FAQ: How do I take care of my prairie strips?

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How do I take care of my prairie strips? Do I have to burn the strips? How do I control weeds and invasive species within the strips?

Maintenance will vary from site to site, but multiple mowing of the prairie strips in the first year is required to help with establishment. Prairie seedlings put a majority of their growth in their roots in the first year and will still be small seedlings by the end of their first year. It is necessary to mow the strips to control annual weeds or a nurse crop planted along with the prairie seeds in order to provide the small prairie seedlings with an opportunity for sunlight.

Care by year:

  • During the first year, prairie strips should be mowed consistently to a height of 4-6 inches. When the plants in the strips  have gotten about knee high, it means it is time for mowing. Maintenance mowing will result in faster establishment and a more diverse prairie.
     
  • In the second year, maintenance mowing and/or spot application of herbicide may be required.
     
  • By the third year and thereafter, maintenance will consistent of spot application of herbicide as needed and baling or prescribed burning of the strips if desired.
     
  • If prairie strips become dominated by weeds or invasive species, maintenance mowing and application of herbicide can be used to control them. Weeds and invasive species can be held in check by planting a diverse mix of native species in the initial planting and mowing the strips in the first year.

There are numerous sources of  in-depth information on prairie establishment and management. We find these sources especially helpful:

  • The University of Northern Iowa's Tallgrass Prairie Center. There website hosts numerous informational brochures.
     
  • The book, A Practical Guide to Prairie Reconstruction, by Carl Kurtz.
     
  • The book, The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook for Prairies, Savannas, and Woodlands, edited by Stephen Packard and Cornelia F. Mutel.

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