This was the first prairie planted (year 1998). Its
location is shown on the Management
Map. At the time of planting, this field had been
in the Conservation Reserve Program for ten years and
was about to be renewed. By planting to prairie, we received
some extra credits for the renewal.
This 3.5 acre field had been cropped for many years,
but because of the topgraphy, plowing was suspended on
the north and east edge of the field when tractors began
to be used. After they were idle, both of these areas
turned into prairie remnants. On the north side there
was (and still is) a fine population of white wild indigo
(Baptisia alba). On the east edge significant
populations of round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza
capitata), showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa),
and flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata) were
present. These served as seed sources for planting the
new prairie and for other parts of the Conservancy.
Procedure for establishing the prairie.
In the spring of 1998, the field to be planted was burned.
After it greened up, the vegetation, almost all nonnative,
was killed by two rounds of herbicide treatment. The first
treatment, at the end of May, was a mixture of glyphosate
and 2,4-D. At the end of September the field, heavy in
weeds, was mowed and the cut matter removed from the field
(to remove many weed seeds). In October the field was
treated again, with glyphosphate alone. In early November,
the field was burned, which removed some of the dry thatch.
At the time of planting, there was little vegetation and
much bare ground (see photo). (In retrospect, more glyphosate
treatments should have been done before this field was
Planting was done by hand broadcasting by a group of
10 volunteers. Seeds of over 60 species of prairie grasses
and forbs were planted, all hand-collected from other
places on the Conservancy or from near-by locations. In
addition to this general "seed mix", two areas
of the field were marked as "forbs areas" and
given extra amounts of the more showy species.
After planting, a tractor pulled a "Cultipack"
unit across the field to rough up the soil and mix the
seeds with the top layer of soil. (This procedure had
been recommended but was probably not necessary. Since
2002 successful prairies have been planted without this
As anticipated, in the
summer of 1999 this planted field produced a fine crop
of weeds! The weeds were mowed twice with a bush hog set
to mow 6 inches high. At that height, the tiny prairie
plants were spared, but the weeds were cut and prevented
In April 2000 the field
was burned and the field allowed to develop. By mid-summer
2000 (2nd growing season) there were still many weeds,
but many prairie plants were also seen, including black-eyed
susan, wild indigo, spiked lobelia, great blue lobelia,
yellow coneflower, rosin weed, showy goldenrod, Kalm's
brome, Indian grass, sky blue aster, evening primrose,
New England aster, white vervain, blue vervain, gray goldenrod,
and milk vetch. The field was mowed again in mid-August.
Despite this mowing, some Indian grass went ahead and
set seed. Ox-eye daisy, a nonnative weed, was a large
problem on this field, and extensive hand weeding was
done. Later in the season, hand weeding of Queen Anne's
Lace was also done.
In 2001 (third growing
season), the prairie (we no longer need to call it a "field")
was developing very well. It was dubbed "Toby's Prairie"
in honor of the then recently departed mascot of the Pleasant
Valley Conservancy (see photo at top of this page). Because
it had been mowed in late summer 2000, there was insufficient
fuel for a controlled burn in 2001 but there was a lot
of diversity. By September, the Indian grass had developed
extremely well, and was used as a source of seed for collecting.
Both ox-eye daisy and Queen Anne's Lace were still a problem
and were weeded by hand. Because of the size of the field,
this weeding took 4 people about 3 days. Some especially
bad areas were mowed with a brush cutter. Despite weeding,
there was a good stand of prairie grasses, especially
Indian grass, and lots of forbs.
In early April 2002, a
very successful burn of this prairie was done. Prairie
plants did very well that summer (fourth growing season),
and the weed problem was less. Only scattered hand weeding
was done. The prairie now served as an excellent source
of seeds for planting another large field (Valley Prairie).
It was burned again in 2003 and in that year we collected
over 50 pounds of Indian grass seed from this prairie.
It was burned again in 2004 and again served as a major
source of Indian grass seed. Except for one exception, this prairie continues to be burned annually, generally in the spring, although occasionally in the fall.
|Burning the N side of Toby's Prairie, April 2008. Because of the lush Indian grass, this prairie always burns well.
One year, as an experiment, only one side of Toby's Prairie was burned. The burned side grew much better than the undburned side. Research has shown that burns stimulate prairie growth primarily because the thick thatch from the previous year is eliminated, thus greatly increasing the light reaching the newly plants. At Toby's Prairie, the burned side was almost 2 weeks ahead of the unburned side, and seed set was much better.
The photo above shows Toby's Prairie in the winter after only the South side was burned. Note the striking difference in prairie between the two sides.
The species check list
for Toby's Prairie is given in the table below. Photos of most of
these species are given in the complete
species check list,