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Native Prairie Establishment
Native prairie plantings take time to develop. Here's a look at the development of the prairie planting at Civic Center Drive and Nicollet Avenue near City Hall. This area was converted from turf grass to a native prairie in spring of 2010. This is not intended as a 'how to plant a prairie' manual and keep in mind that this is just one example of how a prairie planting progressed. Though prairie plantings generally follow a fairly predictable pattern of establishment, every planting is different.  Each site has different soils, different weed issues and may require different installation methods. It is important to research prairie planting techniques prior to attempting your own planting. The most important part of establishing a prairie is to be patient and give it time to develop. And don't forget to watch out for aggressive weeds! 

Learn how you can help pollinators like bees and butterflies by using native plants on your own property at

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Pre-Seeding - Spring 2010
This photo shows the turf grass that formerly covered the project site.

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Pre-Seeding - Spring 2010
The turf grass was killed with a Roundup type herbicide to prepare the site for a native planting.  Seeding took place a few weeks later.  The site was drill seeded through the dead turf grass instead of being tilled in order to reduce erosion issues.

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3 months after seeding - Summer 2010
A cover crop seeded along with the native plants was the most visible plant this summer.  Many different short lived weed species were also prevalent.  The native seedlings were very small and hard to see during this time period.  The cover crop provided erosion control while the native seedlings developed.  The site was mowed several times to reduce weeds, allow sunlight to reach the native seedlings and to prevent the cover crop from going to seed.

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1 year and 3 months after seeding - Summer 2011
Quick to develop wildflowers, especially Black-eyed Susans, dominated the site in late summer.  Prior to the Black-eyed Susans blooming, the site appeared very weedy and WAS NOT very aesthetically pleasing.  Most native plants develop slowly while many weed species develop quickly.   It should be expected that a prairie planting will go through a 'weedy looking' phase during the first year or two after planting.  Most of the weeds will disappear as the prairie plants mature.  Aggressive weeds, such as Canada Thistle and Bull Thistle, were hand pulled and removed.  Weeds that are not usually as aggressive in prairie plantings were not controlled. 

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2 years and 3 months after seeding - Summer 2012
The slower to develop wildflowers began to bloom this summer.  The overall diversity of blooming flowering species at the site greatly increased and different species of blooming wildflowers were present throughout the growing season.  Prairie grasses, like Indian Grass and Big Bluestem, began to become more visible and dominant this summer as well.  Aggressive weeds, such as Canada Thistle and Bull Thistle, were hand pulled and removed.

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3 years and 3 months after seeding - Summer 2013
The diversity of blooming wildflowers has continued to increase as the planting gets older.  There also was a major bloom of the biennial Black-eyed Susans and Brown-eyed Susans this summer.  More than 50 different species of native prairie grasses and wildflowers have now been seen at the site.  A few small pockets of aggressive weeds, such as Canada Thistle and Bull Thistle, were hand pulled and removed. 

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4 years and 3 months after seeding - Summer 2014
The prairie underwent it's first controlled burn in May and responded well.  Some slow growing, deep rooted prairie species were seen blooming for the first time this year, including Compass Plant (pictured above on right) and Prairie Dock.  Compass Plant and Prairie Dock roots can grow down to 14 feet deep.

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