Q: I want to plant grasses that feed and provide cover for ground birds on two acres of cultivated land. I want to provide feed and shelter for turkey, grouse, whippoorwills, quail, meadowlark and others. Where can I find information on what to plant?
A: Millet, clover and buckwheat are good plants to attract and feed wild birds. Since your land was once cultivated, it probably has adequate nutrients already but call your local University of Georgia Extension office (800-ASKUGA1) to ask about soil testing. Make sure the soil pH is correct. This is probably the most limiting factor in establishing productive wildlife food plots. I have a much fuller explanation of how to establish food plots at http://www.walterreeves.com/gardening-q-and-a/wildlife-food-plots/.
Native plant expert and garden designer Leah Pine adds: I think you’ve missed an opportunity to promote perennial native grasses and forbs! Not only are our native grasses beautiful, they would provide the healthiest and greatest variety of nesting, cover, and food. Those birds would feast not only on their seed but on the buffet table of native insects they attract.
And our native grasses are now commercially available! Little bluestem, broomsedge, split-beard bluestem, purple lovegrass, switchgrass, asters, joe-pye weed, butterflyweed, goldenrod, indian blanket, liatris, coneflowers, black-eyed susan, milkweeds–as a native-plant designer, I was salivating at the opportunity to put two whole acres of apparently sunny land back into native grasslands.
We are very fortunate that there are local, more southern sources offering these plants now.
Below are Georgia nurseries carrying, in many cases, if not all, local ecotypes:
Currently, I am working with Walter Bland. He carries seed, plugs, and “broomsedge mulch” for various kinds of installation (which he also provides) and he will also contract grow. I have found him immensely knowledgeable, which is a blessing when you’re working with invasives removal as well.
Rock Spring Farm,
82 Brighton Road, NE | Atlanta, Georgia | 30309
owner: Walter Bland
Another possibility would be:
Baker Environmental Nursery
949 Marshall Clark Rd.
Hoschton, GA 30548
I’m impressed with this catalogue as well but have not worked with them personally.
Nearly Native Nursery
776 McBride Road
Fayetteville, Ga 30215
Jim Rodgers is very knowledgeable. He spent hours showing me around his nursery and explaining what kind of conditions and time it took to grow various trees/shrubs to the size we saw. He does offer native grasses/forbs. I believe he will gather seed and contract grow and offer plugs as well.