Today we completed an 8 acre prairie planting at Heiliger Huegel Ski Club near Holy Hill. We helped HH apply for funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and also did the technical planning. This planting was for “pollinator habitat” which means it will have a heavy concentration of native wildflowers blooming from May to November. This ensures bees, butterflies, etc have a food source throughout their life cycle. Of course, it will also benefit a tremendous amount of other wildlife, stop erosion, and eliminate fertilizer runoff.
To seed the prairie, DNR wildlife technician Angie Rusch brought down the Truax no-till seed drill. It was then calibrated to ensure that the seed would be planted evenly throughout the 8 acre planting. Wally Hembel, who’s family had farmed the land since the 1920’s, brought his 1968 tractor to do the planting. The tricky part about prairie seeding is that the seed is very different sizes. That is why the seed drill has 3 compartments; small, large/fluffy, and cover crop. Some prairie seed may be large and an ounce might be 800 seeds, whereas another prairie plant might be 250,000 seeds per ounce.
Prairie plants put most of the energy in the first 2 years into building enormous root systems. Some prairie plants, like compass plant, have roots that go nearly 15 feet down! This is what allows a prairie to last through every drought, flood, fire, and winter Wisconsin throws at it. The actually planting took about 4 hours with only a few machine malfunctions. Now, with thunderstorms in the forecast, it is time to let nature do what it does best- bring life.