Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Drilling Deep

Prairie Smoke
Yesterday I was discouraged at the slow growth of some of my new natives.  Then.....Eureka!   I realized that little Prairie Smoke plant is busy doing its native thing.  It is happily growing its roots down, down deep.  Deep so it can survive the Northwest Ohio climate that is sometimes very dry, sometimes very wet, and sometimes very cold.  Much  better for it to get itself ready first, then it can show me its beauty later, maybe next year.  You go little Prairie Smoke.  I can wait.  Then of course, I had to ask myself, "Well little guy, how deep are you growing your roots?".  Then the googling began and I found an astounding chart.  This chart lists a group of native prairie plants and graphically shows their root systems.  Check it out.  Most of these native prairie plants' roots grow to five feet deep or more; several to 10 feet, and a couple others to even 15 feet deep.   Compare the Kentucky Blue Grass shown on the chart as growing a mere 5 or 6 inches into the soil.   So what?  These deep roots enable the plants to take up moisture from much deeper in the ground, enabling it to well survive drought.  And that means, once established, I don't have to water these plants.  Secondly, these deep drilling roots can suck up a lot of moisture and minimize runoff.  And that means less flooding; the land is more able to manage the water the environment gives it.  That makes these particular plants great for rain gardens.  Many of them produce beautiful flowers, pleasing the eye, and nurturing the butterflies and other native pollinators our fruits and vegetables need.  These are some of the reasons we choose natives over cultivated varieties.  And that is what I learned today.

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