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Stewardship Blog

Stewardship Blog

Interested in hearing about how the stewardship crew preserves our properties? Learn from them with this weekly blog. Have specific questions? Contact Tim Schofield, stewardship director at (618) 466-9930 or tschofield@TheNatureInstitute.org

Prairie Beginnings

Hello again,

Believe it or not, right now on January 26, is a great time to plant prairie.  The stewardship crew is going to plant a small prairie on the Mississippi Sanctuary tomorrow.  It is part of our new program of changing fescue turf into small prairie plots.  This allows us to cut back on mowing, better usage of our time, less wear and tear on equipment, and less noise when members are trying to enjoy nature.

Heartland Prairie Restoration Day

Prairies are incredibly complex and simple at the same time.  So little is known about prairies, from the interactions of plants to the varieties of microbes in prairie soil that there are many opportunities to do studies of prairies.  The Nature Institute has been a leader in the area fostering these studies, with students from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), Lewis and Clark Community College, Principia College, Alton High School, etc.

The simple part of prairies is the planting.  A few tillings of the soil, a hand spreader, and rolling the soil, and you have prairie.  These small plantings lend themselves to great diversity; they provide a small colorful addition to any yard, field, border, etc.  A wonderful prairie booklet to get a better picture of planting prairies is available from the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources.  “Prairie Establishment and Landscaping” by William Mclean is an excellent resource to use for planting any size prairie. DSCN0459

There are many benefits of having small prairies in your landscaping.  Butterflies like to visit the many forbs in a planting.  You can attract different species by planting varieties of plants.  The milkweeds will bring in Monarch Butterflies, for example.  Hummingbirds, insects, small mammals are all attracted to prairie plantings.  You can spend less time on the mower and more time relaxing.  Prairie plants require less maintenance than annuals and last longer than the horticultural perennials.  Many prairie plants are still flowering after 20 years.  A couple of dropseed grasses grown from seeds, collected by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, are well over 200 years old.  They are located in Philadelphia.

Good luck on your prairie endeavors!  The TNI staff is always ready to answer your questions.  Contact us at the office (618) 466-9930. Enjoy the nice weather!

Timothy Schofield

Director of Stewardship

Much Needed Break for Trails Equals Restoration

Hello! Welcome back to the TNI stewardship blog. Many different things are happening at TNI; prescribed burns, maple and honeysuckle reduction, and the winter closing of the preserve.

 

As our avid hikers have noticed, we have employed the services of our best management tool available to land stewards. Prescribed fires do many tasks quickly, that otherwise may take stewards weeks or months to accomplish. The burns are the best tool to remove and control the dreaded bush honeysuckle. Most invasive species do not like fire. We can cover many acres in a short period of time. Fire also removes large amounts of fuel from the prairies or forest. This protects them from wildfires, and the non-native invasive plants. Fire is also needed for the regrowth of the native Oak-Hickory forests. Without fire, the acorns and hickory nuts do not receive enough sunlight to sprout. The burns also help release the shells covering the seeds. (more…)

An Impressive Time on the Preserve

 

Welcome to the weekly blog from the Stewardship section of TNI. I will try to have some interesting items and pearls of wisdom. Now is a good opportunity to see the white-tailed deer on the various TNI properties. The pre rut time of the year, just before mating season, is a good observation period.  The bucks (males) are checking out the does (females) to see if they are ready to breed. The bucks will spar and fight over the does at this time. It is advisable not to venture too close to an excited buck, give them some distance. A good chance to see the deer is to sit quietly against a tree, and scan the woods for horizontal lines. Plants, trees, etc. grow vertically. It is best to look for horizontal lines at 1-2 feet and 3-4 feet above the ground. Surprisingly most people try to see deer at 5-6 feet tall; they look really huge, when they run across the road in front of your car. In reality they are shorter than you think. (more…)