Another important springtime activity at Merry Lea is the proscribed burning of parts of our restored tall grass prairie. Burning is an important and natural method of managing prairies. Grassland fires occur even without human interaction and have many benefits. The spring burning removes much of the old biomass from the prairie, which allows for the new growth. Also, the fire helps to knock back invasive species, allowing the native prairie plants to get a head start. Plants native to tall grass prairies often have roots that extend 5 to 15 feet into the soil. Therefore, the burning of the plant above the ground has no effect on the life-sustaining root system below the soil. With the use of water-filled backpack sprayers and rubber mat swatters, we are able to control the path of the fire and protect areas that should not be burned.
Earlier this month we had the opportunity to assist in the burning of the pocket prairies in and around Rieth Village. The picture above shows Rieth Village with the flames in the foreground. The other photo shows me using a backpack sprayer full of water to protect one of our apple trees from the extreme heat of the flames.