Thursday, February 18, 2010

Some Obstacles and My Answers to Them

"I can't have a prairie in my front yard because no one else in the neighborhood does."
You can have a very very small lawn in that is designed to be an aesthetically pleasing simple shape and the rest of the 'beds' can be native plantings. You can push the limits yet still 'fit in'.
"Prairie looks messy and wild."
You can find books and catalogs that list prairie plants by height allowing you to design beds with taller plants in the center or in the back, shorter plants along the front and along walks and drives and along neighbor's lawns, and you can fill in between the tall prairie plants and the low prairie plants with medium height prairie plants. This is the same design concept that has been used for years in perennial gardens to keep them looking 'designed' and 'organized'. Planting in masses of each species of plants instead of in a mixed jumble also helps create blocks of color and texture that bring a 'tidier' look to the design.
"I can't burn in my yard so I cannot have prairie."
Most ordinances that prohibit burning of yard waste or garbage have provisions for maintenance burning of a prairie. You file for an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) permit and take that to your fire department to register, and they notify the other agencies such as police and emergency dispatch services. The way to get the fastest answer is to pretend you already have a prairie to burn and file the paperwork and see what objections you raise. Most people find there are none because exceptions have been written into the laws for these landscaping maintenance burns. Even if you uncover laws that are insurmountable, you can still maintain your prairie without fire. Your biggest problem will be the invasion of woody weeds such as buckthorn, Norway maple, boxelder, honeysuckle, multiflora rose, mulberry and others depending on what trees and shrubs are in your neighborhood to be spread by seed to your yard. You can remove these woody weeds to maintain your prairie with an annual mowing. Or you can just inspect the prairie a few times a year and hand cut the seedlings. Hand cutting them will result in resprouting probably multiple sprouts that you will need to cut again for several successive years, or you can treat the cut stump with a glysophate herbicide by spraying it directly onto the stump. This limited herbicide use will prevent the sprouting and reduce woody weed removal to a manageable chore.
"I need lawn for my kids to play."
There are dozens of lawns at your kids' friends houses. There are lawns at school and at parks. There are lawns by churches and businesses where no one will mind if you toss a ball around. Give your kids something special and unique and alive! Give them a prairie with some paths that circle around and some that dead end into little openings and they will play far more imaginative games on them. The plants will be alive with insects that they can observe and it will draw in birds that they can watch and listen to and it will attract cute furry animals and interesting frogs and toads. There will be pretty flowers and once kids notice those, they will notice the interesting buds that lead to the flowers and the amazing seed heads and seedpods that come after the flowers. Kids don't want lawn. Kids want novelty. They can FIND lawn in the neighborhood in so many places that you can afford to give them prairie and when the neighbor kids are jealous, you can let them come over and play in the cool wonderful interesting alive prairie.

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