Journal of our Prairie Meadow – Part 1

Since early fall we’ve been working on turning an area of grass behind the building into a meadow of native prairie plants.  Gertrude Esteros originally suggested the idea.  Marcia Sundquist and I came up with the name: 1666 Prairie Meadow.

The grassy area is below and to the east of the garden plots.  It’s low, and very wet, so no one walks there, and it’s often difficult to mow.  We thought that a prairie would be more interesting to look at, wouldn’t have to be mowed, and would attract more wildlife.

Even though this area is wet, it will be a prairie.  The word “Prairie” means a grassland – an open, treeless area where the dominant species are grasses.  Many prairies are dry, but there are also mesic (medium moisture) prairies and wet prairies.  Often wet prairies grade in to sedge meadows – treeless areas where the dominant species are sedges.  (Sedges are plants that look a lot like grasses, but are in a different family.  They tend to replace grasses in wetter areas.)  Our meadow will have some sedges, but more grasses.

Dottie Waltz and I proposed the plan to the committees and to the board, and when it was approved, in mid-October of 2009, we started the project.

Here’s the area in September 2009, before we started.  This is looking south-east, towards the woods along the south side.  The weather had been very dry, but this area holds so much moisture that most of the grass is still green.

Another ‘before’ photo, looking north-east.  The northern edge is higher and drier.  The fenced garden plots are mine – they have native prairie plants growing in them.  After the spraying is finished, I’ll remove the fencing and the wooden edges, and the plants will blend in to the prairie.

Dottie and Marcie – figuring out the boundary of the prairie area.

Marcie & Dottie

I sprayed the field with Roundup at the beginning of October to kill the grass.  For Roundup to work well, the plants need to be actively growing.  The weather in October was so cool that they were growing more slowly than usual, so it took almost 3 weeks for the grass to die. On October 22nd, it was finally starting to turn yellow.

I resprayed some of the spots I missed.

photo by Robert O'Connor

November 13th – the grass finally looks dead.

Marcie O’Connor –  December 5, 2009