Creating a Native Landscape
Live plants, including plugs, container stock, and bare-
root herbaceous plants, are best planted during the growing season,
which in the Midwest is between May 1 and October 15. Spring
plantings are usually more successful, because the plants have
sufficient time to develop a deep-root system to withstand summer
droughts. If planting needs to occur in the middle of summer,
irrigation is recommended. If plants are installed in late fall (after
October 15) after going dormant, care should be taken to anchor
plants in loose soil to prevent frost heaving. Wet soils are more
prone to frost heaving.
Dormant woody materials:Bare-root trees and shrubs, live stakes, fascines, and brush layering
are all dormant when sold and
are best planted during their dormant season (December 1 through
April 15). This timing reduces transplant shock and allows the plants
to develop a root system when moisture is readily available. Fall
availability of bare-root trees and shrubs is weather dependent, and
winter weather can eliminate fall harvest opportunities.Install seed and plant material
Seed installation techniques
Cardno’s native plant experts recommend using specific techniques
to successfully install native seed.
For small (typically 2 acres or less) or irregularly
shaped areas, seed can be planted by hand broadcasting. To aid
seed distribution, combine the seed mix with filler materials, such
as dry sawdust, sand, or vermiculite. Mix the material evenly into
the filler material, which should be dry so that the seed flows
through the broadcaster. If not already included in the seed mix,
plant a temporary cover crop along with the seed, to stabilize the
soil while the permanent native species germinate and become
established, especially in highly-erodible areas. Do not use a heavy
amount of cover crop seed, which could smother the native seed
and inhibit germination.
Using a hand-crank or tow-behind broadcaster, start with half of the
seed and try to cover the entire area with that amount of seed. Take
the remaining half of the seed, go to the opposite end of the site and
cover it again. This approach helps prevent running out of seed, a
common occurrence. After broadcasting is complete, it is important
to use a cultipacker or roller over the area to make good seed-to-soil
contact. If a roller is not available, tractor tires can be used instead.
Do not cover seed more than 1/4-inch deep.
For larger areas and sites with existing vegetation,
use a no-till seed drill, which does not require the soil to be tilled
before planting, resulting in minimal soil disturbance. No-till drills
plant seed in rows by opening slits in the soil, into which seed is
deposited. Several brands of no-till drills are available to plant
prairie forbs and grasses. If using a no-till drill, Cardno recommends
following the specific manufacturer’s recommendations. Because the
diversity of seed sizes makes drill calibration a challenge, perform a
few test areas first to help prevent running out of seed.
Native plant installation
Prior to installation
After delivery, remove plants immediately from packaging and set
them in a cool, semi-shaded area until you are ready to plant.