Planting a Patch of Tallgrass

April 25th, 2009

Our town is nestled in at the northern edge of the Flint Hills, one of the last places on earth where Native Tallgrass can still be found covering the prairie in huge quantities.  There are several Tallgrass preserves in our area, and the Country Doctor and I love to take the kids to the Konza outside of Manhattan and the National Tallgrass Preserve near Cottonwood Falls for hikes.  We both love the wide open, wind swept, ocean of grass that is the Flint Hills.   (For great pictures, click the Flint Hills link.)




We have long wanted plant our own little patch of tallgrass on the further reaches of our yard.  

This Spring, we finally got the seed in the ground.  




Besides finding the time, our only other obstacle was deciding how to best plant the seed.

 The task was somewhat daunting as everyone we talked to gave us a different set of complicated directions.  






“You are going to have to kill all the existing grass with Round-up, before you plant anything…”

“You gotta get yourself a disk, plow up the ground, and then you can plant the seed…”

“First you need to plant a cover crop of milo…. then plow it in and the next year you can plant tall grass…”

“Get a boom truck… spray all the existing grass with Round-Up… plant clover…. wait six years and then spray Round-Up again.”


The suggestions and recommendations went on and on and on.  The Country Doctor almost gave up on the idea as he just doesn’t have time to follow all those steps and he didn’t know which way was the right way to go.   I absolutely insisted that we would not be spraying mass quantities on Round-Up on our land.  We have fish in the pond and plants that I don’t want to die and a neighborhood full of kids… I just don’t like putting poison on the ground for any reason.





Finally, I said, “Honey?… when God planted the tall grass prairie did He use Round-Up?  Did He plant a cover crop of milo first?  Did God get a boom truck?  Good Grief!  Sometimes we just need to have a little faith in the laws of nature!  You put a seed in the ground, cover it with dirt, pray for rain, and usually something will come up.”



And that’s how I ended up sitting on the tractor.







Which the Country Doctor has to start for me because you can’t just turn the key… oh no… you have to pull this knob, flip this switch, push this button, turn around and bow to the East, pump the throttle, jimmy the clutch, jiggle the handle, yank the hydraulic, and then you turn the key…at which point nothing happens… so you start all over … except this time you bow to the West as you aren’t quite sure which benevolent force you have to please before the tractor will start… go through the whole process again… and finally you realize that you are in park… or have the mower engaged… or are out of gas…

It takes about three hours to start the tractor.





And another three hours to get the planter that you borrowed from the USDA to work.







But we did finally get that seed in the ground. My best guess is that some of it will wither in the ground… and some of it will get choked out by the brome and the weeds… but some of it is going to sprout and grow, and thrive.  Just like in the Bible… except back then…


…they got the boom truck first.


  • OMG!! The doctors a farmer!!!! This is my post for tommorow, I just hadnt gotten it all written yet! Tell CD that we need some one with experience to run the seeder and he looks like he’s got it ALL under control!!

  • OMG – bow to the East.. *snort*

  • You do know that, if you didn’t actually want the tallgrass? It would invade your farm completely. That’s always the way….

  • Rechelle:

    I am going to hold that thought in my mind Irma… we don’t want it… we don’t want it… I’ll see if it works.

  • Good for you for rejecting toxifying your beautiful verdant ground with evil Roundup!

  • Lee:

    Yes, thank you for not using evil Roundup! My heart lurched when I first saw it mentioned. Every time someone mentions a Monsanto product, I get this look on my face and my husband starts humming Darth Vader’s theme song to accompany the rant that is going to pour forth from my mouth!

    Plant it, and they will come.

  • That sounds a lot like the process we went through in trying to figure out how to plant a native grass mix around our house. First there was the discussion about *exactly* which mix we should get. Then there was the back and forth discussion with a million self-proclaimed experts including a friend who is a landscape architect and the lady in charge of the landscape department at the zoo who mostly suggested poisoning the already present grasses (which my FIL refers to as weeds or craP grass) before planting the seed. My stance was pretty much the same as yours, and I’m happy to say I won, even if it was only because I pulled the money card and pointed out how much extra it would cost to poison our land and kill any little fishies and frogs in our pond or make them have two-headed mutant babies. There is now grass growing around our pond. I have no idea if it is the right kind of grass, but it is GREEN.

  • Myra:

    These are the kind of posts that make a range management major leap with joy. I am excited to see what kind of results you get! If I had my way I would tear up our icky, manicured fescue yard and plant it all back to native grass. I am sure our neighbors would love the 6 ft high grass and the obligatory springtime burn. :D

  • We’re looking to plant some native grass around our place as well – as soon as the contractors get their equipment out of the way. Just haven’t figured out what yet.

    I grew up on the plains and love to watch the long grass “wave”. I’m sure you’ll win the battle eventually. Those native grasses are pretty hardy. And good for you for saying no thanks to the Round-up. Evil stuff that.

    Now – anybody got a suggestion on getting buck brush under control? Besides constant strangling, er, I mean, cutting?

  • I found your site thru The Pioneer Woman, I enjoy reading what you blog about. We have a lawn tractor and a Model T that are the same way and I have just about given up on ever trying to start the things with out my husband there to do it for me.

    I can’t wait to see pictures of the garden you are planting this year. It will give me ideas of my own.

  • [...] back in April, we planted us a patch o’ tallgrass. Mike and I both love the Flint Hills and the Tall Grass Prairie preserves in our area. We have a [...]