By Bill Kleiman
These two have a lot of energy. On the left is Dana Sievertson and the right Agnes Wojnarski.
This is their back yard in Prospect Heights, a suburb of Chicago. They started growing plugs six years back. Annually, they grow about 20,000 prairie and wetland plant plugs from seed! One year they grew 35,000 plugs.
The early plants emerging in their modest green house. When the seedlings are big enough they separate them into cells, and maybe later separating them again into even more cells.
Depending on the need for the year, they grow about 40 species and have them ready for installation. They also trade plugs for seed from other organizations.
Transplanting seedlings with the help of the Poplar Creek Volunteer Stewards, a group that has been managing and restoring habitats for decades.
The plants are in their cells with space to grow out to vigorous plugs.
Flats are eventually placed outside for the season.
Looking down at many flats of plants. All the blank areas are flats that were recently installed.
Agnes and Dana are commissioners with the Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission, which hosts volunteer workdays where citizens help care for and eventually install the plugs. Recently 2,000 plugs were installed in an area once dominated by cattails. They have created prairie plantings in park district lawns. They installed plugs in open water where they excluded carp. They also pick and plant seed and often add seed where they are plugging. They work carefully with neighbors to get buy in. They also burn these habitats.
Installing plugs in an area where cattail were cut and herbicided. Their volunteer base is about 40 citizens. A typical workday is a 12-15 people, but they can get a group of 40 to show up. They sometimes get help from the local schools and Eagle Scouts.
It won’t be a surprise that the front yard of Agnes and Dana is all prairie plants rather than lawn. These are seed sources for their works.
A visit often includes a sumptuous meal made by Dana who attended a culinary school, and has an art degree. Their house if full of art works, wagging dogs, and a comfort that is palpable.