The Lakeside Prairie Garden was established in late fall of 2017. This garden is located in the less congested area of the community, and an ideal spot for a pollinator and native plant garden next to an established small oak grove. Loretta Wilken’s plan when hired in 2016 as Master Gardener was to increase the amount of native pollinator plants to entice more insects and birds, along with reducing labor.
With a new Grindley Aquatic & Wellness Campus being built near the site, and since parking space in Lakeside is at a premium, my concern was that the area would be converted to extra parking. This led to working with John Blakeman, a Sandusky Ohio resident, regarded as an expert in the history and restoration of Ohio’s tallgrass prairies. He is the proprietor of Meadow Environments LLC and professionally designs, installs, and maintains prairie restorations and landscapes including Erie Metroparks facilities, COSI museum in Columbus and NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Sandusky. We met on the prairie site, and he was thrilled with the natural condition of the garden space, perfect for recreating the original prairie from pre-settlement time.
Blakeman designed and guided me on area preparation, seeding procedures, the seed sourcing and blend to use appropriate for the site.
During the first three years, the plants spend their energy establishing a root system. It’s not until the 4th and 5th year when the growth takes off and the forbs show off all of their colors. Signage was placed at the site explaining the growth process and what to expect.
In the community, we’ve had to educate people about the area. Nonetheless, individuals should be prepared to answer questions about why the weedy patch hasn’t been mowed.
In addition, Blakeman is also an Ohio Certified Prescribed Fire Manager and guided me through the process of filing an application for prescribed burning with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He’s attended all three of the attempts to burn, with the last one in April of 2023 deemed a success.
Expenses for this project for this small, under 6,000 sq. ft. area were minimal. Blakeman offered his services free of charge. The cost of the seed blend, including both grasses and forbs with some annual forb seed included for the first year were low.
The garden is a glorious spot in the summer, teeming with buzzing insects, goldfinches and other birds.
America in Bloom is an independent, 501c3 nonprofit organization.