Why Create a Prairie Pond
by Jim Nelson
The creation of a prairie pond was the keystone of our multi-year prairie restoration. The pond connects restored areas with the historic prairie remnants. The pond allowed us to increase diversity by introducing plants that favored wet or moist conditions- a complement to the upland, dry landscape. The water would become a "wildlife magnet" that increased the interest in visiting this landscape for both creatures and people.
Studying Wetlands and Ponds
Develop a Plan
- A summary of current conditions (elevation and drainage pathways)
- A set of restoration general goals: a shallow pond with no liner that would be attractive to songbirds, amphibians and small mammals.
- A schematic with dimensions for contracting (a gentle sloping basin with a 35’x45’ floor)
- A list of material including: preferred forbs, grasses and sedges
All areas were open and had day long access to the sun. We needed a grassland and forb buffer to prevent sediment from entering the pond and to provide nesting habitat for upland animals. Existing vegetation (brome grass and noxious weeds) was removed by combination of non-specific (Glyphosate) herbicide and smothering with tarps.
Excavation and Sealing
|Monkey Plant ~ Mimulus ringens|
I used plugs around the rim of primarily Little Bluestem (Andropogon scoparius ) and Blue Joint Grass (Calamagrostis canadensis) on the upper part of the slopes. We randomly planted Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) one side of the pond and Monkey Plant (Mimulus ringens) on the other side.
Replanting, Maintenance and Monitoring
Due to many family obligations and other priorities, planting of over 2500 plugs was spread over three years. Weeding, editing out unwanted species, and experimenting with new species were part of every growing season. The priorities the second year were to plant near or in the water, hand weed and begin more systematically to monitor wildlife visits.
The SWCD would not share cost of excavation but shared cost of the seed, plants and the prescribed burn. Although, the excavation and lining took a single day, refining our project has continued over several years. Once established we continued to add diversity with systematic although very informal experiments to add breadth and biologic richness.