Axial tilt is getting to me, so I thought I’d look back on some more manic times in our native landscape from earlier this year. Our garden was in its third growing season and its flora was closing in on 300 species native to grasslands and woodlands east of the Continental Divide by late in the season. We have dramatically reduced our lawn (still 900 square feet to be killed next year), and many of the areas planted in 2014 and 2015 had filled in nicely, reducing work and bolstering the time to piddle around making small adjustments and enjoying the flowers, birds, insects, frogs, and the occasional snake or salamander. I take pride in the garden, but I have to admit that most of it is built out of grief and anxiety. Invasive species march across our best natural areas while resources for management are slashed and Revolution-era bur oaks are making way for four lanes of traffic, but I can get home after work and “sedge” another fifty square feet of lawn, so I do.
I started the below strip of prairie along the driveway during the summer of 2014. I killed the lawn with glyphosate in May. I had to follow up and dig out quack grass, which sent up new shoots from its rhizomes between two and three months after the herbicide treatment. I got it all. It took systematic hard work, but at least I was helped by sandy soil. Now I will never have to mow or spray this area again.
I planted a matrix of prairie dropseed, little bluestem, and side-oats grama with some native sedges (Carex hystericina and Carex vulpinoidea) in the foreground where there is a slight depression that receives runoff from the road and my driveway. Together these graminoids serve as a living mulch and support what would otherwise be the lanky stems of numerous prairie wildflowers. It also facilitates burning the area off in late fall or early spring, which I am lucky to be able to do with little protest from neighbors or local government. I started most of the plants seen here from seed, particularly the grasses. I simply raked some seed into a set-aside area of the vegetable garden, which generated many hundreds of seedlings for transplant and saved a lot of money. I ordered several dozen plugs (e.g. the pale purple coneflower) and a few larger plants (e.g. New Jersey tea). This strip is now about 700 square feet in size, and it cost me less than $200 in seeds and plants. It did take about a year of dedicated weeding to get it to this mature and sustainable state. The same is true for other similar areas shown further below.
I am doing likewise on the other side of the driveway, but I’ve got a good deal more lawn there yet to kill.
All of the blue-eyed grasses and Robin’s plantain are easy to scale up quickly as groundcovers. If you order three or four bare-root blue-eyed grass plants for spring; you will be able to divide them into about twenty plants by fall. One division of Robin’s plantain can cover about four square feet of soil in one growing season (and yield dozens of divisions in fall).
Sigh…back to December. Pasque flowers are 16 weeks away.