. Position: the chosen site should receive at least 6 to 8 hours of sun a day.
  2. Clear the existing vegetation if there is any.
  3. Soil-scape to create koppjies (mounds). Add compost and a carbon-rich fertilizer ("Hya-Grow" or the "Rock dust" (both available in our retail nursery). A large amount of natural carbon is found in wild grassland soil.
  4. Add any larger rocks, logs and a grindstone, or water feature. Edges of water must be gradually sloped for creatures to access it safely.
  5. Select indigenous veld grasses and flowering herbaceous plants, bulbs, Aloes etc. to give you year round seasonal beauty (leaf colour, form and / or flowers). Consider including host and food plants for wildlife. See the list of indigenous plants that we used in our grassland display garden.
  6. Place your plants before planting, stand back, and check that you are happy. I suggest 5 grasses (weakly tufting) and 3 flowering plants per square meter. If you use strongly tufted grass/es, then use just three grasses per square meter and 3 robust, strong form plants (E.g. Scilla natalensis, Eucomis sp., Aloe sp., Hypoxis sp. and Erythrina zeyheri).
  7. Plant your grassland plants, taking care not to damage roots. Broadcast a slow release organic fertilizer if you did not already add "Hya-Grow" or "Rock Dust" to the soil.
  8. Now place smaller pieces of wood, rocks, pebbles and gravel to look natural in your grassland.
  9. Mulch well: it inhibits weed growth, retains moisture and microbes in soil. Small insects and other invertebrates in the mulch are beneficial in breaking it down to become accessible to the plants.
  10. Water well after planting to settle soil around the roots. This helps with good absorption of minerals by plant roots. After that, 3X per week for 3 weeks (to adapt after being in nursery conditions), then twice a week for 5 to 6 weeks and lastly reduce to once a week until the grassland is well established. Overwatering an indigenous grassland garden results in too much leafy growth.

Note: Once a year, (mid-May to Mid-July, but no later), cut the grasses right down (5cm of grass left) and then rake up the thatch and remove it. If needed, you can re-mulch.

This is to simulate the clearance of old grass by fire and grazing, and the extra light and space afforded the bulbs, flowering plants and herbs will encourage them to flower and put on new growth.

As the grasses produce new leaves in spring, the cycle starts again. You do not need to re-compost or fertilise an established, wisely planted indigenous grassland, as it will recycle its own nutrients.

Some more images from our grassland concept:

Grasslands are thought to be one of the most ancient vegetation types in the world. African grasslands once covered as much as 60 % of the continent. 

Grasslands support up to 81 species of plants per 1 000 m2. Of every six plants found in unspoilt South African grasslands only one is a grass.

Of the 40 bird species endemic to South Africa, a staggering 21 are found in the grassland biome, and 12 of these are endemic to this biome.


Got something to say? Join the discussion »
    Posted @ 5/22/2017 2:43 PM by Leigh allardyce   
    Leigh allardyce's avatar

    I would like someone to contact me about coming to give me a quote to convert approximately 60m2 into a grassland similar to your home page photo

    Posted @ 3/10/2015 10:52 AM by What a great reward is reaped with comparatively l   
    What a great reward is reaped with comparatively l's avatar

    What great reward reaped with comparatively little effort. Thanks for the 10 tips. Always enjoy the news letters and have learnt such a lot.

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