Text and Photo By Shannon Westveer, TMNCPC New Class Co-director. Condensed by TMNCPC Blogmaster Paula Dittrick.
(Full article can be found in the TMNCPC June newsletter Coastal Prairie Chapter Courier.)
When I stepped onto the Katy Prairie for the first time during Memorial Day weekend 2019, I knew I was a goner. It was love at first sight with coastal prairie for both me and my husband, Scott.
We returned home, walked through our yard envisioning prairie, and went to the hardware store for plastic sheeting. As with all good nature projects, the day ended with turf scalping.
It did not take much to get 7,000 square feet ready for restoration; Katy Prairie Conservancy offers many resources. The sun’s rays and summer heat did the real work (death of turf grass, 9 weeks) followed by the microbial and soil fauna healing period (thick layer of wetted carbon, 8 weeks). All 40 yards of mulch proved free for the asking and taking. Grasses won priority planting in the plot’s sunniest first half with all five grasses of the imperiled coastal prairie represented: Big and Little Bluestems, Switchgrass, Yellow Indiangrass, Eastern Gama grass. Purchased as 1-gal starts, the grasses were planted Oct. 1 and Nov. 1 along with various forb perennials.
Come February, annual wildflowers on the edges arrived on schedule! But those planted in the prairie also began to show. Salvia and Physostegia were the first to ‘pop,’ beckoning carpenter bee and bumblebee species. Other flowers slowly matured: Gallardia, Coreopsis, Monarda, Rudbeckia, Helianthus, Vervain, Conoclinium, Pluchea. The plants attracted more bees along with wasp, fly and beetle species.
When COVID-19 hit mid-March 2020, the prairie became our stay-at-home salvation. We wandered the prairie, watching and taking inventory of all the newly found life. We learned each species by its unique foraging habits.
Who knew there could be so many prairie dragonflies and damselflies? Meanwhile, bluebirds raised their family. Everyone should have a prairie to ease their worries and fears. Memorial Day weekend 2020 marked our pocket prairie’s first anniversary. What better way to celebrate than with renewed restoration: 1,500 square feet more coastal prairie to enjoy (and that much less to mow).
For the health of our environment, for the animals that have always been here who need our stewardship, for our own mental and physical health, I say start where you are, with what you have where you can … and don’t ever stop.
For more information, visit: https://dirtnkids.wordpress.com/dirt-play/pocket-prairie/