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  • Writer's pictureGreen Iowa AmeriCorps

Growing a Backyard Prairie - Part 1

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

Why I’m trying to grow a backyard prairie.

Because, why not? Who doesn’t enjoy watching plants grow at a snail's pace? I know slow growing plants test my patience but being low maintenance makes up for it. Like most people, I am ballin’ on a budget. Last year, I bought four potted, native grasses for my front yard and they cost me $100. They are growing well but I want a lot more prairie grass in my yard and I needed a cheaper option. *Lightbulb 💡 , I decided I would try to grow my own native tallgrass prairie from seeds.

Why native prairie grass?

I know what you’re thinking; I didn’t even answer why I want native prairie grasses in the first place. I could have gone with rose bushes, tulips, or tons of other plants. I want to make a part of my backyard look like how 99% of Iowa used to look. I am originally from southeastern Iowa and I literally grew up in the woods (that’s what I always call it). My dad still owns those 22 acres of Iowa forest and it’s still the place that makes me feel most at home. For A long time, I thought that was what all of Iowa looked like. There is some farmland around my hometown but in my memory, it’s overshadowed by the trees. Even the Des Moines River, that runs right through the town, has riparian woodlands crowding its banks. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and began driving to concerts all around Iowa, that I realized this state was full of farmland. I went back to college in 2021 and learned why Iowa has such great farmland; It’s because Iowa used to be covered in tallgrass prairies. Mind Blown.

Above left: My dad’s woods. Above right: Younger self in the woods.

Does this story have a point?

Yes! This story kind of has a point. My point is: tallgrass prairies are absolutely amazing ecosystems that enrich soil, filter water and the list goes on. I will include a link where one can learn more about prairies. Going along with the old saying of never judging a book by its title or however it goes, tallgrass prairies are more than just tall grasses. They are sprinkled with wildflowers and sedges that add vibrant color and depth to the prairie. This habitat supports a variety of native insects, birds and other wildlife. Why have a little house on the prairie when I can have a little prairie at my house.

How was I going to plant a tallgrass prairie?

Now that I know what I am going to plant, I have to decide where I want the prairie to go, how am I going to keep my dogs from hindering its growth and where do I even buy native prairie seeds? These are all great questions that I intend to answer in my follow up blog. *Collective groan* Don’t you fret because I received the seeds in the mail today so the next stage in the adventure is about to begin. *Collective cheers*


About the Author

As sarcastic as she is adorable, Rachel always enjoys a good laugh. After spending 21 years working at Wal-Mart, she decided it was better late than never to go back to school. She joined AmeriCorps to gain experience and to help pay for her education. She is currently taking classes at Kirkwood with plans to study Environmental Science at the University of Northern Iowa. She lives with her wife, Amy, in Cedar Rapids. They have 3 dogs, Beto, Chimi, Bambi and one foster dog, Oscar.


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