Spring 2016: The Yonder Prairie Prairie
Nope, not a typo. Our site known as Yonder Prairie is a 70-acre oak savanna, wet prairie, sedge meadow, and marsh complex. What’s missing? PRAIRIE! With the recent addition of the 26-acre “O’Leary addition”, now called Yonder West, we get to have a real prairie at Yonder Prairie! Hence– the Yonder Prairie prairie. The site is also adjacent to 70 acres of natural area that is owned by Woodstock and a 38-acre conservation easement.
When we purchased this site in 2014, it came with 9-acre and 2-acre farm fields. We knew we wanted to use the 2-acre farm field to form a small parking lot for our volunteers, and so we decided to turn the rest into prairie.
We are so fortunate to have the wonderful people at Google agree to take pictures when TLC has their vehicles parked at the site to show the different parking areas over time. That’s a joke, but we must park here a lot!

Here’s a photo taken before the farm field was converted, and you can see the TLC jeep and trailer parked off the side of the road, and also see that the field is planted into conventional corn. 
We planted the field with prairie seed February 2015.

Here is spring of 2016! This is year two, and you can actually see the Black-eyed Susans in bloom from the air! How cool! That’s my little black truck in the parking lot. We were probably controlling garlic mustard or thistle or something like that. 

What a cool way to increase safety by having a parking area, and also increase plant diversity by having a prairie!
 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!
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County | mgrycan@conservemc.org |
815-337-9502 | www.ConserveMC.org