Saturday, February 5, 2011

Native Prairie Plantings

I am working on getting my yard certified as a Best of Texas Backyard Habitat.  I have most of the requirements in place already.  I have 0.8 acre with a pretty good variety of habitats - more than just lawn.  A good portion of my yard is wooded.  I really only have one requirement left - water.  I had originally been thinking I'd dig a small pond, but I started the planning process of that and decided it would be too difficult to keep viable in my area.  I'd have huge problems with evaporation and even bigger problems keeping it filled.

I decided, instead, that I would do a water garden in a pot.  A local garden center, Dragonfly, has an outstanding selection of suitable pots and the various accessories necessary to turn them into a water garden.  This will be a perfect addition to fulfill the requirements of the certification program's need for water.  The water garden will have aquatic plants growing in it, and I would hope that it would eventually attract breeding amphibians.

Part of the certification program (not a required portion, but a suggested portion) involves reducing or eliminating nonnative turfgrass lawn spaces.  I already had a part of the back yard that was beginning to naturally seed with some natives (mostly little bluestem) and I decided that I would help the area along by planting a mix of native grass seeds.  I found a place that deals with a lot of Texas native plants, Native American Seed, and found that their Eastern Savannah Grass Mix suits my area perfectly.  It has a great variety of grasses:
  Big Bluestem 
  Bushy Bluestem 
  Eastern Gamagrass 
  Broomsedge Bluestem 
  Little Bluestem 
  Prairie Wildrye 
  Virginia Wildrye 
  Sideoats Grama 
  Sand Dropseed 
  Sand Lovegrass

I also purchased some American beautyberry seeds from them.  I'm attempting to germinate some of them indoors because I have a particular place I want them to grow.  The rest I plan to direct-sow in the woods after the last frost.  I got a bunch of wildflowers from both them and Baker Creek that I plan to plant in various locations in my front and backyards.

Garden Prep Jan 2011
Fun prepping the seed bed for the native grasses.

After talking to the wife, I've decided I'm also going to eliminate some lawn in the front yard in favor of some native plantings.  This area I'm going to be a little more specific about what goes where.  Native American Seed sells rootstock of a variety of grasses and flowers and I think I'm going to go this route for some things.  In particular, I have my eye on the big bluestem, indiangrass, and gayfeather rootstocks.  I'll probably also put down their Caddo Mix wildflowers here.

I do plan to maintain some section of lawn grass, but I think I'd like to plant buffalograss, a native turf grass, in the remaining portions of lawn.  It does really well on low rainfall.  Even though the area does get good annual precipitation, it's a VERY droughty climate.  Last summer, we went a full 2-3mo without a single drop of rain, so the more drought-hardy my plantings, the better off they will be.

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