The Suitcase Lady


June 26, 2018, 11:16 pm

My husband and I are working on a big project. It all came about because of a bad case of misidentification.

Our acre of land is three quarters meadow and one quarter little blue steam prairie. We worked hard for over fourteen years to get the prairie established. The meadow more or less takes care of itself…or so we thought.

Two years ago, we noticed some interesting tall grass popping up in the meadow. A neighbor identified it as Indian Grass, a desirable prairie plant. By the end of last summer, we realized that something was wrong.

The “Indian Grass” had spread wildly and densely taking over a thirty foot diameter area of our meadow. Somehow, we had a northern version of a kudzu problem in our midst. Action needed to be taken.

Research on the computer helped us identify the beautiful but invasive visitor as Chinese Silver Grass. It has thick, underground rhizomes, like spreading tentacles, from which spring the 4 foot blades of grass. It cannot be dug out by hand. So last fall we sprayed it and mowed it down.

This year, when the spring snows melted, we had a big dead-looking circle in our yard. My husband borrowed a rototiller and spent the better part of two days tilling the circle numerous times. We followed this up by spending hours pulling the chopped up rhizomes out of the soil. We did not want the “starfish effect” when you chop off its arm and the arm grows into a new starfish. By mid May we were looking at a patch devoid of all vegetation.

Several of our master gardener friends have told us that much of gardening is trial and error. We couldn’t agree more. After much discussion, we decided to turn the empty spot into more prairie. We made many mistakes developing the first prairie and hope we have learned a few things. Mostly we have learned this is a very, very big project.

Here’s a picture of what’s happened in the six weeks since we were staring at that giant circle of bare earth. Mother Nature took pity on us. Even though we still have a long way to go, hope is springing up.

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