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Prairie grasses at sunset.

Protecting pollinators in your backyard

Prairies are ecosystems dominated by grasses, shrubs, herbs and other plants rather than trees. They provide homes for many animals, keep soil healthy, filter groundwater and naturally clean the air we breathe. Plants found in prairies thrive in large open areas, but you can also plant them in smaller spaces like your backyard. 

With a micro prairie or prairie garden in your yard, you’ll: 

  1. Support pollinators. Micro prairies attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators. These animals are essential for plants to reproduce fruits and vegetables.  
  2. Save water. Prairie gardens with native plants are hardy and require less water and care than nonnative species.  
  3. Prevent soil erosion. Native plants have deep roots that help prevent soil erosion and improve soil health. These roots can also help absorb rainwater, reducing runoff and flooding. 

Starting your own micro prairie is easier than you might think. Follow these steps and instead of a little house on the prairie, you’ll have a little prairie at your house:  

Step 1: Choose a location. Find a sunny spot in your yard. Prairies thrive in full sunlight.  

Step 2: Prepare the soil.
Clear the area of grass and weeds. You might need to till the soil to make it easier for prairie plants to grow. 

Step 3: Select plants.
Choose native plants that will thrive in your area. Good options include purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, little bluestem and milkweed. 

Step 4: Plant. You can plant seeds directly in the soil or use seed balls. Seed balls are small balls made of clay, soil and seeds. They’re easy to make and can be scattered across the soil. Cover the seeds lightly with soil and water as needed. 

Step 5: Beautify. Add some paths or steppingstones to make your micro prairie more accessible and enjoyable. You could also add signs to educate others about the benefits of prairies.  

Step 6: Maintain.
Prairie gardens require less maintenance than traditional gardens. Water the plants until they’re established, then let nature take over. You might need to weed occasionally and trim plants to keep your garden tidy.  

Once your micro prairie is established, share your success! Take photos and share them on social media. Invite friends and neighbors to see your garden. Inspire others to create their own, spreading the benefits even further.  

Alliant Energy plants native seed mixes at our solar sites wherever possible to support pollinators like birds, bees, bats and butterflies. We even partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore prairies in areas disturbed when constructing transmission lines. Learn more here

Laura is the Manager of Environmental Services specializing in sustainability, emerging issues and reporting. She began her utility career in Corporate Communications then spent seven years leading the Distribution System Operations and GIS team. During her career, Laura learned how customers are at the heart of every decision Alliant Energy makes, from emergency restoration to environmental compliance.

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