1981 - Volume #5, Issue #4, Page #20[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Virgin Prairie For Farms Or Yards
"Most of our customers are individuals who plant a small plot of prairie around their house or farm. We'll send out seeds and instructions, or come out and establish the piece ourselves," Wilson told FARM SHOW.
The prairie, with its mixture of grasses and wildflowers, tends to take care of itself once planted. Most of the plants are perennials and will block out annual weeds.
"The prairie develops and changes from season to season, giving you the privilege of witnessing what few people from today's world have seen. The native plants and grasses are deep-rooted and drought-adapted so there are no brownouts in August. Prairie needs no fertilizing and builds up soil fertility naturally. In the same way that it created some of the richest farmland in the world, it will restore fertility wherever it's planted now," says Wilson.
Prairie should be planted in areas that receive at least 75% sunlight each day and preferably with firebreaks on two sides so that it can be burned off every two or three years. Most any soil can be used although care should be taken to eliminate existing weeds, either by tilling it for one whole growing season prior to planting or steam sterilizing the area before planting. This is because prairie plants, being perennials, need one year to establish roots.
Prairie seed is planted at a rate of 20 to 24 Ibs. per acre. Wilson offers 80 varieties to customers out of the known 200 to 300 prairie varieties. He notes, however, that prairie plants are specific to certain areas and that he often must work with customers to find local suppliers of seed.
Wilson says the prairie is not only an attractive way to decorate a farm or build a maintenance-free yard, but is a way to preserve centuries-old species that may be needed in the future.
"Some plants may have genes that could be important in crop breeding in the future or that could be used as crops. Others, such as Pale Indian-Plantain and Compass Plant, have a resin that could be used to produce petroleum. Besides that, true prairie gives us a yardstick by which to measure the fertility of our current farmed soils," he explains.
An established 3 to 4-year-old prairie will not spread, according to Wilson, and does not contain noxious weeds. Enough prairie seed to plant 100 sq. ft., hand gathered from prairie "nurseries", sells for $10. Wilson charges about $4,000 to "custom" establish an acre of prairie.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Prairie Seed Source, P.O. Box 1131, Des Moines, Iowa 50311 (ph 515 24422426).
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