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Before installing a native landscape, a site may need to be prepared over one or

more growing seasons. The effort required depends on current site conditions, in

particular the amount of non-native plants in the seed bank and invasive species

on site. Cardno can provide the professional assistance needed to evaluate site

preparation needs.

Identify any existing native vegetation

Some projects may have areas of “remnant” habitat present. Protecting these species

onsite or temporarily relocating and using them later as part of the installation can be

key to a project’s success. Cataloging which species are present within these areas

can also be highly valuable for developing a planting plan, because the remnant will

contain species that have adapted to survive at that particular site. These remnants

can also serve as seed sources for plant material if preserving local genotype is a

goal of the project.

Remove unwanted vegetation

Be sure to remove any weeds and existing vegetation that could out-compete native

species. Besides the usual aggressive invasive species, such as Purple Loosestrife,

Reed Canary Grass, and Honeysuckle, some of the more problematic competitors

include cool-season grasses, such as Brome, Clover, Tall Fescue, and other turf

grasses. If your site has a significant unwanted plant seed bank, it will likely require

ongoing control and maintenance, to ensure unwanted vegetation does not become


Several techniques can be used to remove undesirable vegetation. Hand

weeding can be done if a site is small or if there are a limited number of plants

to be removed. However, for most sites, either a more aggressive approach or

a combination of approaches is typically needed. A trained and licensed native

landscape professional should perform these activities.

Effective vegetation

removal techniques

Herbicide application

Works for large sites or sites with little or no

native vegetation. Selective use of herbicide is

especially effective for aggressive non-natives.

The number of treatments depends upon site

conditions, species present, and the presence of

a seed bank within the soil. Repeat applications

may be required for persistent perennial weeds.


Works for smaller sites when chemical use is not

desirable. Landscaping fabric, dense compost, or

grass clippings cover existing vegetation and is

left in place for a full growing season.


Involves tilling an area regularly from spring to

fall, to between 4 to 5 inches deep, to destroy

weed root systems. Because it can also bring up

weed seeds, cultivation needs to occur at regular

intervals, between 2 to 3 weeks, to ensure

undesirable perennials do not re-sprout. This has

the highest risk of soil loss from erosion. Plants

with deep root systems may need supplemental

herbicide application.

Prescribed burning

Can be used to prepare a site, but it is most

commonly used to maintain a prairie landscape.

See the section on maintenance for more information on prescribed burning.

Creating a Native Landscape