We have a great bunch of people trying to establish Wyoming as their new home, and just like our climate, sometimes it’s very difficult. Two of the questions I get frequently as a rural living educator and rangeland ecologist are: (1) How do I get better grass to grow on my landscape; and (2) How do you manage to fit in with a legacy and independent community in Wyoming? Both answers are about establishing desirable root structure and have similar answers.
Establishing better grass communities begins with finding grass seed that is high quality, is well suited to the landscape and then effectively preparing to plant. Not every grass that is desirable will persist. Water helps, but many like the bluegrasses will require water above and beyond what is always available. Not to mention, many “turf” grasses do not like the alkalinity or sandy nature of our local soils. Once you select a suitable grass species or mixture start by preparing the planting site. Mixtures of seed allow establishment of desirable ground cover even if the conditions shift or are unusual for that year. Remember that weed control, minimal disturbance of the soil (and weed seed bank) and proper planting are key to success.
Effective grass plantings on dry land sites usually require understanding that the grass will need moisture to get started. This leads directly to a practice of planting grass in early spring or late fall when the expectation of precipitation is better. Be careful not to plant to deeply since the grass has only the energy available within its seed to get up and running before it wears out. Strong seed-to-soil contact is essential in all planting approaches. If you use a no-till seed drill the contact will be made as part of the machine’s function. If you broadcast seed it will require it to be pressed into or incorporated into the soil. Broadcast seeding usually requires twice the amount of seed. Failure to establish good soil contact will result in much of the seed dying, laying un-germinated, and possibly being eaten by birds, insects and rodents. This will result in twice the work for half the results.
Fitting into a long-established rural community is much the same as doing a good job of planting pasture. First you must assess the climate and then select parts of your life and habits that will work well with the site and established community. The reality of not trying to plant your crop too deeply at first is similar also in that all new things do best if they start gradually within their own capability. As an effort grows in a community it will get stronger and form deeper roots which allow it to weather a variety of impacts. Widely scattered efforts require more effort, more costs, and usually produce less notable results just as broadcast seeding does. Getting your roots down may be easier if you engage in some of our local groups and traditions.
Kids and hobbies are great things because they just naturally start integrating into a community gradually resulting in your family becoming part of the larger “ecosystem”. When a natural community adapts and incorporates new components it adds vigor, flexibility and longevity. I won’t address “weeds” in the human community but we must address those also.
Bear in mind when conditions impact you sometimes you need to replant again just to keep the desirable conditions accepted by the community. Look around you to see what is flourishing. Conditions for establishing roots can vary with the economy, the weather and the political climate just like grass plantings. Watch for the best timing opportunity to sink in.
Wyoming and most of the intermountain west are historically a gradual adaptation to which species and beings can maintain themselves here. New introductions are a normal part of our development. Sometimes those of us whose “variety” has been around for 150 years forget that – but we should remember it is what has made us strong and independent. So welcome if you are new here – and try to edge into our community.