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prepping new pollinator meadow without herbicide

 
pollinator
Posts: 195
Location: Charlotte, Tennessee
48
goat forest garden chicken
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First, let me just vent that I wrote a long, eloquent post and then accidentally closed that window. Taking a big breath and starting anew. :-)

Second, good news, just got a call from our local NRCS agent that our cost-sharing grant for about an acre of pollinator meadow was approved. We have three areas, each around a 1/4 acre, that we started to prep last fall. It used to be woodland, and then served as three timber decks for logging operations a year ago (arranged prior to our purchase of the land). Our USDA agent and a biologist came out last summer, measured the land and came up with a plan to have three cover crops prior sowing perennial seeds. This is the perennial seed plan for Feb/Mar 2021.



The NRCS plan also called for herbicide application prior to the final seeding. I told both the agent and the biologist that I was going to try to avoid that. I have been doing a little research, and even organizations that you think wouldn't use herbicide for new meadows recommend herbicide use. Like the Southeastern Grassland Initiative, Quail Forever, Knepp Wildland ...

So far, we've done two rounds of cover crops. We got advice from y'all here last fall, and sowed winter wheat, rye, clover and buckwheat. We did a second cover crop seeding early this spring (which the turkeys primarily enjoyed - twice!). I've been spot-pulling small shrubs and trees that are sprouting up, and am waiting for my scythe from Scythe Supply to do a chop and drop.

Here's what one of the areas looked like in May (with dog!) and July (with mostly-hidden turkeys).





Would love suggestions for non-herbicide plans that would increase our chances of success. It's really just 56-yo me doing the work. I have lots of time, and a little money to throw at this. We don't have any big machines, no tractor or anything. We also don't have water on site, but Tennessee does have pretty regular rains, especially during the winter.


 
gardener
Posts: 533
Location: Central Texas
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hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
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What will be naturally growing during Jan-March in the designated spots? I would think that would be the most relevant time period to deal with clearing prior to sowing.
If you have the budget to rent a tiller or disc-er, i would, in that situation, probably do a one-time soil disturbance and mix the organic matter into the soil (and probably spread a layer of manure or compost prior to tilling/disc-ing/plowing. Then sow the seeds in hopes of them getting a head start before the seed bank in the soil has a chance to get going. I know from experience that black eyed susan can easily handle and outcompete the typical weeds, as can some of the others on your list (BES can quickly become a monoculture by shading out everything else). I feel, once you get the pollinator plants established, you shouldn't have any issues with them reseeding and maintaining the habitat.
That's just what I would do in the situation, but others with more experience may have better ideas.
 
Erica Colmenares
pollinator
Posts: 195
Location: Charlotte, Tennessee
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Kc Simmons wrote:What will be naturally growing during Jan-March in the designated spots? I would think that would be the most relevant time period to deal with clearing prior to sowing.
If you have the budget to rent a tiller or disc-er, i would, in that situation, probably do a one-time soil disturbance and mix the organic matter into the soil (and probably spread a layer of manure or compost prior to tilling/disc-ing/plowing. Then sow the seeds in hopes of them getting a head start before the seed bank in the soil has a chance to get going.



I don't really know what would grow there naturally. The whole area is wooded. Disturbed edges typically get poison ivy, blackberry brambles and lots of mullein. The tilling sounds do-able. We could definitely rent a tiller. The soil is primarily clay, but it will have two cover crops worth of mulch prior to sowing the pollinator mix.
 
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