Tom's Blog

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dealing with burn scars in prairie and savanna restoration

This is the time of year when restorationists are cutting lots of brush. Often, the brush piles get fairly large, and when they are burned big sterile patches are created. How to revegetate these scars?

Here is a suggestion that came to me from an experienced contractor.

As soon as the fire is cold, use a powerful backpack leaf blower to remove all  the ashes. The goal is to make the ground completely bare.

Then hand plant each scar with a good prairie or savanna seed mix. Be sure to include several grasses as well as a dozen or so forb species. Use a high seeding rate (~50 seeds per square foot).

However, even without planting, these scars should come back, since  soil does not transfer heat well, and only the top cm or so of the burn scar will be sterile. The important thing is to get rid of the ashes.

Incidentally, I can't recommend too strongly having a powerful leaf blower as part of your equipment. The recent Stihl professional models 500 or 550 are especially good because they start easily and really do the job. We have two and use them all the time for fire breaks, fire proofing around dead snags, and cleaning any area where we need bare ground in order to plant.


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