The End of the First Growing Season
The leaves are falling and it's time to put the cargo shorts in the closet. The growing season is coming to an end and I'm sure you have some questions on how to put your prairie to bed for the winter. The fact is your prairie is still active during the winter months. The seed that was sown or has fallen is going through a cold and moist stratification process. This occurs as we have freeze and thaw cycles. Most perennial wildflower species seed must go through this process for an estimated number of days to germinate. Wildlife are using the existing plants for cover to protect them from the harsh winter weather. Everything from rabbits to native bees are depending on your prairie to survive.
We recommend leaving the plants up over the winter to provide wildlife habitat. There will be more time to cut it back in early spring if you so desire. In most cases, you can leave the prairie plot as is for the winter and stay nice and warm indoors. With that said, some of your pocket prairies are in areas with a lot of trees nearby. If you get a thick layer of leaves on your plot, you can rake them off and remove them from the site. You will also want to rake the leaves off to expose the soil if you are planning to over seed to add species diversity.
Keep in mind, this advice is mostly for smaller plots where it is feasible to complete the work by hand. For larger prairies, different recommendations likely apply and you can contact us if you have questions. We'll be back with year two bright and early next spring when the plants wake up. Prairie On!