Create Your Own Naturescape

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 25, 2010

some flowers starting in the second or third growing season, a native planting with bunches of native grasses laced with wildflowers takes four years or more after planting the seeds.

With that length of commitment, take extra care in site selection and ground preparation. It's easy to rush through this stage and start planting as soon as possible, but extra care spent preparing the site will cut down on the time needed later to control problem plants, exotic and native. Allow at least one full growing season devoted to ground preparation.

If you're starting with ground that was recently in tillage, you may only need to till the ground periodically through the growing season. It's helpful to know which crops and herbicides were used, since wildflower seedlings cannot tolerate some herbicide residues.

If your site is an old field or pasture with existing non-native vegetation, such as tall fescue or smooth brome, and perennial natives, such as tall goldenrod, all plants should be eliminated. You can remove existing vegetation by cultivation, solarizing or using a non-selective, short duration herbicide containing glyphosate (Roundup, Ranger or Kleenup).

The warmer weather in October is the most effective time to eliminate fescue using an herbicide. Always follow label directions exactly when using any herbicide. Remove the litter by raking or burning where permitted.

Spot herbicide application or light tillage throughout the next growing season helps to eliminate emerging fescue seedlings and perennial weeds. Native seeds need a firm seed base and exposed soil to germinate.

You may also remove existing vegetation by solarizing or smothering the area with large sheets of plastic or tarps, anchoring the edges and leaving the covering for the entire growing season.

While you're waiting for the ground to be ready, there is time to decide what species you would like to plant and to find sources for the seed. Contact sources shown here to talk about what you wish to plant. They are knowledgeable about native plant seed and will help match the right species to your site.

Most people find medium height grasses, such as little bluestem, prairie dropseed, broomsedge and sideoats grama, more suitable for backyard plantings, and use the tall grasses as accent plants. Add the tall grasses, like big bluestem and Indian grass, to the medium height grasses for larger plantings and acreages. Grasses for shady areas include wild ryes, bottlebrush grasses and river oats.

Avoid using cultivars of the warm season grasses, such

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