About My Prairie Gardens
The sun gardens consist of plants native to our prairies in Kansas. Prairies are generally devoid of trees and thus are composed of plants that require full sun.
To create my prairie gardens, I first had to open my yard up to more sunlight. There was a silver maple in my back yard and an Austrian pine in my front yard. Removing a tree is an important method to create a sunnier yard and allow the addition of sun loving wildflowers and grasses. These plants create important habitat for butterflies and other wildlife. Those two species of trees were replaced by a diverse mix of about 60 species of prairie wildflowers & grasses - a real benefit to wildlife.
All of these images are taken in my yard and are composed of plants native to Kansas grasslands.
Click on the slideshow to see larger images and more information about each image.
All of the plants in my gardens were started from seed in my vegetable garden. Once the plants were a few inches tall, I moved them to to my prairie garden. I used grass clippings around the seedlings to help keep weeds down. After one year, the plants were well established. Interestingly the tall prairie plants compete very well against weeds. Because of their height, they shade out the weeds. This is one of the most important methods of controlling weeds - planting something to compete with the weeds.
Initially I did not plant prairie grasses in my sunny gardens, as I was more interested in the flowers of the prairie. I knew that that the grasses are a dominant component of the prairie so I began adding them. The grasses give the gardens more structure. Some of the grasses in my garden include big bluestem, indian grass, switch grass, and eastern gama grass. Little bluestem and sideoats grama only do well where they aren't shaded by the taller perennial wildflowers. I've even added buffalo grass along the edge of my parking pad. Canada wildrye was added and Purple top established on its own.
As with any garden there is always some maintenance.Early every spring I completely mow off the gardens. I remove almost all of the plant material and use in my vegetable garden as mulch. Leaving the plants up all winter provides important habitat for birds and insects.
Removing trees from the plantings are a yearly task.This is done after the vegetation is mowed off and the stumps of the trees are visible. To kill the trees, cut off the stump and spray a brush killer on the stump.
There are some weeds that seem to be a constant battle. I keep on them by pulling them as they appear. The two that give me some problems are prickly lettuce and hedge parsley. Not surprising both are introduced from Europe.