- Existing Vegetation Evaluation
- Wild Seed Collection, Processing
- Herbicide in Sensitive Areas
- Planting: Seed, Bare Root, Container
- Wildlife Food Plots, Sanctuaries, Corridors
- Brush Clearing
- Long-Term Planning and Management
- Licensed, Insured, Work Guaranteed
Putting the Pieces Together
We start with local plant material.
Our unique approach at native groundcover restoration is the product of much trial and error. Many native plant species (especially grasses) occur over a very wide range of the United States and Canada and it is widely accepted that there is wisdom in using ecotypes of local origin. Some reasons cited include the risk of contaminating local genetics and thereby potentially weakening the species. Another is that wildlife have adapted to certain attributes of local ecotypes of plants. Over the course of more than ten years of experience in planting native groundcover in the Southeast we have found that the geographical origin of the material used can definitely affect a project’s long-term success.
Using the same genetics that have adapted to the specific conditions of the target area over thousands of years is the obvious reason for the much higher success rates of these plantings. While there is no replacement for local ecotypes, some species are much less sensitive to geographical changes and are more adaptable than others. ‘Alamo’ and ‘Kanlow’ switchgrass are good examples of this.
We consider your unique objectives and weigh them against the natural characteristics of your site.
In addition to habitat improvement, we provide services, seeds and plants for a variety of other applications from erosion control to aesthetic treatments. (Wildlife will use them and don’t care what the intent was) This being said, our specialty is in fire-adapted ecosystems. Regular fire always means native grasses. Our first order of priority is restoring the native grass base on the site. In addition to providing habitat, native grasses provide the fine fuel needed for thorough burning, which is critical for the long-term success of these systems. Many times this involves canopy reduction and herbicide to enhance and release grasses already present in the seed bank.
If a project area has experienced major soil disturbances it will most likely need to be seeded as the native seed bank is usually destroyed. In the case of agriculture, the seed bank is also full of noxious weed seeds, which have caused more native grass stand failures than anything else. By starting with establishing grasses first, it is possible to suppress these weeds with selective herbicides that could not be used if wildflower seeds were also planted.
We seek out available “donor” sites, or remnants of native grass stands in the area of the project and mechanically harvest the seeds. Before and during the mechanical wild harvest operation, depending on time of maturity we also collect seeds of certain perennial wildflowers (and some grasses) for propagating live plugs. The mechanical harvest is primarily for the grass base, where most of the bulk is needed for direct seeding. The wildflower seed collections are done both mechanically and also by hand.
After cleaning, testing and treating the native grass seeds for dormancy, we return and plant them on the target or “recipient” site. Once we are satisfied with the grass stand, we begin to introduce the dicots (wildflowers, forbs, legumes). This is done a number of ways and depends on the size (budget) of the project. Typically, it is done by planting colonies of plants by seed and/or live plugs across the site. These plants eventually are found growing between these colonies as seeds are dispersed by wind and animals. The clean burn provided by the grasses helps the recruitment of these plants.
Scattered throughout the grass dominated landscape we strongly advocate leaving small islands and strips of dense, tangled midstory vegetation composed of woody shrubs for quail escape cover. For deer bedding sanctuaries we are more selective about the locations and also make them larger. These areas are protected from the burn by disking a fire line around the perimeter. Once established, this strategic dense cover placement helps provide the maximum habitat value on your property. We are also very involved in the establishment of screens and funnels to manipulate the travel patterns of animals through the property as well as increase daytime usage of food plots. Click here to learn more about cover placement.
Southern Wildflower Seeds
In addition to using wildflower seed that is already occurring near your site, there are also good southern ecotypes of wildflower seeds on the market, many of which we grow and offer for sale. Many of them are not found as common but are classic members of their respective historic plant communities that have likely suffered more than others from short sighted practices. Click here to see a list of our favorites. Southern Habitats is a member of the Florida Wildflower Seed and Plant Growers Association, which is an excellent source for Southern adapted wildflower seeds.