Maintaining Grass Waterways

Grass waterways in the field are designed to safely carry out rainwater. It’s best to drive around them to keep the ground as smooth as possible and avoid the formation of gullies.

DeAnn Presley is an extension soil management specialist at Kansas State University. She says using a waterway as a road leaves tracks, and tracks can turn into gullies. If you see gullies forming, don't ignore them. They'll just get worse, and become harder to fix.

"You can push soil into a gulley, but then you've got to stabilize that really quickly. You've got to get sod-forming grasses in there," she says. "So, if you have a failure, it's dry, your grasses don't take, just go do it again. Eventually you can stabilize that just by reshaping, smoothing, filling in with soil, and then seeding and planting. It's what you have to do."

Left alone, grasses in a waterway will grow tall. But they will benefit from occasional mowing. Some grasses, such as fescue, tend to become clumpy if they're not mowed enough. These clumps can pool water, causing erosion and creating channels. Presley says mowing also encourages formation of thick sod, which helps conduct water and trap sediment.

"Shorter, thick grass is actually more effective at trapping sediments," she says. "If you imagine grass when it gets really tall, when water runs over it, it will lay over. If you've mowed it, it's more like a short bristle brush. It'll stop that sediment."

Presley also encourages a fertilization program to help the grasses compete with weeds and brush.