Garden Talk: Prairie Gardening

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show
epicnom (CC-BY-NC-2.0)

Weeds can overtake any kind of garden, but especially prairie gardens. Find out how to control weeds in a small or large prairie!

Featured in this Show

  • Native Plant Expert Suggests Tips For Weed Control

    From Canada thistle to Kentucky bluegrass to Reed canary grass, weeds love to take over any area it can, but it can especially be a problem in prairies.

    Neil Diboll, president of Prairie Nursery in Westfield, said that it’s important to control weeds when starting a prairie.

    “A prairie is a grassland typically with a strong component of grasses with many different flowers,” Diboll said.

    There are three stages of a prairie where weeds need to be controlled. The first stage is the site preparation period where weeds are eliminated before planting seeds, Diboll said.

    “The second phase is after you’ve installed your plants or seeds making sure you’ve got weeds under control. And it’s so important at the outset to make sure that you don’t let problem weeds get established,” he said.

    The third stage is when the prairie is already established.

    “By then, you’ve usually got the annual weeds under control and the biennial weeds under control. But, you may have some problems with some perennial weeds after the third or fourth year,” Diboll said.

    Biennial weeds require two growing seasons to complete their cycles while annuals require one, he said.

    There are various methods of controlling weeds in a prairie and finding the best solution is found on a case by case basis. Diboll said herbicides are an option for larger prairie gardens.

    Burning weed infested prairies is another option. When dealing with Reed canary grass, specifically, he said burning is possible because the grass is in full flower creating a fuel to carry the fire.

    If burning isn’t an option, mowing the prairie down to the ground is another way to control weeds. However, there are consequences to burning and mowing, he said. It’s important to count the cost of the animal habitats, such as birds’ nests, that will be destroyed.

    For smaller prairies, it’s possible to treat the land by smothering the weeds, Diboll said.

    “On small areas, you can smother (the weeds) for a full growing season. Put down black plastic or old carpets or rugs or cardboard,” Diboll said.

    If it’s put on in April and kept there until September, the weeds will be dead by the fall allowing new seeds to be scattered in the dead sod.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Cheyenne Lentz Producer
  • Neil Diboll Guest

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