In 2017, the MAMGA Board decided to select a project that would be the focus of volunteer efforts in the community. The site that was selected is a prairie next to the Lussier Cultural Heritage Center that slopes to the east and the wetlands along the Yahara River. Our on-site partner is Clare Carlson, Dane County naturalist coordinator. We also worked with Lars Higdon, Dane County Botanist/Naturalist.
Much of the effort was to remove the wild parsnip, honeysuckle, thistle and reed canary grass. We also transplanted prairie plants from the existing prairie areas on the Lussier grounds in areas #1, 2 and 3.
In April 2018, we learned that a pollinator garden would be installed between the Lussier Center's parking lot and the western edge of the prairie, overlooking our larger project. The display of prairie flowers and smaller grasses will create an eye-catching entrance to the larger view. Here is the list of plants ordered to fill the 350 sq ft pollinator garden according to this plan.
During the winter, several MAMGA members worked together to apply for a grant from the Dane County Environmental Council for money that will be used to buy native prairie plants.
The Pollinator Garden was installed on May 18 at the site that had been well-mulched with wood chips and bordered with local stone. We removed several inches of the wood chips, planted the seedlings, and mulched the bed with straw. Several of the penstemon plants were blooming in no time. The weather turned hot so we watered the new seedlings twice when the soil seemed dry.
The larger and more ambitious Signature Project focused on the prairie next to the Lussier Center, just east of the Pollinator Garden. MAMGA volunteers started planting event on Wednesday, June 6 starting at 9am. Our work crew (Lily, Lynn, Dennis, Clare, Lori, and Percy) installed more than 400 seedlings. A crew of four planted the remaining seedlings and continued attacking the brome grass with an herbicide application. Near-record rainfalls kept even the tiniest seedlings well-watered. Some of the plants doubled in height in less than ten days.
Any MAMGA member interested in volunteering should contact Dennis Tande (email@example.com) (608) 849-8525 or Percy Mather (firstname.lastname@example.org (608) 233-1955.
From June through September, MAMGA volunteers will be at the site on the first and third Friday mornings from 9am to noon, weather permitting. Call (608) 520-4364 for last minute information on the weather. We may also schedule some other times if there is interest, perhaps on a Sunday, when the Lussier Center is less likely to be in use. Areas #1, 2 and 3 on the map will be given priority for planting and removal of invasives. We will extend our focus to adjacent areas this summer and next year. As we get more familiar with the site, we will consider starting more plants from seeds that are collected in the fall each year, under the direction of Dane County Parks staff.
What to bring to the work sessions: sun hat, trowel or small shovel, knee pads, work gloves, long-sleeved shirt, and bug repellent. Long pants are recommended due to the occasional wild parsnip plant, but not essential.
Below: The sign for the Pollinator Garden at the edge of the prairie project. This garden was added to the original project area visible behind and to the left of the sign.
A recently vacated snake skin, probably from the garter snake spotted on a previous workday.
A nest of turtle eggs, probably snappers, discovered when digging a hole for a plant. The females lay eggs in early June, laboriously digging holes with their hind legs, laying eggs, then covering them all up. In early August, the tiny turtles will emerge and head for the nearest body of water.
Our volunteers take shelter from a downpour--perfect conditions for plants if not for people.
Views of the Lussier Pollinator Garden
The Pollinator Garden lies between the parking lot, the Lussier Center, and the prairie which is the MAMGA Signature Project. The space had been covered with wood chips in the fall of 2017 and edged with local stone. MAMGA volunteers removed the wood chips prior to planting on May 18, then mulched the plants with straw. The plants were watered using hoses extended from the building. Rainfall was generous during the summer and the pollinator plants thrived without the need for much water because of being planted in mid-May.