[To see photos and stories of this prairie in other years, go to the links on the main Western Prairie page.]
I spent about a month and a half planting the prairie seeds. On days when the weather conditions were just right I could plant about 2 acres. The best days were when the snow was soft and powdery, and there wasn’t much wind.
Some days, when the snow had melted, it was difficult to see where the seeds were falling.
And on windy days when the snow was hard or had a crust, the seeds would blow across the snow and I couldn’t plant at all.
I finally finished the main planting on February 2, 2006. Here’s a photo of the last area to get planted – at the far south end of the field.
There are a few kinds of seeds that can’t be mixed with the others, and those took a few more days to plant. So I finally finished them all at the end of February.
In the summer, it looked like all of the other first year prairies did – lots of mowed weeds. There are areas where the only weeds are dandelions, and others that are thick with Foxtail Grass (Setaria sp.). Mike said he mowed a few blooming Black-eyed Susans – the only indication that there are prairie plants growing.
Mike has mowed twice so far, and he mows the middle section of the field at the same time. If he mows as fast as he can, he can do both sections – 38 acres – in about 8 hours. We always mow a lot the first year to try to eliminate as many of the annual weeds as we can. Here’s a view from the tractor.
The middle section (19 acres) is the one we’ll plant next winter. We like planting prairie after a soybean crop so, since Clif is planting corn this year, we’re not letting him plant this section. We’ll mow it all summer, and have Clif spray it with Roundup in the fall to get rid of as many weeds as possible. This is a photo of the middle section being mowed – so far it looks exactly the same as the section we planted.
Here’s Mike on the tractor – mowing some beautiful flowering weeds.
This is from the first mowing, at the beginning of June. There were two young bucks watching as he mowed – as the tractor came close they would run to the other side of the field, but then they’d come back as soon as the tractor moved on. Those weeds must be really tasty.
Here’s another closeup view of the weeds before mowing. It’s mostly foxtail grass here, with a few prairie flowers.
This is a view of the whole width of the field looking south. It’s such a beautiful wide view from up there with the cloud shadows moving across the ground.
This is a view of Clif’s section of Western Field – we’ll plant this 19 acre section in the winter of 2007/2008. This year Clif has planted corn, but in June the weeds were blooming and it looked more like a prairie than a cornfield.