My Misbehaving Prairie

wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I started a thread on the meadows and prairies and that is where it belongs but the forum is pretty slow so I thought I would post a link to it here.
My Misbehaving Prairie

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texasranger2

That Bee Suit looks like it makes a pretty good covering Skeeter Suit. One look and all I could think was.........THAT LOOKS SO HOT!. It made me sweat just to think of wearing it during the worst skeeter weather. Maybe different headgear it might be less of a pressure cooker? Is the suit real porous or do you sweat in it? As for me, I use the spray. I guess maybe some people don't like the idea. I hold my breath and spray an arm and then start walking into the wind, then the other arm, and start walking, then a leg and on and on to try to prevent inhaling. I've even used my good respirator I use for sanding to spray myself good around my neck and hair and keep from inhaling.

So with the thistles, I've noticed they are biennial if they are like the big pink ones I see most of the time around here. I'd imagine two years would be necessary to rid an area since there must be just as many small ones growing for next year's crop. At least you are wiping out the ones for year #3 by preventing them from producing seeds.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

The suit was hot.I had my normal clothes on under it also. The mosquitos were atrocious. More than spray on the arms atrocious. I was breathing them in when I went down their to check on things, before I ran away. I went down there this morning and it wasn't half as bad. The tank fills up with water and all those eggs in the mud hatch in a flood of bugs. The wave will recede in time. These are those HUGE native mosquitos not the small disease carrying aliens. God, that last sentence sounds racist.

Theoretically it would take two years but the seed don't always sprout the next year. We have a seed bank in the soil. These wet years breaks the bank and all hell breaks loose. We also have wind and my neighbors don't do their duty before the wind takes the seed. IT was less last year and I thought I was making progress but t last year and this year were perfect years for germination so I predict that next year will be heavy too, about the same unless the La Niña dry winter culls some.. But they are still half of what it was when I started. Last year was half of this year and I was really impressed by the progress. Out in the country there is a lot more seed in the wind than in the city. All those buildings, controlled plantings , trees and fences strain out the wild seed somewhat. I have seen seed come out of the ground that I pulled 10 years ago.

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texasranger2

Mara, I'm talking about what I see along the roadside, I don't see them in the city much at all except out by the industrial areas which I call the 'gettin place' although usually what you're a-gettin is yellow and in the aster family. Actually they are rather pretty off in the distance but then you know its actually bad news when it comes to wildflowers. Its sort of like the miles and miles and miles of yellow annual broom weed you see in fall around here. Pretty to look at but not a desirable plant and ewwie wow!.......how they multiply by the zillions.

DON'T LAUGH (or gag). I dug up a baby 'blue' stickery thistle from the farm last year and its now covered in buds getting ready to open, its in my silver/blue garden (fits right in visually at the moment) but the minute its done, out it goes into the dumpster. I really do think the plant and flowers are pretty, in the same way Prickly Poppy is pretty--- 'dangerous, stickery, pretty'. This is a highly controlled situation so I can confidently say..... there is ONE growing here in the city right at the home of 'Your's Truly', the crazy prairie lady.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I like the way that thistle looks but it can go on a rampage and I have seen fields of nothing but Bull thistle. Bees like it, butterflies like it, but Leaf footed bugs adore it. If you turn your back,you get way to many of them and the one can no longer venture out in the field comfortably because of head high thorny weeds. If I had one that I could keep my eye on and grab the spent flowers as they formed, I would do it, but it is one of many battles.

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texasranger2

Until it blooms, I don't know what kind this is but its got really pretty hairy light blue foliage, I was hoping its 'Cobwebby Thistle'. I dug it up last spring which is how I figured out they are biennial. I've been checking into the native thistles that grow around here and I'm sort of anxious to see what this one turns out to be. Its only about 2 feet tall so far but has lots of buds. One I'd like to grow is Cirsium occidentalis. http://www.laspilitas.com/nature-of-california/plants/206--cirsium-occidentale-venustum

Mine will probably turn out to be the old common Canadian thing. A weed.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

With biennial weeds, you can pull the whole plant, either flowering or rosettes. You have to be very thorough with it though and it is a multi-year process to deplete the seed bank on the surface. I spent many many many hours with a trenching shovel going after forests of mullein. I like to do it early in the year before they send up flower stalks so I can just leave the rosettes to rot in place. If I wait until they bloom, I first have to go through with a pair of clippers and bag the flower stalks and then go back through with the shovel. But, if kept up, hand pulling things like thistle (except Canada thistle) and mullein is very effective since they won't sprout from the roots left in the ground. Unless done late enough in the season, clipping flower heads alone I have found to be ineffective since they just grow more from the auxiliary buds further down the stalk.

At work we often spray herbicide then use deep plowing to "flip" the surface soil over and bury the seed bank. Then we spray the area run a disc harrow over it. Then do some more spraying, and then seeding with native grasses, plant a cover crop of either shorgum or oats, and then hopefully, in about 5 years, we have a decent patch of prairie. If the grasses take hold well at that 5 year mark, then we go back in and seed the forbs and shrubs. (This is a waaaaaaaay over simplified version of our restoration process, but the basic idea).

Keep after it Mara, eventually it will just be maintaining what you've accomplished, hey at least you don't have fields of cheatgrass! And we have a ton of crested wheatgrass that the Army planted acres and acres and acres of back in the 40's for erosion control....

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I am hoping that this year's favorable germinating weather and my denying any seed deposits has made a hefty withdrawal from the seed bank. I strip the buds off and bag them and then yank the plant. I have been told that any thistle bud showing any color at all can develop into viable seed if one just yanks the plant and lays it on the ground. I don't spend the time looking for little bits of color so all the buds are quickly stripped.. I leave the plants all in piles in the field.

I have seen this field change drastically over the years. The types of grasses are changing or my knowledge of them is changing. The cows ate all the cover off at one point and there was hardly any grass at all and it was fireweed. The cows are gone and drought happened and things have changed. We never ever had thistle when the cows were here but we didn't have grass either. Here is a picture of part of the field during the BIG DROUGHT in June, our wettest month.

This was during the 2 year burn ban we got piles and piles from some major trimming in the woods behind. Scary having that much material hanging around with fires popping up all around us.

Then the weather broke and they lifted the ban and we burned THAT day, Thanksgiving morning. We made turkey dinner smelling like smoke.

Reading your description of your process makes my head spin in its simplistic description. I have to do this on my spare time with a chainsaw , a trailer, shovel, hoe , hoses. you know, the minimal. No tractor , plow, pump truck, no PEOPLE, just me and my husband on occasion.... and very little money. I fudge my way through with very minimal knowledge. This is what it was like on the last La Niña

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

I feel you on the "disturbed site." The land at work was all homesteads and farms from the 1870's to 1942 when the Army kicked all of them off to build munitions factories for WWII. They left the former fields fallow and then planted the crested wheat. Following WWII, the factories that made explosives were converted to make a myriad of chemical weapons during the Cold War (in fact, only two places in the world ever made the nerve gas that produced there. One place was, obviously, us and the other was operated by the Soviets in Poland...) Eventually the Army leased the site to some companies to make fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, then it was abandoned for some time. All-in-all, it had been some 130 years since there was any native prairie at the site. But, in the early 90's somebody noticed that it was a hot spot for wintering and also nesting bald eagles. That's when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service got involved and started the cleanup process. In many areas close to two feet of topsoil was removed either because of contaminants or to cover the enormous HAZMAT landfills on the site. It has only been very recently that the restoration has been able to take place.

It makes my head spin too sometimes. Even more, the thought of trying to transform what was once a toxic wasteland into a thriving ecosystem (we actually manage TWO sites here in the Denver Metro there were once superfund sites, the second is not currently open to the public and used to be a nuclear weapon manufacturing plant). But, we are getting there. Bison were reintroduced in 2007 and we currently have I think 80-some head and black-footed ferrets, at one point considered the most endangered mammal in N. America, was reintroduced last fall. Invasive weeds are still dominant in probably most of the site, cheatgrass, thistles, mullein, the list goes on and one and on... I don't do a lot of the restoration work myself, the tractor operators and range tech's do that. I build a lot of fence and other misc. labor work, and did I mention fencing, haha.

It's true that we have a lot more resources available, and manpower no doubt. Seeing what you have done with shovels and only yourself and your husband is truly remarkable Mara, you should be damn proud of what you have been able accomplish.

Save     Thanked by wantonamara Z8 CenTex
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Thank you. I do one step at a time , And I try not to look at the whole thing. The way the wildlife plan is set up is that I work clearing brush on 1/10th of the land (1.7 acres) a year and then I have some other chores on top of that . I get to piecemeal it in an organized way. Each year I mean to go to Fire school but that happens in February when I have just finished filing my plan with the state and finishing the clearing and I am burnt out. I end up missing it.

I have mentioned my friend who just retired from running San Antonio's wild spaces. His swan song for the city was converting a cedar infested old dairy into a medium grass prairie. He had 600 volunteers to draw from . It was an amazing feat of delegation and controlled chaos. To say the least he had PEOPLE, irrigation, machinery, resources that I can only dream of, but most of all he had the amazing knowledge to use all of it to its fullest extent.

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Campanula UK Z8

Um, yep, I think I am doing things in much the same way, with much the same (minimal) input and much the same level of money (none) with 2 chainsaws, a eff-off big brushcutter (most expensive bit of kit) and a ancient little ride-on John Deere. And 50 years of neglect in a branble, hogweed and nettle infested poplar woodland. I read a few reclamation stories before almost giving up in despair - the casual reference to kilos of seed at several thousand pounds, the manic spraying and thick sand mulch over the whole area...and weeding. WEEDING!

In comparison, I am just growing lots of little plants and sticking them somewhere in the ground, slash and burn but mostly, just arsing around...but not giving up - most definitely not giving up.

I did that biennial thistle thing once Tex (also eryngium giganteum for an extra prickly hit) - a stonking great Scotch thistle onopordum acanthium. However, I only did it once.

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