Cutting Back Grasses with a Breadknife

When I started gardening, my mother kindly offered me tips to help me along.  But what if she hadn’t been there? Would I have managed to become a gardener? Or would I have given up and missed out Big Time?

This terrifying thought frames what I offer here – how-to-garden-tips for anyone. If you’re a newbie this stuff will help. If you’re an old hand, you can skim through my offerings and nod knowingly or (who knows!) pick up something new.

And if you’re wondering, my mother is still very much by my side and still offering tips, despite the fact that I went on to become a professional – someone people pay to design, build and plant their gardens. I have the qualifications and the years of experience, but I’m not silly enough to think I’ve mastered the art. I still pick up tips from my mother (and anywhere else that I find them). I think that’s part of what makes playing around in the garden so much fun.

So what’s first? What about this whacky way to handle clumping grasses?

Most of us have a few tucked into the garden somewhere, but by now these grasses have probably moved well past looking fabulous. I’m guessing they’ve merged into everything else and our non-gardener friends are pointing them out to us as weeds. Should we pull them out? No. There’s another way.

Attack your grasses with a breadknife!


cutting back grasses

 This is what I’m talking about. I took the shot on the left on planting day, and the one on the right, six months later. It’s when your grasses look this wild that the following tip could be put to good use…

One: grab a garden rubbish bag, a pair of gardening gloves and that bread knife that no-one uses (the spare that sits at the back of everyone’s kitchen drawer).

Two: locate the first overgrown grassy clump and gather all the grasses together into a ponytail. Now twist it to form a tensioned spiral (check out the following photo). This will give it the tension necessary for your next move.

cutting back grasses

Three: whip out the bread knife and, while maintaining the tension, saw through the spiral. Throw the off-cut over your shoulder into the garden waste bag, then turn back to admire your perfectly-mounded clump of grass (see below). How good is that?

cutting ornamental grasses

Four: repeat the process until all your grasses have been given the treatment, then you’re done. (If you happen to have chickens, keep the trimmings somewhere to dry and use them to line the nesting boxes.)


ornamental grasses

 Untrimmed, this garden loses its edge – but when those clumping grasses to the right of the path have been given the treatment, it looks fantastic. The clipped balls in the middle are the icing on the cake.


2 Responses to Cutting Back Grasses with a Breadknife

  1. Jessica November 26, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    What are the compact, mounded shrubs in the center of the image?

  2. Your Easy Garden Team November 29, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    Hi Jessica,
    Those to shrubs – the ones that look round balls, are Westringia fructicusa. It’s what the folks in Australia call coastal rosemary, not for culinary purposes but because it looks a little like rosemary. It’s drought-tolerant, it’s a good grey-green and when clipped it behaves itself in that it stays clothed down to the ankles. It is sold in some parts of the US and Monrovia Nursery sells it so if you go to their website you may be able to learn more about it. Happy Gardening!

Leave a Reply