Create Your Own Naturescape
as Cave-in-Rock switch grass, Kaw big bluestem or Cheyenne Indian grass because they have been selected for grazing. Their vigor can be overwhelming in naturalized plantings.
The time spent with ground preparation also allows ample time to order seeds. Make your order well in advance of planting time to ensure getting the species you've chosen. Consider including cool season grasses, such as wild ryes, with the warm season prairie grasses. They may be a little harder to find but will balance the planting by providing green browse for wildlife in spring and fall.
Contact native seed sources ahead of time, so they will have these species available for you at planting time. When ordering, keep in mind these seeding rates:
- 5-10 pounds of pure live grass seed per acre
- 10-20 pounds of wildflower seed per acre
The seeding rate for smaller plots is one ounce of seed (grasses, wildflowers or a mixture) per 250 to 300 square feet.
When you are looking for seed sources, visit with the nursery to learn where the seed came from. The closer the source of seed to your area, the better adapted the plants will be to your particular climate and soils. There are an increasing number of seed sources within the Midwest. A list of these sources is available from the Conservation Department.
If you wish to add grasses or wildflowers to your planting that aren't available commercially, collect seed from nearby areas. Collecting native seed is not as difficult as you might believe. As you become involved with the native species and become aware of flowering times and seed set, you will notice plants flowering in other locations. Make notes on their locations so you'll remember where to return to collect the seed. Collect a limited amount from sizable populations and only with permission of the landowner.
Sow native grass seed between mid-December and early May. Native wildflower seed should be sown after frost in the fall up to the end of January. Native wildflower seeds have built-in dormancies, and spending the winter in the soil helps overcome these germination inhibitors. For example, pale purple coneflower seeds require two months of cold, moist stratification to germinate. The seeds need to be moist and chilled for that length of time.
By direct sowing, the seeds are in place when the temperature and moisture are right for germination the following spring. Chances are all of them won't germinate the first year; some will