Friday, March 20, 2015

Prairie Garden Mowing

The tall grass in the Prairie Garden looks a bit battered from the heavy snows it endured this winter.  The combination of strong west winds, heavy snow, and no support outside the garden boundary, caused much of the grass to be laid on its side.  Even though there are acres of similar habitat very close by, birds and other animals spend a lot of time foraging and hiding in this small plot.  This is one of the reasons I leave the garden untouched through the winter.

The new portion of the Prairie Garden has little prairie grass, so the dead stalks of various wild flowers are easy to see.  Birds have pretty much picked the area clean of seeds.

In the spring, I remove the dead top growth.  The process begins by cutting with the brush mower and raking the cut material from the garden.

The clearing away of dead material is done primarily to give me an unobstructed view of the developing plant life.  I intentionally crowded a large number of species into this small space.  They all grow naturally at Blue Jay Barrens, but it takes a bit of a walk to visit all of the areas where the different species occur.  The Prairie Garden specimens make it possible to easily visit the plants every day and follow the various stages of their development.  The recent heavy snow cover has slowed the emergence of many of the common plants.  Some species, such as this Orange Coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida, were already green and growing prior to the onset of snow.

Monarda has produced this growth in just the week or so since the snow melted.

The invasive Oxeye Daisy, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum, legally designated as a noxious weed in Ohio, maintains a cluster of green basal leaves through the winter.  This is the only specimen found in the garden this spring.  

I’ve been pulling Oxeye Daisy from the Prairie Garden to evaluate the effectiveness of this method in controlling the weed.  I’ve found that the pulled plant can be killed if all segments of the spreading rhizome are removed from the ground.  Fibrous roots don’t seem capable of regrowing the plant, but any small segment of rhizome will quickly reestablish the infestation.  Pulling isn’t a practical method of dealing with fields already filled with Oxeye Daisy, but it can be effective in dealing with new incursions into previously uninfested areas.

After raking, I go over the garden with a push mower equipped with a grass catching bag.  It’s at this stage in my management efforts that some people get the impression that I’m finally getting rid of the weed patch in my yard in favor of a cleanly mowed look.

It is now easy to see anything growing in the garden area.

The material removed from the Prairie Garden is hauled back to the vegetable garden and used as mulch between the raised growing beds.  By next fall, the material will be well composted and will be incorporated on top of the beds.


  1. Hi Steve... Up to your old tricks I see ; ).
    I hope when this snow is gone I have as much ambition as you. Our landscape is I believe permanently froze in time. ha-ha !!
    That meaning that it will unfreeze "in time" for it to start all over again.
    I will be waiting to see how free of Oxeye Daises your Prairie garden will be ;)


    1. Hi, Grace. According to the Weather Channel, it looks like you have a chance of going a few days without more snow. Maybe you can get a little bit of a melt going on up there.