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Why a Native Landscape
 

The use of native grasses and wildflowers can add beauty and value to your property as well as contribute to the natural environment.

The benefits to landscaping with native plants are many: such plants are adapted to our environment thereby needing no watering, fertilizing and, in time, no mowing. Prairies are known for their "biodiversity," which means their many plant varieties and animal life they attract provide an unfolding drama of color and activity throughout the year. Native plants increase soil fertility, prevent erosion, and sustain a diversity of pollinating animals. Native grasses and flowers require very little maintenance. Once the stand is established, there is very little to do other than an occasional spring burn or mowing.

 
Steps to Creating a Prairie

Site preparation is critical in seeding native grasses and wildflowers. We began preparing this site by spraying non-selective herbicides in the spring so as to kill the vegetation. The use of herbicides is a necessary step in prairie restoration because without their use the soil would have to be tilled for one or two seasons. Tilling the ground disturbs the soil, thereby animating millions of dormant weed seeds waiting for an opportunity to grow, and choke out the native plants.

In some projects, we burn the vegetation first, and then spray to get a more effective kill.

spraying
After spraying, and after the vegetation dried, we burned the site. Burning removes the old vegetation and prepares the site for further spraying and the eventual seeding. On this site we continued spraying throughout the summer as the weeds came up. Burning is also important for established prairies, as it clears the dead vegetation, animates native seeds, and kills weed seeds
pairie burn one
After a summer of spraying weeds, the weed seed bank was diminished enough to do a fall seeding which gives the native seeds a head start on the weeds in the spring. For prairie restoration, we use the Kasco Eco Driil, a six foot wide no-till drill. Its native seed box insures good seed distribution and depth with miminal disturbance to the soil. The use of no-till drill seeders is critical, as they cut a slit in the soil, drop the seed in the furrow, and packs it in.
In this site was seeded heavily with native wildflowers such as the Grey Headed Coneflower, as seen in the foreground, as well as some thirty other species. This photo illustrates nicely a mid-summer display of colors and textures.

By incorporating walking paths in our prairie designs, the landowner has easy access in, through, and around their prairie. Such paths also serve as fire breaks when it comes time for a prescribed burn.

In this photo there is a good display of Black Eyed Susans, Monarda, and Grey Headed Cone flowers, typical "early show" flowers of a newly established prairie. This is a three year old prairie so the grasses are too small to see in this photo. One or two more years will allow the grasses the root structure to put up a larger plant.

By September, a new array of plants is highlighted, namely Azur Aster, Smooth Blue Aster, Stiff Goldenrod, Rough Blazing Star and New England Aster.
With the multiple frosts we get in Central Minnesota by October, the prairie enters dormancy. Yet there remain interesting colors and textures that will stay with you through the winter and into the spring when the prairie starts in life cycle yet again.

Native grasses such as Little Bluestem, Prairie Dropseed, Side Oats Gramma, Big Bluestem and Indian Grass provide a secure habitat for pheasant allowing them to forage for seeds and insects. This is not the case with the more common grasses (Smooth Brome or Reed Canary grass) used in uplands and pastures. Such exotic grasses tend to matt down densly in the fall and winter. The native grasses have a very nice texture by themselves, especially in the fall.