Triton College Prairie Garden in Bloom
Triton College is known for its neat, manicured landscape featuring acres of carefully tended lawns, trim bushes, and bright annuals and perennials. However, something a little wilder is going on in an area in back of the science building, where Triton’s Greening the Campus Committee and biology students have established a small prairie garden.
In December 2009, students and committee members prepped the area and sowed into sod the seeds of nearly 100 native prairie species. We had learned that native plant areas started this way take longer to establish, but there are fewer problems with weeds. We also collected seeds in local forest preserves, which we cold stratified and propagated in the science greenhouse for planting out the next spring.
The first spring and summer not much happened, though as the soil warmed we saw a few seedlings, and the plants we had set out grew well. Would the experiment work? We weren’t sure. As advertised, there were very few weeds, but mainly it looked like someone’s badly neglected lawn. Since we had determined on a five-year timeline, we reassured a few questioners and more-or-less patiently waited to see what the next year would bring.
This spring Triton’s grounds crew de-thatched the area and removed an ailing ash tree. We set out more plants we had propagated, and waited. Would this second year show improvement? Would there be more flowers? Tall grasses? When spring semester ended, prospects seemed dim, though a diligent searcher could find many more tiny native plants among the turf grasses. The campus geese also seemed to like the area, and something—geese? deer? —was grazing when we weren’t watching. More waiting ensued.
(Photos courtesy Biology instructor and Green Committee co-chair Joe Beuchel.)
Midewin Means "Heal the Land"