As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

Bringing Back the Prairie

Ever since I worked in habitat restoration in Minnesota during college, I’ve had a love and respect for prairies. Most people do not realize that prairies are one of the most endangered ecosystems in the United States. Their plant, animal, fungi and insect diversity is pretty impressive. Additionally, they rely on fires to reproduce and thrive.  Two years ago, I decided I would create a mini-prairie in my backyard.

Then I got chickens.

For their first 8 months outside, I let the ladies free range in the backyard. It was good for them, but not for my prairie.  All of the native grasses and wildflowers I planted had been eaten and my backyard terraced area where the chimenea and hammock lived looked like a cratered moon surface. (Chickens LOVE to make little “holes” in which to roll and sit.)

Two weeks ago Andy helped build a smaller confined area for the chickens in the backyard. Now that the chickens are confined (but still have plenty of room to roam), I have a backyard again! Within a few days of the chickens’ absence, the grasses began to grow back. Sometime this month, when I get some free time (ha), I will trek over to my parent’s neighborhood where there are mounds of cedar trees that were cleared (for houses) and then mulched; they are left on the lot and generally up for the taking.

Two years ago when I “designed” my backyard space and prairie, I hauled about 4 truckloads of cedar mulch to my backyard. The result was a beautiful backyard on a budget!

My backyard with hammock and Dino (both Bolivian) before landscaping and before chickens

My landscape guru friend, Greg, helping me

My finished backyard picture 1 (pre-chickens)

My finished backyard picture 2 (pre-chickens) with prairie in the background

Over the weekend, I sprinkled more native grass seeds. Today I sprinkled native wildflower seeds. Soon enough I will yet again have a [shady] prairie area with native grasses and flowers. I ordered all of them from my friend’s seed company, which is excellent. It’s called Native American Seed and is located in Junction, TX. Gorgeous area of the state, by the way.

Wildflower Shade mix

The grasses included in the “Shade Friendly” mix are: Purpletop, Inland Seaoats, Prairie Wildrye, Sideoats Grama, Virginia Wildrye, Plains Bristlegrass and Texas Wintergrass.

The flowers included in the “Shade Friendly Wildflower” mix are: Purple Coneflower (echinecea), Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Golden-Wave, Clasping Coneflower, Cutleaf Daisy, Drummond Phlox, Black-Eyed Susan, Scarlet Sage, Winecup, Butterfly Weed and Pigeonberry.

The chickens' new space


My backyard (post-chickens), prairie grasses starting to coming up in the background


4 responses

  1. Yeah!! I want to line my new backyard with native prairie grass and flowers from Illinois. If your friend has a source in the Chicago-land area, avisame porfis!

    March 8, 2011 at 12:12 am

  2. Yeah!! I want to line my new backyard with native prairie grass and flowers from Illinois. If your friend has a source in the Chicago-land area, avisame porfis!

    Thanks for posting the before-and-after photos. It makes reading a blog much more pleasurable when there are so many captioned photos!

    March 8, 2011 at 12:13 am

    • I would check out–maybe they have seeds that would work all the way north? You could write and ask them.

      And yes, I before and after and step by step photos. Too much text = boring 🙂

      March 8, 2011 at 3:57 am

  3. Pingback: Chickens = lawn mower = good eggs « joyfulinthekitchengarden

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