Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The prairie homesteader's garden: planting the grasses

A few years ago, I scattered some buffalo grass/blue grama seeds (BG/BG) in an area at the rear of the back yard that the former owners used as a dog run. I thought it might be nice to establish a little vegetable garden there, and I wanted it to look like it belonged on a prairie. I had in mind something like a kitchen garden that a woman homesteader might have had outside the door of a sod hut--some heirloom vegetables in a tidy plot, with perhaps some pretty prairie flowers for color, and an antique rose or two to remind her of the place she had left behind. All this would be surrounded by soft prairie grasses.

I've been slow getting the prairie homesteader's garden going--other areas of the garden, and life, seemed to need my attention first--but I did throw those seeds down, and pictured yellow grasses someday gently waving in the afternoon wind.

It's a trick to water in new lawns, since you can't really walk on the little seedlings, but you end up doing so anyway in order to reach all the areas that need soaking. I had some big flagstones lying around, and I put them down so I'd have a place to tread. But I didn't get around to setting them in the ground (they were heavy, it was hot--you know the story...), so they wobbled a lot when I walked on them. After awhile, it got to be annoying--stepping onto a stone, wobbling, dragging the hose over, wobbling some more, then stepping cautiously onto the next stone and wobbling and dragging some more--and like all annoying projects, I soon lost interest.

Still, some of that seed persisted, needing no help from me, thank you very much. And where it did survive, it formed a tough, thick mat that seems to choke back the crab grass and green foxtail that spring up every time we get a good rain.

This year I thought I'd do it right, and set the stones properly before seeding, so today was that little chore. Here are some photos of the process. This is a shot showing one of the stones being set into the path. (To the left, between the vegetable plot and the stone-lined garlic bed, you can see some of the original BG/BG.)

This next shot shows the stones from the opposite view, before seeding. This cedar picket fence is where I'd like to plant some antique roses and prairie flowers to go along with the irises and lavender that are already there (the crab grass is outa here, however...).

And here is again, after seeding, with the future cold frame in place to show me where not to bother scattering the seeds:

And finally, a shot of the path after everything has been tamped in and watered for the first time. I think the stones make it look like an inviting place to spend a morning:
It's late for sowing the seed--about six weeks before we might get the first hard freeze, and I really need two months (maybe it will be late this year)--but I've got my fingers crossed. If it doesn't survive, I'll try again in the spring. The hard part--tilling and setting the stones--is already done.

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