Wildflowers forum: Anyone Familiar with Restoring Prairie?

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Name: Kim
Iowa (Zone 5a)
I kill ornamentals... on purpose.
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Chillybean
Oct 6, 2015 8:00 AM CST
I am not sure I've heard anyone mention here that they have done this. I have questions, but would like to know before I type them up.

My husband is giving me the nerves again with talking about burning and we do not have that many acres to work with.
Name: josephine
Arlington, Texas (Zone 8a)
Hi Everybody!! Let us talk native.
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frostweed
Oct 19, 2015 7:24 AM CST

Moderator

Hello Kim, I work with people who work on prairie restoration, but basically all they do is remove trees and shrubs, remove invasives and unwanted non native species.
They also scatter seeds of native plants. Burning gets rid of a lot of brush and improves the soil, but it can be very dangerous if done without the proper precautions and I don't recommend it.
Here is a link to a site here in Arlington, Texas. http://www.theprairie.org/?page_id=2
This is a virgin prairie that is being supported by the city, maybe you can contact them and they might be able to give you some advice.
Good luck with your prairie, you are doing a good thing.
Wildflowers are the Smiles of Nature.
Gardening with Texas Native Plants and Wildflowers.
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Oct 19, 2015 10:10 PM CST
@Chillybean

Not sure if you have a similar org, but here in Missouri we have the Missouri Prairie Foundation which has lots of interesting information. I am a member.

Take a day trip down to the Dunn Ranch ran by the Nature Conservancy. They have ~ 6,000 acres of which ~ 1,000 is virgin prairie.

Check with your state Dept of Conservation. Here in Missouri the MO Dept of Conservation will work with private land owners to do prairie restoration, provide guidance, etc.

Taking existing land and "restoring" can take 3 - 7 years before you really see results. It is not quick, nor easy. Depending on how much needs to be done, it may not be cheap either. You cannot just burn it and toss out a bag of seed.
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: josephine
Arlington, Texas (Zone 8a)
Hi Everybody!! Let us talk native.
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Butterflies Garden Ideas: Master Level Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier Birds Cat Lover Xeriscape
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frostweed
Oct 20, 2015 6:44 AM CST

Moderator

Very good advice David, working with native plants is a slow process indeed Smiling
Wildflowers are the Smiles of Nature.
Gardening with Texas Native Plants and Wildflowers.
Name: Katie
Oktibbeha Co., MS (Zone 8a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Spiders!
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kchd
Jan 8, 2016 7:27 PM CST
@chillybean You may do well to talk to your local NRCS Soil Conservationist. I know there is a big push to help landowners restore land in the midwest to help our pollinators and restore grasslands and prairies. They should be able to help. They may also have funding available to help you reach your goal.

Incidentally, I received a catalog from Prairie Moon Nursery today. They also have good advice for restore native prairie. I am posting a link from their site: https://www.prairiemoon.com/how-to-grow-a-prairie-from-seed....
"That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics." — Aldo Leopold
Name: josephine
Arlington, Texas (Zone 8a)
Hi Everybody!! Let us talk native.
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Butterflies Garden Ideas: Master Level Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier Birds Cat Lover Xeriscape
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frostweed
Jan 8, 2016 7:43 PM CST

Moderator

Thank you for posting that link Katie, it is very informative. Smiling
Wildflowers are the Smiles of Nature.
Gardening with Texas Native Plants and Wildflowers.
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
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lovemyhouse
Jan 9, 2016 12:55 PM CST
@KentPfeiffer

Might also talk to Kent Pfeiffer, here. He has some knowledge of managing prairies and possibly could direct you to more resources.
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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KentPfeiffer
Jan 9, 2016 6:14 PM CST

Plants Admin

The methods for restoring a prairie depend greatly on your starting point. If you are starting with a remnant area, it's usually just a matter of implementing ecologically sound management and dealing directly with some of the nastier exotic plants, if they are present. It's amazing what can come back simply with better management.

If an area has been disturbed beyond recovery (e.g. farmed), you are probably best off removing all existing vegetation and starting with bare soil. It's fairly easy to create a "prairie" by simply throwing seed on bare ground and waiting. Seed selection is a very important consideration. The best way to acquire seed is simply to hand collect it from native plants in the local area. If you can't do that, next best source would be companies that specialize in selling local ecotype seeds/plants like Prairie Moon or Ion Exchange. I wouldn't recommend planting cultivars, even of native species. They've been selected for certain traits and are often unusually aggressive, creating problems for the other species in the planting.

The hard part of prairie plantings is not getting them established, but rather maintaining them over the long term. Prairies need to be managed or they rapidly lose diversity and are often invaded by a number of invasive weeds. Areas of any size, say an acre or more, will likely need to be managed with fire at the minimum. If your site is beyond a few hundred square feet or so, and you can't burn it for whatever reason, I'd probably recommend doing something other than a prairie planting.
Name: Alex Junge
MN st paul, (Zone 4a)
Plantsmylove
Jan 10, 2016 2:59 PM CST
Besides what happens when the house gets sold unless you can give it to the DNR it would either get destroyed or go to weeds


Prairies are a great thing but they are a long term commitment
Name: Morgan
IL (Zone 5b)
Winter Sowing Native Plants and Wildflowers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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molanic
Jan 12, 2016 12:06 PM CST
I have not done any work on prairies myself, hopefully someday. But, while looking up info on butterflies and moths I came across this amazing website (below) about a couple who bought a bunch of farm land in Wisconsin and has spent 10+ years "unfarming" it. They are trying to restore it to its pre-farming state of prairie, savannah, woodlands, etc. They documented the whole process (including some burning and mowing) and go out and photograph and inventory all the wildlife. It is really amazing. I have no affiliation with them, but I have posted about it several times now on various sites, because it is just so impressive. I think I took a special interest because that is the part of Wisconsin my family is from. My grandparents (and great-grandparents) were dairy farmers until the 90s and family still lives on some of the farmland. So the landscape at that website seems very familiar and beautiful to me. If I had way more money (and energy) I would love to do something like on a grand scale someday.

http://www.prairiehaven.com/
(beware if Googling, prairiehaven.org is a nudist colony!)

Also it is definitely doable on a much smaller scale. I took wildflower class years ago at the local college. The teacher lived in a nearby town and took us on a tour of her "yard". She had a regular somewhat large suburban corner lot. Her backyard was a complete bona-fide prairie with a proper ratio of grasses and flowers, and she burned it almost every year. The fire department would come to supervise the burn. She also had a passive solar house and did a green roof...it was impressive.

Name: josephine
Arlington, Texas (Zone 8a)
Hi Everybody!! Let us talk native.
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Butterflies Garden Ideas: Master Level Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier Birds Cat Lover Xeriscape
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frostweed
Jan 12, 2016 1:52 PM CST

Moderator

Wow! that sounds great!! thank you for telling us about it. Smiling
Wildflowers are the Smiles of Nature.
Gardening with Texas Native Plants and Wildflowers.
Name: Katie
Oktibbeha Co., MS (Zone 8a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Spiders!
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kchd
Jan 12, 2016 2:13 PM CST
I was reminded of this thread today when I ran across this article by the Wildlife Society, which features a map of the US illustrating areas with declining wild bee populations.

http://wildlife.org/researchers-create-wild-bee-abundance-ma...

This is one of the reasons why I think little "pocket prairies" in our yards are important.
"That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics." — Aldo Leopold
Name: Alex Junge
MN st paul, (Zone 4a)
Plantsmylove
Jan 12, 2016 5:00 PM CST
I agree its importent but not everyone has the cash to do it
Name: Morgan
IL (Zone 5b)
Winter Sowing Native Plants and Wildflowers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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molanic
Jan 12, 2016 6:10 PM CST
We can always use native prairie plants instead of more traditional ornamentals even if we don't have a "proper prairie". They are no more difficult to grow, expensive, or hard to come by if you start with seed. Planting them is beneficial in any amount I think. There is a lot of private residential land in this country that is currently pretty much useless to wildlife.

Keeping a large prairie completely free of exotics and invasives is no easy task I'm sure. But, who says it has to be perfect. Anything people can do to work towards something better, has got to be better than doing nothing at all. Even worse than total neglect is using the current mainstream techniques of maintaining large expanses of watered, fertilized, poisoned, and mowed... lawn.

Burning would make me nervous as well, and there is nothing saying you have to do it to grow prairie plants. Even at that prairie haven site they only burned some areas initially and have dialed it back or stopped completely from what I read. They said that while it is beneficial for the plants, the good insects took such a big hit from regular burning. In nature no area would burn every single year anyways.
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Jan 12, 2016 11:23 PM CST
If you don't have Deep pockets, but would like to help a bit, the Nature Conservancy does great work. I am my Master Naturalist groups (Loess Hills Chapter) liason to the NC Dunn's Ranch prairie in Northwest Missouri. A really neat place with a chunk of native prairie and a lot more restored. Much of the restored had been used by range cattle so it was not totally decimated by ploughs.

http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/un...
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: josephine
Arlington, Texas (Zone 8a)
Hi Everybody!! Let us talk native.
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Butterflies Garden Ideas: Master Level Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier Birds Cat Lover Xeriscape
Image
frostweed
Jan 13, 2016 7:45 AM CST

Moderator

I am so glad to see Naturalists posting on this site!!! It seems that the majority are exotic plant gardeners, not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is refreshing to see people thinking about the big picture. Smiling
Wildflowers are the Smiles of Nature.
Gardening with Texas Native Plants and Wildflowers.
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
Seed Starter Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Level 1
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DavidLMO
Jan 13, 2016 11:40 AM CST
Well --- I am a Master Gardener, Master Naturalist and zone pushing whacky exotic (to me) plant grower. nodding
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
Dragonflies Dog Lover I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Photography Bee Lover Plays in the sandbox
Butterflies Region: Texas I sent a postcard to Randy! Charter ATP Member Annuals Garden Sages
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lovemyhouse
Jan 13, 2016 12:13 PM CST
I tip my hat to you.
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator Plant Identifier Region: Nebraska Forum moderator
Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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KentPfeiffer
Jan 13, 2016 4:03 PM CST

Plants Admin

Gardening with native plants is a very different subject than restoring a prairie. Fortunately, it's a much simpler subject as well.

Gardening with native plants is generally fairly easy and can be done at almost no cost. It's morally questionable at best, and illegal in some states, to dig plants out of natural areas and move them to your yard. However, most states do allow you to harvest seed from plants in public areas, so long as you aren't doing it for commercial purposes and the plants aren't on the endangered species list. It doesn't take much, a small handful of seed from each species is more than enough for a home garden. Of course, you can also buy seeds or plants from the increasing number of nurseries that specialize in native plants.

There are a few challenges to gardening with native plants. Some species aren't ideal for small spaces because they like to move around and a typical garden bed doesn't provide the room they need. I grow about 170 species of native plants in my yard. But, if I had it to do over again, there are maybe a dozen or so I wouldn't plant. They'd be fine in a prairie restoration, but they don't play well with others when confined to a residential yard. The other potential challenge is that you may face resistance from your neighbors. For some reason, people with golf course-style lawns seem to be threatened by native plantings. Shrug!
Name: josephine
Arlington, Texas (Zone 8a)
Hi Everybody!! Let us talk native.
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Butterflies Garden Ideas: Master Level Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier Birds Cat Lover Xeriscape
Image
frostweed
Jan 13, 2016 4:13 PM CST

Moderator

Kent, 170 is a lot of different species, I am trying to increase my native plant collection, but I still have a long way to go to match yours.
Which are the plants that you would have avoided? Smiling
Wildflowers are the Smiles of Nature.
Gardening with Texas Native Plants and Wildflowers.

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