The restoration of Native Warm Season Grasses (NWSG) and wildflowers is by far my greatest passion here on the farm.
We did our first project in 1995 when I built my house. I was volunteering as a teacher naturalist at Shaw’s Nature Reserve and discovering the beauty of our native flora for the first time. I decided that I didn’t want a big yard and lots of grass to mow, so instead I planted a small yard of grass in the front and back of the house and surrounded that with a planting of native grasses and wildflowers. I was hooked. The photo to the right is from my backyard.
After that I began asking Dad if I could do similar plantings around the farm. He agreed, although I think reluctantly at first. One problem was the cost of doing these projects. The recommended seeding rate for native wildflowers was 9 pound/acre at a cost of $90/pound for a good native wildflower seed mix. So, we started out with small plots and used the original plot around my house as a seed source. We picked the seeds of each plant as they matured throughout the summer and cleaned them. Then we would purchase as much seed as we could afford and mix it with the seeds we had harvested. The more areas we planted the larger our seed source became and the more seed we had, the bigger our restoration projects became. We have spread native grasses and wildflowers over the whole farm, through every field, restored glades, CRP projects and woodlands. It has given us a whole new dimension of the farm to enjoy. Not only do you get the enjoy the procession of blooms through the seasons but it also increases the diversity of birds, mammals and insects that use these areas for food and cover. If you love nature like we do it’s well worth the time and effort it takes to do these projects.
At about the same time we started doing all this the Missouri Department of Conservation was creating their Private Lands Division to work with landowners. We immediately contacted our new Private Lands Conservationist, Jennifer Battson. She was instrumental in helping us take our projects to a new level by using programs such as Conservation Cost Share, WHIP (Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program) and the various CRP programs. With Jennifer’s help we were able to receive cost share money from the MDC and Farm Service Bureau to expand our work.
I am not going to provide any details on the process of NWSG and wildflower restoration here. It is a long and detailed subject which varies greatly depending on the land which you are restoring. All I can say is do your homework and use all available resources before you spend the time and money required to do one of these projects. We have had almost as many failures as successes and it can be very frustrating when you end up with a nice patch of weeds for your efforts. Contact your local MDC Private Lands Conservationist for help. The Shaw’s Nature Reserve in Gray Summit, MO also provides educational opportunities and technical assistance. They have a great deal of experience. Another good resource in Missouri is Grow Native! We always buy native Missouri wildflower seed for our projects from reputable Missouri nurseries. The three we use are Missouri Wildflower Nursery, Hamilton Nursery and Pure Air Seeds. They are also very good sources of information. They want you to succeed and are always very helpful.
I hope this page has inspired you to do your own restoration project on you land.