The backyard tarp garden was relatively uninteresting the remainder of the summer (promise), so I’ll fast-forward a few months. September was hot, real hot, but I was really getting impatient for something to happen. Looking for advice, I reached out to a friend who works for the Katy Prairie Conservancy and got a couple of pointers, but she also delivered something that was even better for an “impatient, prairie overseer” – actual prairie plants!
KPC manages a fantastic volunteer program, called the Great Grow Out that allows city folks to assist in the germination of prairie plants that will enviably return to restoration sites. If you haven’t heard about the program, check it out here: Great Grow Out. The 2015 Great Grow Out program was incredibly successful, so successful in fact, that space was running out in the KPC greenhouse! I was very lucky receive a small carload of some of the “overflow” plants. To all of those participating in the Great Grow Out I say “thank you” and I will do my best to give your little plantlings a good home!
I was concerned about throwing the plants immediately to “the wolves” (aka the hot September sun) so I had to devise a good place to keep them for at least another month. For some inexplicable reason I couldn’t convince my significant other to let me make a shelving unit with his gas grill on the back porch, so I southern engineered the best looking “shade cloth + garage junk” greenhouse on the prairie plot itself (I was very proud of myself!) My neighbors just smiled when I promised them that nothing weird was going on. “I’m just growing some prairie grass” I assured them. In hindsight, maybe that wasn’t the best explanation I could have come up with.
I also decided that I would probably want to scatter some seeds. For seeds, I went to two sources: Native American Seed and the locally infamous seed guru, Lan Shen! I ordered a bag of Butterfly Retreat mix (I’m a sucker for forbs, which is weird to say around some groups of people) and the Coastal Prairie mix, which came in the mail in about a week. Lan, on the other hand, made me work a little harder. “Sure you can have some seeds,” she said, and handed me some clippers and a sack early on a Saturday morning at Hermann Park. A few sweat-filled hours later, I had the biggest sack of American Basketflower seed heads I had ever seen. Let’s just say if I don’t get any basketflower to come up, then I seriously need to reassess my life goals.
With plants, seeds, and lots of hope, I was ready to install my backyard wildscape! Unfortunately, I still had two logistical problems to overcome…. a 30-foot Chinese tallow tree that was towering over the prairie site, and a very hungry and tenacious herbivore (who I have also discovered likes forbs!)
Next blog: Ode to a tallow tree and turtle trouble…