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nrynes(6/CO)January 19, 2005

Hi all,

I'm new to the forum, but not new to Gardenweb. I've been hanging out on the Winter Sowing, Native Plants, and Rocky Mountain Gardening forums, but since I am now trying a short/mid grass prairie planting, I thought I'd start hanging out here too :)

My background is geology and botany, and I started my prairie resotoration craze back in college in Illinois. I helped put in and/or maintain 3 different tallgrass prairies (different sizes, slightly different ecosystems). I had a ton of fun doing it, so now that I have my own place on the western edge of the Great Plains, I'm going to convert part of my yard to short/midgrass prairie.

I live at 7500 feet where the foothills end and the prairie begins, in central CO (near Monument, if you want to check out a map). Soil is 2-3 ft of silty clay on top of a thick sand and sandstone bed, so I have what I call "well-drained" clay :)

I am "lucky" to live in a subdivision of 1 acre plots where letting your grass grow is the norm. There are only a few homes that have put in turfgrass - very much frowned upon by the HOA because of high water use (we're very concerned about water use here because of our dry conditions). Our HOA has already checked out my front yard xeric/natives garden and said they liked it - like I said, I'm living in the right place!! I've had a ton of positive comments from neighbors too, so at least I don't have to fight any battles at home.

Right now, my front yard garden is about 8000 sq ft and about 4500 sq ft of that is the xeric garden. This consists of "western natives" and a few tough non-natives like a little patch of lavender and some santolinas. I prefer plants native to Colorado and western North America in general, but will fit in a few well-behaved non-natives if I like them. My one non-native weakness is tough-as-nails roses - I'll admit that one up front. My big "western native" weakness is Penstemons - yes, I have Penstemania :) My favorite grass is little bluestem.

The other 3500 ft of the front yard is going to be a mini-prairie. I'm not going to call it a "restoration" because it's so small. I did about 1/3 of it last summer, and hope to at least prepare the next 1/3 this summer. The first 1/3 is planted mostly with blue grama, little bluestem, with a few plants of big bluestem and silver beardgrass thrown in (all planted as plugs I raised). I took my cues as to what to plant from the neighboring "wild" areas - little bluestem and blue grama predominate here, with sporadic big bluestem (yes, most of the seed I collected myself). Forbs I've planted so far include fringed sage and Liatris punctata, both "native" to the site. Penstemon virgatus has appeared on its own (yeah!!!). Dalea purpurea came in on its own too, from another area of my yard where there is a huge patch of it. Oh, and Ratibida columnifera (yellow form) has also appeared on its own.

My biggest problem will probably be battling the invasive quackgrass, which is why I'm doing the prairie planting a little at a time. I want time to get one section a little more mature before going on to the next. The other big problem that I have is that I can't really do a controlled burn, although I think I can do some of the "little bluestem torches" like someone described in another post :)

That's about it for me...anyone else out here on the western edge of the Plains?? I'm looking forward to chatting with you-all!!!


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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Welcome to the natives forum. i'm not on the western plains here. I am in the heart of the Tallgrass prairie in Illinois - i live east of Peoria. What prairies in Illinois did you work on when you did your college stint?

we always love to look at pictures of peoples prairies - particularly in a lawn please post some when you have some available.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 1:04PM
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I worked on the Afton Prairie restoration near DeKalb, the prairie at the Hanover Bluffs Nature Preserve in Jo Daviess county, and a little bit at the Lake-in-the-Hills Fen in McHenry County.

I'll take some pics of my little "prairie" come summer when things are starting to green up a bit (and after I've had a chance to do the summer's first round of weeding).


    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 4:01PM
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Welcome Nancy,

It sounds like a well thought out plan. I wish you the best.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 7:50PM
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oogy4plants(6B MD)

I am sometimes here asking easy questions or promoting native Eastern meadow plantings. It is interesting to hear about your activities on the high prairies. Your neighborhood sounds like it it really progressive. Great!

He he. I am waiting to try torching my little bluestem clump in early spring. Can't wait! Pyromania!

I am often (obsessed) on the Winter Sowing forum also. No better way to get new native plants.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2005 at 9:30PM
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