A major part of Hardin Counties IRVM program is to establish native vegetation in our roadsides. Native vegetation benefits our road sides by being self-sustaining, increasing wildlife habitat and promotes the reduction of noxious weeds.
Roadside plantings are done after road construction is completed. We plant the bare ground with native seed and a cover crop.
The cover crop will provide immediate erosion control and stabilize the soil. The slower establishing native grasses and forbs will usually start to show up the second or third year. There are a few different techniques we use to plant roadsides.
We can plant roadsides by using our hydro seeder, a seed drill, or a drop seeder. For most of our seeding projects we use a hydro seeder which mixes the seed with paper mulch. The hydro mulch reduces soil erosion and keeps moisture in the soil. This method is our most efficient way to seed our roadsides. The photo above shows a crew member hydroseeding a ditch clean out site.
As one of the few
places left undisturbed during nesting season, roadsides provide
important habitat for game birds and songbirds alike. Hardin County's
6,000 acres of potential roadside habitat can be greatly improved by
seeding a mix of native grasses and wildflowers. Roadsides serve as
nature preserves for crucial pollinators as well, such as the Monarch
Butterfly in the photo to the right. Monarch Butterfly populations are
on the decline and the habitat that our roadsides provide are very
important for their survival.
Historically fire played an essential role in developing and maintaining Iowa's prairie ecosystem. Today fire remains and important tool for the growth and regeneration of native vegetation. A well-timed burn favors native species by removing thatch and clearing the way for emerging seedlings. Fire also helps remove and prevent unwanted brush. Prescribed burns can be conducted any time of the year in order to complete the management objective.
Mowing in the roadsides is conducted to help establish new plantings and discourage noxious weeds and brush growth. Standing vegetation allows year-round soil protection from wind and water erosion, competes against weeds, provides habitat for wildlife, and beautifies the roadside.