Learning the intricacies of restoring prairie ecosystems can test ones patience at times, but with patience and the right strategies come results, sometimes in breathtaking fashion. One interesting prairie restoration method is snow seeding.
Does anyone else think it’s crazy to take a bunch of super expensive flower seed, throw it over a snow covered prairie, and call it a day? Before I spent two summers under the tutelage of Private Lands Biologist Mike Malling with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I would have thought this was crazy too. This spring we snow seeded Coldwater Spring prairie in order to boost forb diversity and you’ll be happy to know, there’s more to snow seeding than just throwing expensive seed in the snow!
|The weather was perfect for snow seeding at Coldwater Springs.|
Consider this question;
How does Mother Nature seed a prairie? Or rather, how does seed from prairie plants naturally disperse?
If you said “Into the snow,” you’re on the right track. But why?
Seeds naturally have a hard outer casing. This seed casing softens up, or stratifies, when the freezing and thawing of the spring melt occurs. The weathering action of this freezing and thawing increases germination rates for when the seed finally hits the soil in late spring.
The more you think about it, the more it makes sense. By seeding over the snow during late spring, we’re simply increasing the odds that more seeds will germinate and take root by emulating the conditions that some plants have evolved to take advantage of.
|Seeds were evenly distributed over the prairie by Jeff Stedman from Prairie Restoration.|
|The tractor went back and forth over the prairie many times to seed all of it.|
|If you look carefully, you can seed the dark seeds on the white snow.|
Please come to Coldwater this summer and enjoy the view! Remember to walk with care and stick to the trails, as newly planted prairies can be very delicate and even be home to ground nesting birds such as the grasshopper sparrow.