A WS Prairie

Callirhoe(6a)July 29, 2014

Last fall I ordered Prairie Moon's PDQ prairie seed mix. I wanted to sow prairie plants in my new berm. Unfortunately, when I got the kit, it overwhelmed me. There were multiple packets to be applied and in different ways. I set it aside, not sure what I'd do. I was also worried that if I spread the seed on the berm rain would wash away whatever the birds didn't eat.

Then the time arrived for me to begin my winter sowing and the light bulb came on while I was busy sowing my other seeds. I decided to sow my prairie seed mix in tubs. I am so glad I did!

By the time planting time rolled around, I had decided that we were going to re-do our berm and replace the eye-sore of a ditch with a gentle swale. That meant I suddenly had no place to plant all my prairie plants! My mother had been wanting a prairie, so I took my tubs of prairie over to her. We were slow getting the plants out of the tubs and actually planted. It was mid-June when we planted "hunks of prairie." The picture shows you how it looked. I thought it looked like a pretty darn good start, going from bare earth to this. (I grew the sunflowers, but they weren't WS). There were about a dozen plants that were not WS and you can see their containers laying in the bed as plant markers. Everything thing else in there was WS. Since that time, we've continued to add individual prairie plants that I grew from WS. Everything is native to our county.

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This is my mother's prairie today, about 6 weeks after planting the "hunks" of prairie. Most of the plants out there will not bloom this year, as they are first year perennials and prairie plants spend the first year primarily growing roots. But the show is already spectacular, I think! This has been such a stunning success that I'm doing it for my own yard this next spring. You can't see them, but in much of what looks like bare areas in the picture there are small, individual plants that I grew from WS. I will grow more this winter and next year this 40-foot long prairie bed will be stuffed to overflowing. Already it is alive with butterflies and bees and birds. The silvery plants on the right are artemisia ludoviciana.

In case you are wondering, the primary plants blooming in this picture are perennials coreopsis lanceolata and agastache foeniculum, and the annuals Chamaecrista fasciculata and rudbeckia hirta, Other plants are beginning to bloom, as well, but these make up most of the blooms in the picture here.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 1:24PM
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tepelus(6a SW MI)

Very nice! It looks great for a first year planting.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 11:08PM
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Indeed, great that you did the WS (it gives you a jump start too...so that you did get some flowering this year).
I hope it does well for you and you're quite happy...also hope it included grasses.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 11:17PM
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Yes, it includes grasses but they haven't done very well. I don't think they compete well against the forbs when young and small. We've grown more to add this summer and we'll be WSing grasses for next spring, as well, but we'll sow them separately next time.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 10:15AM
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I'm pleased to hear that...since the grasses will definitely help in weed prevention and are just an essential prairie element.

They'll take off much more next year.trust me. This year, they're making roots.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 1:00PM
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Very pretty! Love the color combination.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 9:55PM
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michey1st_gw Zone 7

Wonderful job! I've been eyeing the Seed Mixes from Prairie moon for a steep slope in my back yard, but I too was worried about everything washing away. Were you able to differentiate the different seed types in the mix prior to planting, or did you just winter sow them as the seeds were mixed together?

When you mention the mix had many different packets, can you elaborate? I was under the impression I'd just get a baggie chock full of seeds all mixed together -- is that not the case?

What a GREAT idea! THANK YOU for sharing your experience!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 10:23AM
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As best I remember it, the seed mix came in multiple packages inside a labeled paper bag. There was a large packet of "large seed mix," a packet of "small seed mix," a package of legume seeds and the mycorrhizae inoculant they included for those, a package of grass seeds and a package of the cover crop. Had I been smart or understood the directions better, I would have started the cover crop first and then once that was growing, there would have been something there to anchor all the other seeds if sown directly. I've since learned that there is an organic mesh you can buy designed to help hold seeds in place in a situation like yours, as well. But I like the way it worked out.

When I sowed them, I sprinkled some of each seed packet into the tubs I used so that each tub had some of every packet of seed (except the cover crop, which I did not use at all).

I intend to do this again this winter so I can install my own pocket prairie. The only change I am going to make is that I am going to sow the grasses separately in their own tubs. It's unfortunate because that removes one element of the randomness but it did not seem like the grasses could stand up to the competition of the quick-growing forbs. That said, it's important to realize that when I sowed the seed this way, I was sowing it far more densely than it was intended. I had a mix for 1,000 square feet and I sowed it into 6 tubs. I will change that this next winter and will spread the seed over more area but it will still be quite dense compared to space it is intended to cover.

One advantage to this has been weed control. We didn't have to worry about weeds. The seedlings in the tubs were too dense to give a foothold even to the ubiquitous Siberian elms. And by the time we planted out our "hunks" of prairie, the plants were several inches tall and it was very easy to weed around them as they grew and filled the spaces between hunks. No mowing has been required for weed control. I'll note, too, that they have received nothing but our rainfall for water since being planted out and we have been in the "abnormally dry" or "moderate drought" classifications for most of the year. I have been very impressed with how well these plants have done. I can't wait to see them next year, in year 2.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 12:32PM
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greenhearted(5a IL)

What a great idea!!

I have an drainage swale running through my property (from farm fields behind) and I want to dig up the weed infested gravel and plant a bioswale with natives but was not sure how to keep the seeds in place during establishment.

Thanks for sharing your process and pictures, Callirhoe.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2014 at 1:26PM
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gardenman101(Z6 Spingfield, Ma)

What a spectacular sight. Great job and looking forward to follow-up pictures

    Bookmark   October 16, 2014 at 8:51AM
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