Prairie Planting at Holy Wisdom Monastery

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Paraphrased from a document written by Ron Endres and Greg Armstrong for the Wisdom Prairie Planting Day

The Friends of Wisdom Prairie had a very successful prairie planting on nearly 20 acres of what was agricultural land.

We planted this prairie at this time of year so that the seed can over-winter in the soil and germinate in the spring. In general, this is the most successful time to plant. Fall plantings take advantage of cold moist conditions to break seed dormancy. We spread the seeds by hand so that the frost works the seeds into the soil, instead of breaking the surface with a disc (this could trigger the germination of weeds lying dormant below the soil surface). There were three separate efforts happening at the same time:

Bucket Line: Wayne Pauly, Dane County Naturalist, lead groups of 20-25 volunteers walking in lanes casting a mix of seeds and grasses contained in 5 gallon pails. These were species that we wanted to grow uniformly across the entire site and included: smooth penstemon, bergamot, common milkweed, rigid goldenrod, black eyed susan, and little bluestem grass.

Dry Prairie: Randy Hoffman, a recently retired Conservation Biologist with the DNR, lead a small group of volunteers that planted species of flowers and grasses that like dry, sandy soil, such as lupine, pasque flower, prairie dropseed, etc.

Medium Prairie: Nancy Schlimgen and Ron Endres assisted by Will Mann handed out the bulk of seeds being planted in different types of patterns and patches. They gave unique planting instructions with each species. These patches of flowers that bloom at different times of the year will give the prairie character.

Not much will be visible for the first two growing seasons. Native plants can take a number of years to break dormancy and set down roots. Some mowing will take place to let the warmth of the sun and light reach the soil. In about the third growing season many species will begin to show up. In 5 years it should really begin to take shape.

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