Tom's Blog

Monday, December 1, 2014

Prairie restoration: winter overseeding

Winter came early this year, but fortunately the snow was light enough so our crew could get out and plant. Since most of our habitats are already fairly well established, our work consists mostly of "overseeding", adding new species to existing prairies.

Here Kathie is planting the Ridge Prairie and East Basin with lupine and a few other species that like the sandy habitat we have at this end of our Conservancy.

We often get queries about the best time to plant. Some folks think you should only plant after a burn, when the ground is bare. However, it depends on the habitat. Prairies are different than savannas.

Early winter is an ideal time to plant species that need cold moist stratification. When you look at this  planting site you might wonder if the seeds will reach the bare ground. However, discussions with some of the most experienced prairie restorationists have convinced us that this site is fine for planting without a burn. Why?

This site is burned annually, which means that there is no residual prairie thatch (see my recent post on this topic). Thus, the ground is mostly bare, so the seeds can get to the surface. The winter's snows, and lots of freeze and thaw, should work them into the soil.

The same situation doesn't exist for oak savannas. The leaves come down in the fall so the ground is now covered with leaves. For overseeding we plant the oak savannas in the early spring, just after our spring burns.

However, back in 2002-2005, when we were planting the oak savannas for the first time, we burned in the fall and then planted, as the photo below shows.


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