The Beautiful Side of Quail Habitat

Published on: Jul. 26, 2009

tail off to get them! Would you like your farm to look like the picture above? Here are some helpful tips on establishing native grasses and wildflowers:

1. Learn to be patient.

It may take three to five years to see the "flowers of your labors." You may not even recognize any of the native wildflowers until the third year. On our farm it took some plants seven years to finally bloom! The wait was worth it.

Over the years I have also learned it's sometimes best to spend two years eradicating cool-season grasses. If you don't kill all the fescue or brome the first year consider waiting another year. It's best to get it right the first time instead of respraying a field.

2. Site prep

Most fescue/brome fields will need two or more herbicide treatments. I usually recommend three or four. Even better, consider cropping the field for two years before planting native grasses and wildflowers. The multiple herbicide treatments will kill all the grasses and unwanted weeds. Say what? Three to four herbicide treatments? Here's how (this is a two-year project):

Option One:

  • Spring (April - May): Spray cool-season grass field with glyphosate and 2,4D mixture. The 2, 4D will kill most unwanted plants like clover.
  • Summer (July): Spray field with glyphosate and 2,4D if clover is present.
  • Fall (October): Spray field with glyphosate.

Option Two (preferred method):

  • Fall (October): Spray cool-season grass field with glyphosate.
  • Spring (April - May): Spray field with glyphosate and 2,4D to kill remaining grasses and unwanted legumes.
  • Summer (July): Spray field with glyphosate and 2,4D to kill grasses, legumes and broadleafs.
  • Fall (October and November): Spray field to kill remaining weeds and winter annuals.

3. Don't skimp on the seed mix

Purchase a good seed mix with a variety of wildflowers. Make sure most of the wildflowers are perennial. Try to avoid the taller native grasses since they will crowd out the wildflowers.

4. Dormant seedings work best

Spring is a great time to plant native grasses but a horrible time to plant native wildflowers. Consider dormant seeding native wildflowers and grasses in December or January.

5. Mow! Mow! Mow!... the first year, that is.

The first year is about establishing roots, not flowers. It's time to mow any time the weeds are knee high. Mow no shorter than 6 inches.

6. Burn! Burn! Burn!...

Try to burn the second and definitely the third year to promote the native grasses and wildflowers. After the third year consider splitting the field into management units to provide a mix of burned (brooding cover) and unburned (nesting cover) areas.

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