North Carolina and other like-minded states have been working to develop habitat restoration programs for the most imperiled bird species in the United States. Bobwhite quail have become the “flagship species” among this group, but it also includes numerous declining songbirds, many species of mammals such as rabbits, pollinators such as butterflies, and many species of amphibians and reptiles.
In an effort to drive this quail habitat restoration, Garrett Wildflower Seed Farm has established large acres of Native Warm Season Grasses (NWSG) for seed production as well as growing habitats for quail hunting plantations and private lands. Experience has shown that every farm is different with variations in soil types, weed pressure and hunting expectations.
Establishing NWSG grasses, such as Little Bluestem, Yellow Indiangrass, Big Bluestem, Tridens Flavus, etc. can be accomplished with proper planning, site preparation, timely seeding and critical maintenance inputs. NWSG’s can be challenging and a commitment to inputs is probably the most important element. The second most important element is patience. NWSG’s can be slow to establish and the onslaught of unwanted weed growth can lead to failure.
To have successful plantings, you need an understanding of the following three areas:
- Clearly define land use expectations
- Site Assessment
- Soil Characteristics
- Nutrient Analysis
- Existing Vegetation
- Understanding of steps needed to accomplish successful NWSG plantings
- Understanding of realistic cost and future maintenance inputs
- Site Preparation & Planting
- Herbicide treatments for existing vegetation to remove weeds, fescue, Bermuda grass, etc.
- Soil Health – Lime/Fertilization
- Tree Cutting/Thinning for sunlight penetration
- Properly timed planting and planting techniques
- Required Maintenance
- Plateau herbicide treatments for pre-emergence control of weeds utilization
- Broadleaf weed control management
- Prescribed burning (not always needed)
GWSF has utilized non-traditional practices for establishing NWSGs to accelerate restoration. The first year of establishment can seem intense; however, early healthy growth is critical for long term sustainable NWSG population. Once NWSG’s are established, maintenance inputs usually decrease beyond the 3rd year.
GWSF can assist with consultation, planting and maintenance services.