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Managing a First Year Planting

Table of Contents

Congratulations on your native planting! Now that your seeds are in the ground, you may be wondering what to expect in this first year. Here are some common questions we receive, as well as some options for managing weed pressure:

Annual weeds like Common Ragweed create pressure for young native seedlings.

What weed pressure should I expect the first year?

  • Perennial weeds are problematic weed pressure. They should have been controlled pre-planting.
  • Annual weeds: ragweed, foxtail, crabgrass, pigweed, lambs quarters, etc create pressure for young native seedlings.
  • Annual weeds diminish over time because of competition as native perennials develop.
  • If you used a pre-emergent herbicide like Panoramic or Atrazine during the establishment process, it will prevent germination of annual weeds for a period of time, but the annual weeds generally show up as summer progresses.
Colt Hamilton explains what you can expect in a first-year planting.
Colt Hamilton explains what to look for with a first-year stand and if it would be worth the time, effort, and money to take the weeds head on.

What problems do the annual weeds cause?

Annual weeds create dense shadow that smothers out native plants’ slowly developing seedlings.

What can I do about the first-year annual weed pressure?

Colt Hamilton describes three common weed control approaches: mowing, herbicides, and grazing.
  • Three methods, pick the best method for your land and situation:
  • All methods can be considered in an only grass planting.
  • Only mowing and livestock methods can be considered for plantings that have a diversity of native grasses and forbs.
    1. Mowing High
      • Cut off the top of weeds to allow light to cast on the ground. A mowing height of 8-10” will help protect the native seedlings.
      • ‘Sickle Mower vs Brush Hog for Weed Control in First Year Plantings’ Video
      • ‘Mowing as Weed Control on a Native Planting During the First Growing Season’ Video
    2. Livestock
      • Controlled situation allows livestock to remove weed greenery while not grazing off native seedlings.
    3. Selective herbicides
      • Selective herbicides exist that will remove broadleaf plants from grasses. This only works in an all-grass planting because these herbicides will kill native and non-native forbs alike. Also, make sure the native grass plant is big enough and that the herbicide is safe for seedlings.
      • Always read and follow directions on label.

What can I do about perennial, invasive weeds?

  • All perennial weeds should have been killed during establishment process; no living perennial weed plants should be visible when native seeds are planted. If they are, contact our Technical Staff to discuss your options.

How do I tell the difference between the native warm season grass plants and the weeds?

First, Check out these resources:

Video on identifying Big Bluestem in a 1st year planting

Video on identifying Indiangrass in a 1st year planting

The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Seed and Seedling Identification in the Upper Midwest

  • Color is one way to tell the difference between them.  Around the time of the first frost, the native grasses will turn an orangish tan color while weedy grasses will just be tan.

Seedling identification is hard. We’re good at it, and we literally crawl around on our hands and knees. An early sign of success is native annual and biennial plants (if included in your mix) blooming in 1st or second growing season. Mostly, it just requires patience. 😊 Still have questions? Feel free to chat with our Technical team. We are available Mon-Fri from 8:00am CST to 5:00pm CST.

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