Update on Grasses Restoration Project

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I’m working on two projects dealing with the restoration of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay. The first is the Grasses for the Masses program though the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. I planted celery seeds almost two weeks ago and several small shoots have emerged. I’ll continue growing the grasses until it’s time for planting in May.

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View of a celery grass shoot from underwater

The second project involves planting grasses in Antipoison Creek, just off of the Chesapeake Bay. I’ve been talking with the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) to get this project going. In order to plant grasses I’ll need to get a permit from the NRCS, but research and planning is required before starting the permit process.

I’ve been talking to an expert at VIMS to fully understand the process and methods involved with growing underwater grasses, and figuring out what species of grass to use.

I’m planting celery seeds in Northern Virginia, but when mature, these grasses will be planted on the Potomac River in a region that has lower salinity levels than Antipoison Creek. I’ll work with a species adapted to saltier waters, such as eelgrass or widgeon grass for Antipoison Creek.

Additional questions I have been researching include when to plant, how to plant, where to get seeds or grasses, water depth needed for these plants to survive, and other materials that might be needed for the process. I’m still working on some of these answers, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Eelgrass requires a water depth of about 0.5 to 1.0 meters at mean low water and a tidal range of 80-100 centimeters. This allowed me to determine where to plant off of the shore.
  • There are two main methods for growing underwater grasses: planting seeds and transplanting shoots of grass, each has various sub-methods
  • The optimal planting time for transplants is late September to early October
  • To plant seeds, seeds must be collected from their source in mid-May to early June; planting experiments must be conducted mid-August to mid-October.

I’m still deciding whether to transplant grass shoots or plant seeds, and which specific method to use. I can broadcast seeds by hands, plant seeds via buried burlap bag, transplant bundles of shoots, or transplant single unanchored shoots. Part of this decision will involve figuring out where to get the seeds or grass shoots for planting. I’ll be updating the blog as I learn more.

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