It’s hard to get excited about what is happening in our little pocket prairie this spring. All around us, trees are leafed out and spring flowers are blooming profusely, while our prairie appears to remain barren.
But if you look closely, you’ll see tiny plants popping up, and the grasses planted last year are beginning to green. Prairie plants are generally summer bloomers, and they germinate later in the spring than many other plants. But they are germinating, and will soon make their presence known.
Another feature of prairie plants is that not all seeds germinate in the first year. Some will germinate this year, some next year, and some may even wait until their third year in the ground to pop up. That means our prairie will not reach its full glory for a few years, but the grasses and seeds in the mix we have planted were chosen to look respectable in the first year.
Once our plants have reached about one foot in height, you may be shocked to see that we will have cut them back to about six inches. Some plants may even have blooms on them, but cutting them will force the plants to put energy into deepening their root system, which will make the prairie more capable of withstanding the cold temperatures of winter. In the first year, cutting two or three times is recommended.
Patience is required to allow our prairie to establish a deep and sustaining root system that will keep it healthy in the coming years, and allow the native plants to out-compete the non-native invasive plants that will surely try to take up residence. In a few years, our prairie will be popping with flowers and a-buzz with the insects we’ve been waiting for.