I prefer to burn in the spring each year for two primary reasons. First the dried grasses, especially the true native grasses like Little Blue-stem, Indian Grass, and Switch Grass, remain upright throughout the winter adding landscape interest during this stark season. Secondly, withholding the burn until spring, the grasses, both native and naturalized (the term we use to refer to tall grass areas of non-native fescues, orchard grass, timothy, and other species of European origin) provide protective habitat for wildlife during the long cold winter.
As listed in last years Prairie Fire post (click on Tall Grass under Blog Topics) there are several benefits to Controlled Burning:
• Reduces the large mass of dried plant material. Much more cost effective compared to mowing, raking, hauling, disposing, and much more thorough.
• Clears the plant canopy so new grasses can grow without competition.
• Improves the quality of the re-emerging plant species and aids new plant seed germination.
• Reduces tree seedlings, annual grasses, and weed encroachment.
• Prevents the accidental ignition by a discarded cigarette / cigar.
• Burned ash returns plant nutrients and organic matter to the soil aiding new growth.
• Burned black ash absorbs the suns energy and warms the soil speeding re-growth. (The very deep root systems are unaffected by the flame or heat and underground shoots re-emerge when the soil warms)
• Devoid areas provide habitat for wildlife such as the nesting Killdeer birds.
Starting a fire line on the Native Grass mound at #12
Dried Indian Grass, Little Blue-stem, & Switch Grass, burn rapidly and intensely!
Typical charred remains - ready to absorb sun's rays and begin growth anew
After a spring rain or two the ash and blackened remains will dissipate and before long new green shoots will emerge and begin to flourish.