Planting JobsThe major addition to the county's program for better roadsides has been the establishment of roadside planting jobs. We go where the county crews have cleaned a ditch, or have done construction projects and left bare soil.
We then seed these projects into prairie vegetation. We use a quick establishing cover crop or a blend of cover crops to provide immediate erosion control. We then seed a permanent crop of native grasses and flowers that are specifically suited to the soil and conditions of each site.
As the quick growing cover crops establish, they stabilize the soil and fight immediate erosion. The slower establishing native grasses and flowers usually show up the second and third seasons, (although in some situations they come in year one). These are native species, that means they were here in Iowa before all of the common, "farm grasses" such as brome, orchardgrass and timothy were introduced from Europe.
This also means that the native plants are adapted to Iowa's soil and to Iowa's weather patterns. This makes them very valuable to us in the roadsides because they will grow under any conditions that the climate can throw at them.
Native plants are slower to establish, but they are perennial plants which come back yearly from root. The root systems are 7-10 feet deep on many of these plants. In the roadside setting, this is crucial. Not only do they prevent erosion better, they compete with weeds for below surface root space.
The more root mass a plant has, the better they can compete. As they establish, they thicken and with proper management they thrive. We are beginning to see our seeding jobs done in 1999 look very thick.
Planting EquipmentPlanting these construction/bare soil sites is a trick unto itself. Each site is different and has its own needs. In order to seed these sites properly, specialized equipment becomes necessary.
Our first piece of equipment was obtained through a Living Roadway Trust Fund grant. It was a Truax drill that will seed fluffy and small seeds. It is specially designed to not clog up and is a great implement for the flat to moderately steep seeding jobs as it allows you to seed your cover crop and permanent crop at the same time.
Our second seeding implement is a machine called a hydroseeder. It was built in 1990 and purchased used from Des Moines County in the fall of 2000. It takes a mixture of seed, water and paper mulch and a compound called a tackifier and mixes them together. This slurry is then sprayed upon the soil surface to be seeded. It creates an erosion mat and allows the seeding job to be successful by keeping it where it was intended to be.
This is a useful tool because we can spray this slurry on any slope that needs seeded. We can literally stick this to vertical slopes as well as overhang situations that we encounter in roadside seeding installations. We use this where we can not safely use a drill.
Our third piece of equipment is a straw blower from TGMI industries. We use this machine and grass hay or straw to mulch our drilled planting jobs. This again reduces erosion, provides a better condition for germination and allows the job to build vegetation successfully.
Our seeding jobs get more and more professional and more successful every year. Keeping in tune with changing technology and new practices and materials is also essential towards increasing production. We strive for quick, efficient and successful seeding jobs. With proper equipment, this is easier to accomplish.