prairie report Nov. '15 from Nate

Native Revegetation; Forbes and Grasses at Mustard Seed Farm
Fall 2015 report; summary and planning

Prairie Restoration.
This effort involves amending existing vegetation in degraded pastures above pond and south of house as well as road ditches. Reseeding has been done for 3 years as well as managed burns and mowing to weaken brome and encourage natives. The pond pasture effort has been complicated by a tree planting of nuts and fruit trees intended to create a food savannah and will eventually transition the area to a more shady type situation.
Planning here involves more transplanting in of competitive plants into brome in areas that will continue to receive sun and have less disturbance. I.e june grass transplanted from the orchard and dry-mesic collected seeds put in in Northwest corner.

Prairie/Wetland Reconstruction.

This effort involves large areas of reseeded ground to natives in the old conventional fields (2013) and the construction area around pond (2015). The prairie portion is going really well in the 4 acres of NE, E and S buffer. The NW (.65 acre) portion has some real challenge from entrenched red clover. Overall, non-native perennials may prove challenging, with about all possibilities present to some degree. Hopefully with burning (and some targeted mowing) they can be out-competed by natives. Seed was composed of local ecotype Carl Kurtz bulk mix, self-collected seed, and supplemental seed species form Prairie Moon and Diversity Farms.
The wetland portion, including the dry-mesic dam itself, has been partially seeded in the spring of 2015 (Prairie Moon mix) and wet-edge plugs (self-grown) put in around the pond and spillway. Seeding seems to be having some trouble with high clay content of soil from construction. Plugs did well with ample moisture and a full pond since a few weeks after construction. Oats were also grown around pond for the summer to help with soil erosion and a grass path with short fescue was attempted but struggling to survive.
Planning here involves a late fall 2015 seeding in the wet-edge (PM mix) and lower dam (Kurtz bulk mix), supplemented with collected seed. Wet edge plugs are in the works seedling-wise for spring 2016 to continue putting around pond. We also hope to figure out how to include some emergent species, which should probably come from division of existing populations in the area. We’ll need to locate those possibilities and gain permission and know how to make this work. Finally, the grass path will have to be reseeded and maybe relocated.
Orchard Understory Experiment.
In an attempt to create a native and forb-rich understory for a possible future orchard and perennial crop area in the 1.24 acre section just Southeast of the old homestead corner (cedar corner), a short prairie mix from Diversity Farms was seeded in the summer of 2013. However, with a combo of intense foxtail pressure and drought conditions followed by too much rainfall, native establishment has been very poor.
Planning here involves starting to establish where swales for the trees will be, then reseeding the areas coming in poorest (1 acres worth) outside of that. This may involve fall burning to free up more soil contact for the seeds. The area was fall mowed and is in process of being raked. Also what kind of mix to use and how much to spend are being decided.

Native Landscape Beds.
Since 2013 and earlier, we’ve been putting in native plants, most self-grown and some bought to create small beds and strips both inside and outside the garden. They’ve overall gone very well though we’ve had problems with quack grass invading them in several areas. In one bed as well, 2 plugs of Prairie Sage have dominated problematically. We’ve seen lots of good pollination services in the beds and are hoping other habitat services are being utilized. We enjoy the color and diversity they bring to the whole garden area as well.
Plans for 2016 include another at least 1000 self-grown plugs using the cone-tainer system. About 1/5th of those will be aimed for wet-edge species around the pond. The others will be used in expanding existing native beds and redoing the original perennial bed in the first garden section. In this 3rd year of using this system we are trying a few new species but are more-so using knowledge gained of the most successful plants from the last few years to emphasize.