Reconstructing a Prairie at the Medicinal Garden

Master Gardeners working at the Medicinal Garden recently turned an overgrown field into a lush meadow that attracts pollinators and is environmentally friendly.  Their intention in reconstructing a meadow is to demonstrate that a prairie-like space can be achieved within a small plot of land, and is a valuable alternative to turf.

Gardeners started with a planned burn of the field in 2020 to remove the intense overgrowth that existed there and start with a clean slate.

Over twenty seed varieties were planted late in 2020.  The mix include sixty percent grasses such as little bluestem, wild rye, sideoats grama and short beak sedge, with the remainder made up of hardy prairie flowers that bloom throughout the season.  To ensure even distribution of the small seeds, Master Gardeners mixed the seeds in ground corn hulls prior to spreading.  Rather than mulch, buffalo grass lines the pathway through the middle of the garden.   In spring 2021, new growth emerged and turned the previously overgrown field into a meadow that is attractive to both humans and wildlife.  

Reconstructing a prairie can seem like an intimidating endeavor. K-State Research & Extension in Douglas County, the Kansas Rural Center and Grassland Heritage Foundation provide a wonderfully informative electronic guidebook for the various components of reconstructing a prairie.  The guidebook can be found here.  To begin, why choose to plant a meadow or prairie over lawn?  Many animals depend on native plants found in prairies for food, shelter and nesting sites.   The number of prairies has declined, and purposefully reconstructing them provides pollinators with food and shelter as they migrate.

To visit a reconstructed prairie and consider its availability in your own space, visit the Medicinal Garden at 1865 E 1600 Road, Lawrence, KS 66044.  It is open dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.

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