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Creating a Native Landscape

Live plants:

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.

No-till drill:

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.