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Establishing & Maintaining a Schoolyard Prairie

Photos copyright Chris LaChance, WaterSmart Program Gulf Muhly Photo: Carolyn Fannon

Successful Projects…
Choose species you’d naturally find in our local prairies; GOAL – native local flora & fauna

Successful Projects…
Incorporate the prairie into school’s daily lessons, TEKS/TAKS

Successful Projects…PLAN AHEAD!
! Who is your team? Are they committed to this long-term? ! What happens if the lead teacher leaves – have a succession plan. ! Who will do the site preparation? District? You? ! Who will plant? When? What? ! Where will you get the plant material / seed? ! Who will monitor prairie regularly & alert to a problem? ! Who will do the regular maintenance per month? ! Who will attend regularly scheduled work days? ! When will work days occur? !Weekday during school hours? Weekend? After school? ! Will you use herbicides or not? If not, how will remove weeds? ! Who will do the weed-eating / mowing? ! How will you water the site if there’s no rain? ! How will you obtain seed / plant material for future?

Successful Projects…
Consider Future Expectations. Decide the height and “look” your team is comfortable with as the prairie matures. Plan ahead to achieve that goal.

Grasses only represent 1/3 of your prairie, Forbs (wildflowers) are huge component for beauty and function, wildlife needs

GOAL - variety of bloom times, shapes, colors.

Successful Project: EIH WaterSmart Pocket Prairie BEFORE

Site Prep – Sod removed, sand layer added May 2007

Sod removal: • sod cutter / backhoe • solarization • dig repeatedly • herbicide

Site Prep – Topsoil added

Site Prep – Pathway defined

Site Prep – Leveling planting area

Ready for planting

Raised Pathway –

Crushed concrete base

Packed pathway – Decomposed granite gravel surface

Planting Arrangement - Containerized plants

Planting – start from inside

Top Layer – Add mulch!

Ready for Seed Planting

Mix seed with fine mulch or sand

Spread the seed! Plant native seed, supplement with wild collected seed

Walk over area carefully to ensure seed – soil contact. Don’t bury seed

October 2007

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

Prairies Need SUN!

Remove woody species as they appear

June 2009

October 2009

October 2010

October 2010

First Season: Monitor regularly – weekly or once/month Know your plants – both natives & undesirables Remove undesirables before they produce seed Water to establish deep root systems

Monitor regularly, know your plants (notebook, digital scrapbook, powerpoint)

Recognize seedlings when they come up Water gently, don’t let soil dry out completely once sprouts appear Water until seedlings get established, as needed

Schedule regular workdays Make sure all volunteers can recognize desired plants!

Adult volunteers—Parents, Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, Business Partners/Community volunteers

Late Winter
Weed-eat or Mow once (Act like bison) Leave 4-8 in. high stubble Prescribed burn Don’t fertilize

Rake up and remove thatch Compost trimmings or use as mulch around the garden

‘Weed Dragon’ in use

Minimize pathways - Paths allow access, but also can introduce weeds Eliminate undesirables regularly, don’t let them become overwhelming

Second season and beyond
• Water during drought • Weed regularly

Over-seed in late fall 2nd Year & beyond

Involve your Students!

Lifetime Learning… Enjoy your efforts!

Native American Seed 800-728-4043 Weed Dragon – Coastal Prairie Partnership • Project Blazingstar • Coastal Prairie Plant Grower’s Handbook Native Plant Society, Houston chapter • Native plant rescues • Seed/plant swaps Texas Master Naturalists – native plant propagation projects • Gulf Coast chapter • Galveston chapter • Coastal Prairie chapter • Heartwood chapter

Photo: Lan Shen, Project Blaziingstar

Diana Foss Urban Wildlife Biologist, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. 281-456-7029 ext. 21 Chris LaChance WaterSmart Program Coordinator Texas Sea Grant / Texas AgriLife Extension Service 281-218-0721 Sheila Brown Habitat Curriculum Specialist Environmental Institute of Houston University of Houston – Clear Lake campus 281-283-3946 Ron Jones Wildlife Biologist, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 281-286-8282