Growing Grasses: Living the Little House Prairie Life in L.A.

Growing Grasses: Living the Little House Prairie Life in L.A.

It took a few days for my friend to admit that she was one-half of the twin-set who played Baby Grace on Little House on the Prairie.  College roommates, she unpacked a photo of her and her twin at age four, posing in skates on the roller rink. “It’s so strange,” I told her, gazing at their cherubic faces, framed by blonde hair. “It’s like I knew you then.  It’s like I grew up with you.”

I’ve always had that feeling that part of me grew up in Walnut Grove. I dreamed of reading by candlelight, a hazard for a near-sighted child.  I wished I’d studied in a one-room schoolhouse, and on occasion, I addressed my mom and dad as ma and pa.  The only connection I have now to my beloved faux-prairie-life is the street that leads me downhill from my apartment to a bustling junction of cafes, shops, and my bus stop is lined by tall grasses blowing in the wind.  I close my eyes to block out the hipster dog-walkers around me and run my hands through them. I can almost imagine that I, too, am toppling down that hill in the opening credits of Little House.

If you want to create your own version of prairie life, consider planting one or more of these low-maintenance grasses.

  • The ravennagrass (Saccharum ravennae) likes full sun and not too much moisture – which makes it perfect for planting to withstand our current California drought.
  • The ravennagrass thrives in zones 5 – 10, and this site claims to have seen one grow to 15’ in Vancouver, B.C.!
  • Purple Fountaingrass is a great way to add to color to your garden, and while it grows best in zones 9 & 10, it is used as an annual in colder climates.
  • If you’re looking for groundcover, check out the shorter-growing Blue Fescue, which only grows one foot, and also adds color to your garden or curb-side plantings, and thrives in zones 4 – 8.
  • If you are limited on space, you may want to consider a planter, or planting just one or two root balls. Unpack the root ball before placing in the ground, and, unless you’re aiming for an overgrown garden, choose spots for your grasses as far apart as you expect them to grow tall, which can often take up to three years, and prepare the soil twice as deep as the root ball.

If you have photos of gorgeous grasses you’re already growing, share them with us on Twitter @TheCityFarm!  And check out my earlier post on homesteading in the city, here.