Sunday, December 26, 2010

Next Year's Prairie Project

Alright Christmas is over with. Hope you all had a happy holiday. But now with new years coming it's time to start thinking about next year. I've drawn out a vague design for next year's garden project.

The site is full sun; the soil is heavy clay; the kind that turns as hard as cement for most of the summer time. The first step I need to look into is killing the grass that's there. There are a few species mixed in but I don't know much about grasses. One however is particularly annoying. If left unmowed it grows to be about 2' tall which I could live with, BUT, it sends out root suckers from corms and should the green growth touch the ground, it lays down more roots. In essence it creates a tangled mess unless it's the only plant growing there. I want it gone.

The most organic approach would be to smother it with layers of newspaper, cardboard, and then straw. The trouble though is that takes to long. I want to plant plugs, and established plants to speed things up. I will be looking into a chemical method but if I'm not satisfied with what's out there, I'll probably settle on the smothering approach. I'm running on the basis that chemicals will kill 100% of the grass, where as cardboard will just make it grow around the planted plugs to various plants.

Because this is going in the middle of the yard I'm trying to only use plants that get to be 4' tall at most. Anything higher then that should be treated as an accent or placed where it will not obstruct the view.

Two plants I want to plant in companion are
Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa, and Aster laevis. See Here (Image taken from the Facebook Profile of Prairie Nursery). Note how well the orange yellow flowers go with the faint purple. I like this enough to want to recreate it. I'm also considering Aster oblongifolius for it's dome-like habit. Besides and island of Coneflowers and Black Eyed Susanas these will make up the bulk of the planting.

Tall Coreopsis, Coreopsis tripteris and Common Bluestar, Amsonia tabornaemontana are two plants I've had my eye one for a while now. The Coreopsis gets to be 8' tall, which seems outrageous for anything in that genus. The Common Bluestar is perhaps one of the most underused natives around. Sure it has blue flowers in the spring time but the summer and autumn growth turns into a light, and airy, evergreen-like shrub. The fall color is a wonderful bright yellow.

A few others I've considered:
Butterfly weed
Ox Eye Sunflower
Black Eyed Susan
Prairie Coneflower

I'll post more on this later in the year. Wish me luck.


  1. I love your drawing! I have the same kind of soil: the kind that gets rock-hard when it's dry. But I've found a way to remove sod that works for me. And it's VERY organic. In March and April when the rains come and the ground is often soggy, I take a shovel and just slide it under the sod, scoop up a shovel-ful, and dump it in a bucket. A bucket won't hold much but I also don't want to do much at each sod-removal session. So I work at it all spring. No chemicals, and lots of good exercise. It does take a long time of course---but I'm in the extremely fortunate position of being retired from work (and do I feel guilty about that?? you betcha! I feel like I need to hide my retirement b/c so many others won't have a chance to live this life).

    Is this a comment or a confession? Both, I guess.

  2. There's no reason to feel guilty about staying active. In Developmental Psychology we learned the people who live to be 100 years old all stayed active. (The teacher even went over a group of people that supposidly live to be 120. They live somewhat isolated in the mountains across Asia, oxygen is very low, they only eat some type of beet, and their daily exercise was to walk 3 miles down the mountain to the only fresh water source, fill up their daily supply cup and then carry it back up the mountain.)

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  4. I had only read about this garden from written messages, and agree, the drawing is gorgeous. Will you draw out my rain garden and prairie plantings for me? :~)