Prairie planting: Drilling vs Broadcasting a prairie

Planting or restoring prairie has become a common practice at Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Each year, INHF collects and purchases local ecotype prairie seed for restorative projects. You may have seen our video on how to make a healthy prairie a few weeks ago, but there are several different ways to plant a prairie. Two common techniques are broadcast seeding and drilling. INHF has used both techniques in the past.

Broadcast seeding

Using this method, the seeds are spread across the ground either by hand or by using a broadcast seeder mounted on an ATV or tractor.

INHF staff hand scattering seed

INHF staff hand scattering seed

Broadcast seeding isn’t as simple as throwing out seed and hoping something grows. It’s very calculated and requires following a few steps. First, all seeds being used in the prairie seeding must be properly mixed to allow for even distribution across the planting area. Seeds may need to be mixed with a carrier, like sand or annual oats, to add necessary bulk to the mix. This ensures even spread and that you’ll have enough seed to cover an area. Several options are available to use as a carrier, but for INHF, natural debris left in the mix during seed harvest, like prairie stems and leaves, prove a great carrier. Additionally, care must be taken to ensure proper flow of seed out of the broadcast seeder and suitable speed is met, so as to allow the machine to cover the entire seeding area. Distributing the seed too fast or too slow can affect the efficiency of the entire process. Continue reading