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
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.
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
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