Monitor and maintain site

To help ensure success, projects need a maintenance and management plan that is flexible and supports site development goals. While native plants tend to germinate and develop at a slower rate than ornamental perennials or turf grass, regular maintenance during the establishment period greatly improves project success. Regular maintenance and monitoring controls invasive species, ensures optimal moisture levels are present, and identifies other necessary management actions.

The maintenance of a native landscape can include many different actions:

  • Regular site inspection and monitoring
  • Mowing
  • Selective herbicide application
  • Overseeding and supplemental planting
  • Water control and temporary irrigation
  • Prescribed burning

Selection of maintenance methods partly depends upon timing, but other factors such as aesthetic goals, project size, and budget also help determine what techniques will work best. For example, for small areas or sites where chemical applications cannot be performed, target species may be removed by hand.

Regular site inspection and monitoring

Site inspection being conducted to ensure that the desired species are growing and no adjustments are required.During the first 6 to 12 months of a seeding project, it may be difficult to differentiate between the germinated native seed and undesirable weeds. Although some wildflower and grass species will be recognizable within the first year, it may take two to four years before the native plant community is sufficiently established to be recognized by most people. During this establishment period, address any invasive species that subsequently appear on site, to prevent them from becoming a larger problem later on. Cardno inspects project areas throughout each growing season to gauge native plant density and composition, and manage undesirable weeds.


During the establishment period, native plants concentrate their energy toward expanding their root systems. Mowing can suppress non-native annual plants without negatively affecting natives. Mowing also thins out the canopy, allowing more light to reach new seedlings.

Because most weed competition comes from fast-growing annuals, mowing needs to occur to keep these species from re-seeding. Cardno recommends mowing to between 8 and 10 inches high. During the first growing season, our team performs one to three mowing events, depending on the height and growth of the vegetation. If weed pressure is high, more mowing events may be needed.

Selective herbicide application

Many perennial weed species are best controlled through chemical applications. Cardno’s trained herbicide application staff uses caution when applying these chemicals, to minimize collateral damage to desirable plant species. Cardno staff has the qualifications to ensure chemical selection, rates, and application methods are legal and appropriate.

Overseeding and supplemental planting

Most native species grow slowly from seed, making it difficult to assess the development of a recently seeded site. Supplemental plantings are often used to increase diversity or to introduce conservative species to an established planting. Cardno can determine the need for overseeding or supplemental planting, typically by the second growing season following installation.

Water control and temporary irrigation

In periods of drought, small native areas will benefit from irrigation, especially during the first growing season. Typically, one inch of water per week is sufficient to encourage proper germination and growth. Weed pressure will increase with supplemental watering, which may then require more frequent mowing or herbicide application.

Prescribed burning

Controlled burns can be important to long-term prairie maintenance. Burning simulates historical processes that once maintained prairies. It greatly reduces the number of woody species and enhances the health of herbaceous species. It also clears thatch, making way for new growth in the spring. The black, burned surface absorbs and retains heat, giving natives an early start in the spring. Cardno has a team of personnel trained in fire management techniques.

For a complete guide, please download our Installation and Maintenance Guidelines PDF document.