Tom's Blog

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Planting greenhouse raised plants

I have described in other posts our work raising prairie and savanna plants in the greenhouse. On Thursday and Friday three of us planted about 170 of these plants at Pleasant Valley Conservancy. We have about 50 more to plant, and hope to have this work all finished in a few days.

We use information from various books and manuals to decide where each species should be planted. The Cochrane/Iltis Atlas of Wisconsin Prairie and Savanna Plants is our main source, but we are finding the new book by Merel Black and Emmet J. Judziewicz on Wisconsin wildflowers also very useful. We also use our own experience from previous years, as well as our detailed knowledge of where these species are currently thriving (if at all) at the Conservancy.

An important detail about transplanting into nature is that each plant must be placed in an area that can be easily reached for watering. Ten years ago, when we first started with transplants, we discovered that lugging large jugs of water up steep hills was not a good idea. We needed to have these plants close to our service road or utility vehicle lanes so that they could be watered quickly.

In order to find the plants again, each year I set up a transplant database, using an Excel spreadsheet. Each plant is given a number, and we usually plant in groups of three. The location is taken from a unit number in our management map. After all the plants are set out, I sort the Excel file by location, so that all plants at a given location can be watered together.

Another minor but important point: we use a different color of flag for each year. Thus, 2006 plants have blue flags, 2007 have yellow flags, and 2008 have pink flags.

Once these plants make it through the first season, we let them continue on their own without watering. About 70% of the 2006 plants that were still alive at the end of the season made it through to 2007. Soon we will be surveying these again to see how they are doing.

I already know that a number of the purple milkweed plants raised from seeds and planted in 2006 are still thriving in 2008. A few are even showing flower buds.

Transplants are a lot of work, and are not worth it for plants that develop readily from seed. We only raise special species.


Blogger Pinefield Farm said...

I had pretty good luck establishing transplants such as golden alexander and wild bergamot. However, it seems that the deer just won't leave the prairie dock alone. They continue to go after the large paddle leaves. It's the same problem with tall tickseed.

Also, does burning the following spring damage the young transplants, or are their roots developed enough by then to survive?

June 5, 2008 at 5:58 AM  

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