The easiest way to make a new prairie restoration grow is by having good site preparation. Something needs to be done in the area to remove the existing vegetation and ensure weeds will be minimal. If starting a prairie in your yard, you can use techniques like smothering the ground layer with a large tarp. For large-scale restorations, a farm field is a great place to grow a prairie because weeds should be minimal from the agricultural practices that have been occurring for years. Our Yonder Prairie prairie was one of these farm field restorations.
Management still needs to be done on a newly established prairie. The first year we walked through and controlled thistle manually by cutting them down. The second year we did more aggressive thistle control and also had to eradicate a few patches of reed canary grass that had popped up. I’m not sure what this year will bring, but the success of this prairie is really exciting so I can’t wait to tell you about it in spring of 2017!
As for the seeding itself, we here at TLC try to be very careful about the plants we introduce, and try to match the pre-settlement conditions as closely as possible. Luckily, many people have planted prairie before me so I get to learn from their projects and look at organizations who have excellent prairies to model our prairies after. We have sandy soil here, so this was a great place for a high quality short grass prairie. We want lots of sedges, short grasses like little bluestem and prairie dropseed, and a high diversity of forbs (wildflowers), like rattlesnake master, prairie dock, prairie clovers, and many others.
How did we do? Check out these pictures and see for yourself!