Tom's Blog

Monday, November 9, 2009

Great time for prairie planting

Now that the seeds have all been collected, work turns to getting these seeds on the ground. After an unsettled October, the weather has turned great, and prairie planting can be done.

For over 10 years, Kathie and I have been helping Madison Audubon Society plant prairies at their Goose Pond Sanctuary. Seed collecting begins in early September and continues through early November. Once the seeds are dry, there is lots of seed cleaning work, with the hammer mill, the fanning mill, and various other seed screening activities. The goal is to get the seeds into a state so that they can go into seed mixes and get distributed on the ground. Some species can be virtually purified (for instance: stiff gentian, wild indigo, potentilla, milkweeds), whereas others need only be stripped from seed heads and given a partial cleaning (for instance, most goldenrods and asters).

This year, Madison Audubon planted 9 acres of new prairie at Erstad Prairie, a 60 acre site 3 miles NE of Goose Pond. Erstad Prairie is adjacent to Schoeneberg's Marsh, a 585-acre Waterfowl Production Area of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and is a prime nesting site for yellow-headed blackbirds and black terns.

About 30 people participated. Some spent their time making seed mixes or finishing the seed cleaning, some helped plant the prairie, and others did both. The weather was unusually fine and the job got done expeditiously.

The "field" had been planted last fall to winter wheat, which was harvested in mid-summer. Later, the whole field was sprayed with glyphosate herbicide to kill the annuals and other plants which grew this summer. At the time of planting, most of the field was bare, with occasional annuals which had already died out.

The field had been marked off in 1/2 acre parcels. Five buckets of prairie seed were used for each parcel, plus another bucket that contained some of the heavier species mixed with cracked corn as a carrier. Two people were assigned to each parcel. Each person had the responsibility of hand broadcasting the seeds from two buckets, and the fifth bucket was shared. One challenge here was to be sure you kept within your own parcel. Large red traffic cones are placed at each corner as guides. You start out at one corner, walk toward the other, throwing seeds out as you go. The other challenge is to make the seed last through the whole parcel. After a bit of time, you get the feel for how well the seeds are going to last.

We started planting about 1:00 PM and were finished around 2:30 PM. In all, a great day!


Blogger savannagain said...

Were you seeding directly over the duff layer, or were you filling in bare spots? Will the seed germinate over all that thatch?

November 12, 2009 at 10:50 AM  

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