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

EARTHeim on Lexington Community Radio

Live Green Lexington has as weekly radio show on the Lexington Community Radio 93.9FM at Mondays 11am. The show is about different environmental issues and events occurring in Lexington. Past episodes can be listened to on SoundCloud. Listen to two episodes with EARTHeim.

Ep. 19.3 Green Check

EARTHeim speaks about its experience becoming Silver certified in the Green Check Lexington program in 2019.

Ep. 16.2 Plant By Numbers

EARTHeim speaks about the Plant By Numbers program with LFUCG

Ecological Landscaping

Ecological landscaping is the design, build, and maintenance of landscaped spaces while considering the natural ecology of an area. Ecological landscape designers create gardens that enhance the surrounding environment for the benefit of humans and all other life forms within the ecosystem too.

Ecological landscape designers may concentrate on rain gardens, pollinator and wildlife gardens, stream buffer restoration, prairie restoration, bioremediation, permeable paving, or bio-swales for example.

Ecological landscaping uses the wisdom learned from natural systems, and strives to create a balance between the building site and the natural environment. Land is forever altered when it and its ecosystem is disturbed while buildings, roadways, and conventional farmland is being constructed. However, giving thoughtful attention to the site, ecological landscapers can create outdoor spaces that are much less impactful on the environment and help to restore a natural ecosystem as much as possible.

There are many ways to employ this, but ecological landscapers may consider the native flora of the area, weather conditions, pollinators, wildlife, soil, air, and water quality, human health, sustainability, and resources. With proper design and implementation, a healthy landscape is built and maintained sustainably with each component of a landscape; the people, animals, plants, fungi, microorganisms, water, soil, insects, and wildlife.

Conserving the land and resources is an important part of ecological landscaping. The objectives of an ecological landscaper would be to reduce water consumption, preserve water quality, prevent soil erosion, protect biodiversity, reduce or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals, and minimize the use of non-renewable resources. By striving toward these goals, the ecological landscaper can create gardens that are not only environmentally responsible, but also enjoyable to experience.

EARTHeim in 2019

2019 was a busy year for EARTHeim! Here are some things EARTHeim was a part of this past year.

OLLI ‘Gardening for the Living Landscape’

Since 2015, I’ve taught a 6 week gardening course for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute which is a senior’s community education program through the University of Kentucky. I plan to continue it in 2020! Learn about OLLI at UK.

Native Bees Presentation Woodford Co Extension Office

I believe bees are very misunderstood, so I like teaching people about native bee species and how they live in our gardens!

LFUCG Plant By Numbers: Mailbox

This is the second series of the Plant By Numbers program. I created the planting designs for the city to use for this program. This year we did plans for mailbox gardens and street side easements. 2018 was the stream side series. Learn more about the program

Lexington Community Radio

The LexGoGreen radio hour broadcasts Mondays at 11am on 93.9FM. It focuses on various environmental issues here in Lexington. I made 2 appearances, one to talk about my GreenCheck certification and my involvement with the Environmental Citizen’s Academy. Learn about the radio show.

2019 Environmental Citizen’s Academy

A year long program, my class graduated in May. I finished my project, the Tree Care Video Guide. There were some great projects and a lot of work put into them. Read the blog post

Native Plant Sale

EARTHeim had its 3rd annual native plant sale. I have plans to have it again in 2020! Stay in the Know.

GreenCheck Lexington Certification

EARTHeim became a Silver member of this environmentally focused certification program. Read the blog post.

Paint By Nature Art Exhibit

Inspired by the Plant By Number’s program, this art exhibit was displayed at Central Library’s art gallery downtown. As a non juried exhibit, I contributed a piece this year. Learn about Paint By Nature.

TreeWeek Event hosted by Seedleaf

In its second year, Tree Week has already become a fun week long event put on by a variety of local organizations in October. At a kick off event, hosted by Seedleaf at its urban farm, I spoke about some great fall native plants you should include in your garden. Learn about TreeWeek. Learn about Seedleaf.

49th Environmental Awards

It’s amazing that this type of event has been going on for 49 years! This event recognizes people, and their projects, who have contributed to environmental efforts in Lexington. Read the blog post.

Book Review: Terrain

Terrain Book Review

“Terrain: Ideas and Inspiration for Decorating the Home and Garden”. Edited by Greg Lehmkuhl and the gardeners of TERRAIN

Terrain is a beautiful book. Aptly named, it’s named after a garden nursery located in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Terrain nursery took root in 2008, but its location is at a historical nursery once called Styer’s, which traces its roots back to 1875. By the photos in the book, the historic nursery has some unique old buildings which makes a great backdrop to the types of home and garden decorations Terrain creates.

The book is a collection of garden and home decor, made by Terrain, that you can recreate at home. Natural, rustic, botanical, cottage, simple, elegant- these are a few words I could use to describe the styles throughout the book.

The book is full of photos, but also has directions and advice on how to create or replicate the decorative projects. To me these types of projects are not geared toward the average decorator. If you have a keen passion for decorating with natural materials, definitely check this book out. But many of these projects would probably interest someone who has a strong hobby in gardening and decorating combined, or advanced floral arranging.

The decor ideas are based on season, type of material, and type of decoration such as a container planting, wreaths, and arrangements. While you could likely open any Martha Stewart book and find ideas on any of these, Terrain goes beyond the typical and has some unique spins of these common types of home/garden decor.

All of the decorations build upon a base of using fresh, dried, or live plant material. Even some of the artificial elements, like string lights or terrariums, you can tell, are deliberately chosen to fit in with the natural, botanical look.

There is a generous section on holiday decor specifically. The materials here of course are natural elements of evergreen cuttings and live Christmas trees. My favorite idea is to save the dried flower heads of alliums and spray paint gold. They look like starbursts you can use to decorate a Christmas tree!

I could probably look through this book 100 times and see something new each time or think of an idea I could do at home with materials easily accessible to me. Honestly, even with the descriptions of some of the decor, I wouldn’t know how to begin making some of this stuff. I could probably figure out something similar if I put my mind to it. You have to think, these projects were created by professionals who make these decorations as their career and have a lot of resources available from the nursery trade. However when looking through this book, like the title and preface suggests, we have to remember this is a book of ideas to inspire some creativity.

If you have a lot of plant material accessible to you (evergreens, spaces to grow flowers to dry, room to store all kinds of potted containers and decorative tidbits) you may have more advantage. It’s always my thought too, to make these types of temporary decorations on a frugal budget by being resourceful with materials. Maybe you can use some things already around your home to create a seasonal centerpiece. Even if you don’t have plans to make any of the decorations, it is a still a pretty book to look through.

This post originally appeared on http://www.EARTHeim.comThere may be links to products in this post. As an Amazon Associate I earn a commission from qualifying purchases made through these links. This is at no cost to you and you don’t need to do anything. All opinions are my own.

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