Restore Your Land with a Pocket Prairie

Take a moment to look outside your window, or take a stroll in your backyard. Imagine what that very land used to look like before it was ever settled on or used for agriculture or development. The land may have been any type of landscape such as; a meadow/prairie full of grasses, a wetland with lots of frogs, a forest where deer made refuge, a bushland where pheasants made nests, a savannah where buffalo roamed, or a desert with tall cacti.

There is no yard or space too small to restore that land back into something more ecologically meaningful. While you may not be able to restore it into its original pre-settlement landscape, you can still adopt an ecologically beneficial landscape to restore it to.

If you’d like to spend more time with birds, butterflies, and pretty flowers than with your lawnmower, why not convert some land into a pocket prairie?

A prairie I created at the Berea Municipal Utilities building


The term prairie, usually elludes visions of an expanse of land. However, prairies are not limited by size. A pocket prairie would be a prairie on a miniature scale; it could be 5’x5′ or 30’x30′. They are a perfect solution to restoring a bit of land on an average suburban lot, a downtown front yard, or a given space at a church or school.

Native plants that grow in your region are the necessary tool to create a pocket prairie. Plant matter, that insects recognize, are the food and shelter they need to survive. Insects are the building block of our entire food chain. Native plants are the ones they can utilize best.

Since implementing more garden spaces at my house, I’ve seen a frog and toad population grow even on my small suburban lot. It’s fun to watch them gather on the back porch at night, waiting to see what bugs they can eat that night. I’m sure they’re eating plenty of slugs!

If you have a slug problem on your hostas or lettuces, create some habitat for toads to live, and they might take care of the problem.

Fritillary on Purple Coneflower


For a pocket prairie, you’ll want to choose native plants that give you the most for your time and dollar. That means, ones that are most ecologically beneficial: long time bloomers or ones that really draw in the pollinators.

For my clients who want a pollinator garden and have really limited space, I curate a plant palette that is going to attract the most pollinators throughout the whole season from spring into fall. However, there is an even more important step to pick out the plants that will work with the microclimate of your garden first.

Don’t be afraid to use native plants that get tall, such as 7′ joe pye. Taller plants can be some of the most beneficial to wildlife, especially for birds.

Depending on the given space, you may want to avoid plants that like to spread, such as silphiums (though absolutely beautiful!). If you’ll be creating a larger pocket prairie, don’t mind it being ‘wilder’, and it’s located in a space where it will be mowed around, by all means, include them.

Pick out a spot in your yard, prepare the ground, and plant away with pollinator friendly native plants. Before you purchase plants, make sure they have not been treated with neonicitinoids. Go with a grower that does not use these deadly insecticides in their plants.

First try local garden centers where the sales associates will hopefully know more about the plants. Avoid big box garden centers, which may purchase plants from growers who use them. If you or the sales associate is unsure, take a pass. No one wants to draw in pollinators only to succumb them to their doom!

Cecropia Caterpillar