Friday, October 28, 2011

Prairie Garden Addition

I’ve begun the process of expanding the front yard Prairie Garden. I sprayed the area with glyphosate herbicide two weeks ago and then did a second spraying ten days later. This addition should about double the size of the garden.

The grass is dying off nicely. I intentionally let it grow a bit long before spraying, so there would be an increased amount of plant residue to protect against erosion over the winter. The plant residue will also help keep the seed from blowing or floating from the site. Spraying is all the preparation I do prior to planting. As I collect seed, I bring it straight over and scatter it on the site. I’ve found that the wild collected seed seems to perform best when planted at the time it would be naturally falling from the plant. I’m very optimistic about what I’ll find growing here next year.

Seedlings and ground hugging plants were partially protected by the long grass and didn’t receive a killing dose of glyphosate. The second spraying should have reached all of these plants and they should be starting to yellow in a few days.

The established part of the Prairie Garden has pretty much finished its growth for the season. Except for a couple of aster plants, everything has produced ripe seed and most of that seed has been eaten or otherwise removed from the seed head. There are still some green leaves near the ground where they have been protected from the frost, but they will soon be gone. It won’t be long before some of the more eager plants are forming basal rosettes in preparation for next year’s flowering season.

I’m hoping to get a little different mix of plants in the new part of the Prairie Garden, so I won’t be using seeds from many species that are already well established in the old part. One exception is the Butterflyweed. Since I discovered the endangered Unexpected Tiger Moth caterpillars utilizing the Butterflyweed in the garden, I’m planting as many Butterflyweed seeds as I can get in an attempt to facilitate an increase in the moth population. I went ahead and harvested these seeds even though I hate to collect milkweeds after they’ve burst from the pod. If you can catch them when the pod first begins to split, you can easily strip the seeds from the unfluffed pappus.

Another plant from the established garden that I will try to encourage is the False Gromwell, Onosmodium molle var. hispidissimum. I’m hoping to have a large population of this plant, so I can attract the Onosmodium moth that uses this plant as a food source for its caterpillars. I’ve already scattered a few hundred Onosmodium seeds around the new site. These seeds germinate very well after being exposed to the winter weather conditions. I hope to see a lot of new plants next spring.


  1. How lovely that you know so much about plants. Ever since I've been following blogs about birds and stuff, I've been learning so much. I deeply appreciate this post:)

  2. Hi, Mona. I'm glad you found this interesting.

  3. Onosmodium hispidissium is such a cool plant. You've inspired me to add some to my backyard prairie planting. Around here, it seems much more likely to grow naturally in rocky oak barrens around the edges of dolomite glades, but I know it will also do well in variety of other soil conditions.

  4. PS - I'm not sure if you want to stray from natives, but outside of my native plantings, I like to plant the Neotropical Asclepias curassavica as an annual. This plant draws in every imaginable milkweed insect in droves. Indeed, near the end of the season, I often have to pick off a dozen or so monarch or tussock moth caterpillars a day, and move them to nearby native milkweeds, just to keep the plants from getting totally deflorated and defoliated.

  5. Hi James. I planted some Onosmodium in rich soil and had plants so big they were almost unrecognizable. I may try some Asclepias curassavica next year. Thanks for the tip.