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The Impact of Neonicotinoids

Neonicotinoids (neo-nih-CAH-tin-oids) are systemic chemicals, which are absorbed into the plant’s vascular system, leaving the entire plant toxic to both target and non-target insects.  Systemic chemicals affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. This class of insecticides is particularly harmful to bees as accumulated neonicotinoids are consumed by adults or stored, concentrated, and fed to developing young.

Prairie Moon has never used these insecticides and is proudly neonicotinoid-FREE.

These days we are hearing more reports of Honey Bee die-offs and Colony Collapse Disorder, though the European Honey Bee is but one species of invertebrates facing a precarious future. Native insect species all over the world are subjected to a deadly combination of stresses (with undiscovered species disappearing completely before being properly studied or understood). These stresses are widespread and stem directly from human activity. Habitat loss, fragmented ecosystems, alien organisms, industrial farming practices, climate change and the proliferation of lawns are a few major sources of invertebrate decline. Pesticides, which indiscriminately kill insects by design, pose the most immediate danger to invertebrates worldwide.

Following registration in the mid 1990’s, neonicotinoid use has grown to make this the most widely used class of insecticides in the world. While large-scale agricultural applications account for the greatest levels of cumulative harm (chronic lethal exposure), landscaping and garden use result in higher rates of death (acute lethal exposure) in non-target insects. The most noteable victims of neonicotinoid exposure are pollinator species, which perform a key role in over one-third of our food system. This disproportionate frequency of non-target insect mortality is largely due to the abundance of unregulated insecticides available in retail stores, and a lack of understanding by those who use them.

Neonicotinoids are systemic chemicals, which are absorbed into the plant’s vascular system, leaving the entire plant toxic to both target and non-target insects. Neonicotinoids exhibit long periods of toxicity, with two of the most widely used insecticides persisting in soil at toxic levels for many months and even years. Metabolites (the breakdown product of complex substances) and synergisms (combined substances which result in a greater potency than the original) could make neonicotinoids even more toxic and persistent than is already known.

The accumulation of neonicotinoids may adversely affect many invertebrates beyond those targeted through the initial application. Routes of unintended exposure can originate from spray drift, residual contact, particle exposure (from mechanized planting of treated seeds), as well as exposure through contaminated soil, nesting resources, water, pollen and nectar. Pollen and nectar contamination is especially worrisome for bees as accumulated neonicotinoids may be stored, concentrated, and fed to developing young. Adults can also suffer from chronic and acute exposure, through foraging and ingestion of toxic nectar. The sublethal effects on Honey Bees range from inhibited flight, navigation and taste, in addition to a decrease in learning and foraging ability. Sublethal effects on native bees, such as bumblebees and solitary bees, include reduced food consumption and reproduction success, decreased worker survival, reduced foraging and delayed development.

Environmental stresses are pushing native pollinators to the edge of ecological collapse, with cascading effects seen globally. You can begin helping pollinators right away by conserving and promoting native habitat, gardening with native plants and avoiding insecticide use. Your contributions are essential to curbing the decline of native pollinators and invertebrates. Over one-third of your food supply hangs in the balance.

Reference sources for information on this page were publications of the Xerces Society. View their special reports on Neonicotinoids here.

How to Prep your Site for a Native Seed Mix


Proper site preparation will greatly reduce competition from undesirable species and allow for better establishment of slow-growing perennials. Most sites will require 1 full season of site preparation starting in the spring and ending in the fall. If you have a small site located in a well-manicured lawn, site preparation may be possible in a single afternoon. The most common methods are described in detail below.

Do not underestimate the weed seed bank of your soil. The weed seed bank holds the accrued deposits of dormant weed seeds that have been falling on the soil, sometimes for many years. Weed seed dormancy can be broken by even slight soil disturbance, a change in soil temperature, or a brief exposure to light. These events can cause a flush of new weeds to germinate on a site that previously appeared to be clean. Ideally, site preparation will eliminate the existing plants on site, but also spur the germination of the weed seed bank so they, too, can be eliminated. Although it is tempting to cut corners during this step, the time invested in site preparation is well spent.


This method is great for homeowners looking to convert part of their lawn into garden beds. A sod remover is a gas-powered, or hand-held tool that will slice off the top few inches of grass and soil. They are available to rent at many hardware and home improvement stores. Although this method is labor intensive, it can allow for very quick site preparation. Sod removal is not recommended for large areas or sites with a lot of weeds.


Smothering weeds can be an effective site prep method without the use of any chemicals or special equipment. The idea behind smothering is simple; covering the soil surface for an extended period will kill unwanted plants underneath due to heat and/or lack of light. Common smothering materials include industrial-weight tarps, black or clear plastic, wood paneling, and cardboard covered with wood mulch. It is important to be sure to secure the smothering material with heavy rocks, pallets, or by burying the edges. This will prevent wind from blowing the material off and discourage tenacious plants from pushing the material up from the ground. On smaller sites, cardboard is a good approach. To find large pieces, check your local appliance store to see if they have recycling you can reuse. On larger sites, plastic from tarps or hoop houses can be used. If you live in an agricultural region, you may be able to salvage discarded plastic from local farms.

While smothering will eliminate surface plants, a large weed seed bank may remain in the soil. Once an initial smothering period has occurred, removing the cover from the site will allow weeds from the soil seed bank to germinate. Replace the cover to kill the newly germinated seedlings. This on-again off-again cycle of germination and smothering can be utilized to prepare even the weediest pastures.

Smother/Solarize Example: Timed intervals of 4 to 5 weeks “on” and 1 to 2 weeks “off” can allow multiple waves of weed seeds to germinate before being killed during the following cycle of smothering. Some weeds need to be covered for two years. Smothering a lawn takes less time; usually it can be killed in two months by a close mowing before covering.


Repeated cultivation is a good option for large sites, especially on flat, organically managed land. The key for success using this method is understanding that soil disturbance exposes seeds in the soil seed bank and is followed by more weed growth. To prepare a site with cultivation, soil disturbance must be repeated and continue until the end of the growing season.

Mechanical cultivation is usually accomplished with a tractor and a disc. Shallow discing should be timed to eliminate freshly germinated weed seedlings; once your site greens up after cultivation, disc again. Some sites may require 2 years of cultivation, particularly those with invasive or perennial weeds.


We at Prairie Moon are proud of our organic farming legacy, but we also view the responsible and judicious use of herbicides as an effective tool for native ecosystem establishment. Always read labels on herbicide products and use caution when working with these chemicals.

Herbicide is most effective over a full growing season. Depending on the weed problem on your site, short-term herbicide use as the only form of site prep can yield less-desirable results.

Site preparation is the first step in a multi-step process. Establishing a successful native prairie from seed is a labor of love and patience. Most who have been through it will praise the process, the thrill of discovery, and the joy of transforming a space into a healthy ecosystem. For more details on the next steps check out Growing Your Prairie


The first growing season should be dedicated to site preparation, a crucial first step to a successful planting. On this site, herbicide was applied three times spring through fall. After site preparation is complete, seed can be sown.


Keeping the site mowed to 4-8” during the first year of growth will control any remaining weeds, allow sunlight to reach the slow-growing perennials and promote strong root growth.


The season after planting there will only be a few native species that flower. This stage is known as the Pioneer Flush. It can take 3-5 years after planting for most perennials to bloom for the first time.


As time goes on, more and more perennial wildflowers will start to bloom.



We will donate 5% of profits for your online purchases now through Earth Day. Your support will help with expansion and enhancements to this non-profit website.

The mission of Minnesota Wildflowers is to educate Minnesotans on our native plants, raise awareness on threats like invasive species, and inspire people to explore our great state, appreciate its natural heritage, and become involved in preserving it.

Over 1,700 plant species and more than 16,000 high quality photos are cataloged here, with more added each week, working towards recording all 2200+ plant species in Minnesota and then branching into neighboring states, becoming a complete reference for the entire Upper Midwest.

The Minnesota Wildflowers website began as a private endeavor by Katy in 2006, in response to the poor resources available to the general public learning about plants growing wild in Minnesota.  In 2009, Peter joined as a collaborator, contributing his private collection of approximately 40,000 plant images and the two have been managing the web site together ever since.

Your unwavering support of native plants allows us to donate to
worthwhile environmental groups every year; your online purchase makes a difference!
As a business located in a small Minnesota community, as advocates for ecological integrity, and as promoters of environmental education, we are proud to support MinnesotaWildflowers.info for Earth Day 2020.


For all you seed savers out there, we have thousands of misprinted empty packets and are offering them in bundles of 50, FREE with any online order now through Earth Day.
Packets are 4.75″ x 3.25″ with seal tape. Limit 4 bundles (200 qty) per customer. U.S. customers only. Must accompany a paid product from our website.

May 6th UPDATE: We are thrilled to announce that $1,219.75 was the result! Your support will help with expansion and enhancements to this non-profit website.

Covid-19 Update – We Are Still Shipping Orders

COVID-19 UPDATE – We Are Still Shipping Orders

Published 3/20/20.  Updated 3/26/20.

To Our Customers & Friends,

We are grateful and inspired to hear from so many of you how gardening brings you peace during this time of social distancing and uncertainty.

We would like to address a few potential questions about your native plant order and the well-being of Prairie Moon Nursery.

Like many of you are experiencing, our workday here at Prairie Moon has changed and continues to change daily. Let us first emphasize that the health and safety of our staff, families, and community is at the forefront of the decisions we are making in this unprecedented time. We are diligently following science-based recommendations and the guidance of public health officials. During the coronavirus pandemic, our goal is to continue operations to the fullest extent possible given the current circumstances. Some employees are working remotely. We don’t anticipate any disruption in answering your phone calls or emails during this time, but many of us live in rural locations with slow internet. As we navigate our new remote work applications, we ask for your patience. For our employees that are continuing to come out to the Nursery, we are practicing social distancing, adjusting work schedules to minimize contact across teams, and sanitizing our workspaces daily.

Now, to a few potential questions:

Are you still open during Minnesota’s “Stay-at-Home” order?
Yes. Prairie Moon will continue to operate as an essential agricultural business (Category 1114: Greenhouse, Nursery, and Floriculture Production). Orders can be placed online, over-the-phone, or through the mail.

I have an open order.  Will it still be sent?
Yes. We expect to begin shipping plants on schedule this spring. Our bare root plants will ship, by order date, beginning mid-April. Potted plants will begin late-April based on both order date and plant readiness. We have been sending email reminders with shipping windows this winter; those shipping estimates remain accurate. If our plant shipping departments are compromised by illness or we foresee a delay in your order, we will reach out to you immediately.

I’m considering placing an order.  Are there any changes I should be aware of?
No. As is normal for this time of year, some of our most popular plants are beginning to sell out. Our website has the most updated availability for seed, plants, and tools and we’re ready for your order.

My Earth Day, Arbor Day, school, park district, or community event has been cancelled. Can I return or cancel my order?
Yes. We understand these are unusual circumstances and we are making exceptions to our normal cancellation & return policy. Please contact us right away to let us know about your specific situation by calling 866-417-8156, or email [email protected]

I live near Prairie Moon and would like to pick up an order. Should I change my plans?
As a reminder, we are not a retail garden center; we are a mail-order nursery. To save shipping costs, local customers have been able to pick up orders in the past. At this time, we would prefer to ship your order to minimize the number of people coming to the Nursery. If you have already arranged a plant pick up, we will contact you.

I’ve signed up for one of your summer tours. Are they still on?
We feel it’s too early to make the call yet for our June, July, and August tours, but please visit our website for updates as the tours draw near.  If you have already signed up for a tour, we will be in touch with any changes.

We are grateful for your ongoing support and
commitment to the environment.

We believe nature provides solace and peace even in the most
challenging times, and we hope you find
sanctuary in the outdoors this spring.

April Bare Roots – It’s Not Too Early to Plant!

April Is Not Too Early to Plant Dormant Bare Roots!

You read it right! Spring dormant bare root plants should be planted as soon as possible – if the ground is not frozen, but the snow is flying, that is a fine time to get them in the ground!

In April as we alert customers that their pre-order of dormant roots are shipping soon, we often get requests to delay shipment because weather has dipped below freezing again, or spring snow flurries are in the forecast. We urge customers to accept bare roots shipped in April.

Unlike greenhouse-grown potted plants, bare root plants can and should be planted during cold, spring weather. These plants are dormant. As soon as the ground thaws in our outdoor garden beds here in Southeast Minnesota (usually late-March) we dig them and store them in a walk-in cooler to keep them dormant. True, it’s not fun to be gardening in cold conditions, but as long as the ground has thawed and you can dig a hole, that is when you should install dormant roots. They will emerge, on schedule, in their new home when soils warm up and thus experience less transplant-shock than if they went from our 35 degree cooler into your warm May or June weather.

If your newly-planted roots emerge, and then a cold spell of below-freezing nights and/or snow happens, native plants are well-suited for those normal spring conditions and should not experience any noticeable hardships. Remember, our bare roots are grown outside in Minnesota, so they are used to being cold in April.

If you ordered later in the season and we had to ship your plants in May, they may have some new growth, which will straighten out as the plant matures. Our bare-root plants will arrive with a root planting depth photo printed on the bag label. These photos illustrate the optimal depth and orientation for planting your roots, and can also be found at prairiemoon.com on each species page.

What’s the buzz at the neighbor’s house? The first years of a new prairie

Justin and Liz Carroll live in a historic 1880 rural farmhouse on nearly 3 acres of land. The young couple moved to Southeast Minnesota from the Minneapolis area with a desire to live out the pastoral dream; kids running around the yard, a garden full of fresh produce, a flock of chickens, a big red barn, and miles of world-class trout streams to fish.

In 2017 the Carrolls decided to establish a native seed mix on 3/4 acre of their property. Their motivation was rooted in practicality. “We’re a young couple just starting our family with a big rural property to manage. Mowing a large lawn every weekend is not how we want to spend our time,” Liz explained. Less time mowing means more time making memories with their young daughter, Juniper, and newborn baby Jocelyn.

The Carroll’s experience is like many of those embarking on a prairie project for the first time. The first few years were met with a bit of skepticism from family, neighbors, and even from Liz. “I would look out to the planting that first year and I just couldn’t see what he saw.”

With Justin’s vision, the project moved forward. However, Liz’s concerns are common in the early years of many prairie reconstruction projects.

Establishing a native seed mix is typically a 3-5 year process. During the first year, site preparation must be done. The goal is to remove as much vegetation as possible and reduce the weed seed bank that inevitably exists in the soil. This will reduce competition for slow-growing perennials. Our recommendation is for site preparation to last the entire spring, summer, and fall. Prepare your site by smothering with plastic or cardboard, repeated shallow tiling, or herbicide application. That first year, it’s not a pretty sight.



Remove existing vegetation by smothering, repeated shallow tilling, or herbicide application. For more information on these site prep methods, see our site-prep guide.



Sow seed any time from October through February so dormant seeds can stratify and germinate in the spring. Spring plantings (March-June) are an acceptable second choice, but many wild flowers may not germinate until they can overwinter.

The second year isn’t much better. Although young perennials will be growing and the site will green up, there will inevitably be many weed seeds that will germinate along with the native plants. To prevent these annual weeds from growing up rapidly, stealing sunlight and nutrients from slow-growing perennials, the entire area must be kept mowed. As soon as vegetation reaches 8-10” tall, mow at a setting of approximately 5” as often as the growth dictates to help knock back weeds and woody vegetation.


Keep the site mowed the entire first growing season after planting.


As the saying goes, first a prairie SLEEPS, then a prairie CREEPS, and finally the prairie LEAPS!

We had the pleasure of visiting the Carrolls during year 3 of their project, the year when the wildflowers start to bloom. Even though Justin did good site prep, winter seed sowing, frequent mowing, and even a prescribed burn, there are still some species that he needed to manage. He found Giant Ragweed and Canada Goldenrod creeping in among the Purple Coneflower, Canada Wild Rye, and Showy Sunflowers.

“One thing I learned throughout this experience is to not underestimate the weed seed bank,” Justin said. We couldn’t agree more. Even in situations where the homeowner does everything right, weed pressure will be dependent upon the context of the property in question. There can be years’ worth of dormant weed seed in your soil that can appear in year 2.

To manage the Giant Ragweed, an annual plant, we advised Justin to cut them down mid-summer when they are very tall but before they flower and set seed. “At first I was out there cutting every plant off at waist height with a scissors. Little did I know they would just bloom again, but shorter,” Justin said. That’s when he decided to use a weed trimmer to cut the plants off at the base.
This strategy works well with annual plants like Giant Ragweed, but would not be effective against perennial, rhizomatous plants like Canada Goldenrod. Although Canada Goldenrod is native to North America, it is very aggressive and can easily dominate young plantings. Responsible spot treatments with herbicide can go a long way in preventing Canada Goldenrod or other perennial rhizomatous plants from taking hold. We would not advise pulling weeds in a young prairie. Pulling weeds can disturb the root systems of desirable plants working to establish themselves.

Justin plans to continue his prairie management by removing weeds and doing seasonal burns with his friends in the volunteer fire department.


Monitor your site for problematic species. Burning and mowing can help knock back weeds and woody vegetation.


Now after a few years of site observation and experience, he plans to diversify his prairie with enhancement seed mixes (link), one for the roadside and one for the tree line.

Over the past few years, Justin has reached out to us at Prairie Moon for advice. “It’s these interactions that have been super encouraging. You took your time, without question, and helped guide me. It has encouraged me to be a better prairie manager. We’ve lived in the country for almost 10 years now, and I’ve never seen as much wildlife out here as I do now that we’ve planted the prairie. We regularly see hummingbirds and butterflies. I’m hoping this is just the start.”

Establishing a successful native prairie planting from seed is a labor of love and patience. Most who have been through it will praise the process, the thrill of discovery, and the absolute joy in transforming a space into a healthy ecosystem.


Just like the Carrolls, you too can be a part of the movement to nurture and sustain the living landscape. Whether it’s a few square feet or several acres, you can make a difference. 


Will the birds eat my seeds?

Will the seeds I sow outside become a feast for the wildlife before they have a chance to grow?

Birds and other critters may consume a few seeds, but most seeds are quite small and not very noticeable to birds or other seed eaters. Prairie Moon seed mixes have high seeding rates to compensate for some loss and will still grow well even if birds do eat a few seeds.

Sowing onto bare ground in late fall or winter: Ideally, your native seed is planted in the late fall and soon covered with snow.  Even if the snow doesn’t come, the repeated freeze-thaw cycles work the seeds into the ground, protecting them from birds.

Sowing onto snow: If you sow your seed onto fluffy snow, the dark seeds quickly melt their way into the snow soon followed by the lighter seeds.  Once under the snow, the seeds are safe from birds.

Sowing onto bare ground in late spring: Large seeds should be lightly raked into the soil. This protects them from predation. Small seeds are surface sown, but they are too small to be of interest to birds and other critters.

10:30 AM- Seed mix immediately after sowing

11:30 AM- 1 hour later, much of the seed has already melted into the snow.

#ChooseNativePlants Photo Contest – Win $100

Submit your photo for your chance to win $100 in web credit at www.prairiemoon.com.

Gardeners everywhere are learning more about the benefits of landscaping with native plants. When you choose native plants, each patch of habitat – large or small – becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape. With each small act, we do our part to clean water, reduce resource use, and provide food and habitat for pollinators, birds, and other animals.

We are asking for your help to inspire others to choose native plants! Our goal is to increase our collection of photos showcasing native plants in relationships with various subjects – Property, People + Pets, and Pollinators. We intend to use these photos in future publications for education and marketing. Submit your photo for your chance to win $100 in web credit at www.prairiemoon.com. Three winners will be chosen, one in each photo category.

1. Property – Photos that include native plants with hardscapes like: buildings, paths, benches, bird feeders, fountains, fences, etc.

2. People or Pets – Your loved ones among native plants

3. Pollinators – Insects or birds visiting your lovely native plants

Contest details: You can submit as many photos as you like! Submissions must…

1. tag us using the @ on your preferred social platform, and use the hashtag #choosenativeplants
2. include native plants

3. include a reason why you choose native plants
4. be taken by you
5. be high-resolution, digital format

Deadline to submit photos: September 15th, 2019
Finalists will be announced on October 1st.
Winners will be announced by October 15th and will be contacted through direct messaging on the social media platform they submitted from.

Instagram: @prairiemoonnursery

Facebook: @Prairie Moon Nursery

Twitter: @prairiemoonnrsy

If you do not have any social media accounts please send submissions to [email protected]

Whether it’s a few square feet or several acres,
Hope grows in every backyard.

Earth Day 2019 – Healthy Lake Winona

Your unwavering support of native plants allows us to donate to worthwhile environmental groups every year.  Earth Day offers another chance for your online purchase with us to make a difference. 

HEALTHY LAKE WINONA is a citizen-led, community group dedicated to local lakeshore restoration to enhance water quality and ecological integrity. Their mission is to create a healthy, natural environment that supports a wide variety of native species and provides recreational opportunities for all ages.  This small group of volunteers has already accomplished so much in its 2 years since inception, from removing invasive species to planting diversified native seed mixes, and native wetland plugs. Their commitment and organization is an extraordinary example of what can be done by a small group of dedicated people at the grassroots level. To keep future Healthy Lake Winona projects going, they need our support! 5% of profits from your online purchases April 17th through Earth Day 2019 will go directly to funding this environmental action group. Plus, we’ll throw in a free seed packet of Early Sunflower!

Earth Day 2019 - Free Seed Packet of Early Sunflower
In addition to donating 5% of our profits from your online sales to Healthy Lake Winona, you will also receive this free seed packet with every order through April 22nd!
As a business located in a small Minnesota community, as advocates for ecological integrity, and as promoters of environmental education, we are proud to support Healthy Lake Winona for Earth Day 2019. Support Healthy Lake Winona!
Shop PrairieMoon.com.

(No coupon code or mentioning of this donation or free seed packet is necessary when you make a purchase on prairiemoon.com, now through midnight, April 22nd.  Look for your free Early Sunflower seed packet with your order, and stay tuned to our Facebook/Instagram pages for the Healthy Lake Winona donation amount!)

The Circle of Life

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE: Native plants co-evolved with native insects and wildlife; they are deeply dependent on one another. Plants provide food and shelter to insects, birds, and other small animals, which, in turn support larger predators. Native plants are the fundamental stepping stones of a healthy eco-system.

Why Natives?

Introducing native plants to your garden or land can bring many seasons of delight and discovery. Their many merits, though, exceed their virtues of beauty, resilience and appeal to birds and pollinators.

Ecosystem Restoration: Tallgrass prairies are North America’s most threatened major ecosystem, with about 99% plowed up or paved over since the 1830s. By planting native species, you are restoring ecosystems and preserving countless species that might otherwise be lost forever.

Clean Air: Like forests, prairies and meadows sequester pollutants and carbon from the atmosphere. Even small plantings can help filter the air around your home, and large plantings can help to mitigate climate change.

Clean Water: Because of the deep root system of most native plants, they act both as a sponge and a filter. They help water soak down into the soil and filter out excess nutrients and pollutants, improving water quality.

Healthy Soil: The dance between native plants and animals created some of the most fertile soil on Earth, making the American Midwest the “Breadbasket to the World.” Native plants prevent soil erosion, create topsoil and build fertility.

Invasive Species: Outside of their native environments, some plants will aggressively out-compete others because they lack natural checks and balances like pests and predators. Some of our worst non-native invaders – Buckthorn, Honeysuckle, Dame’s Rocket – were first planted in gardens.  By choosing natives, you can help prevent further habitat loss.

Resource Conservation: Once established, native plants can save you time and money because they require little or no irrigation, fertilizer, pruning or mowing.

Keep the Circle complete – plant natives!

Predators like foxes, snakes and birds of prey rely on small mammals, amphibians, birds and insects for their survival. All of these prey species are sustained by native plants.

90% of our native insects are specialists, meaning they require a native host plant in their life cycle.

Birds sustain their young almost exclusively on native insects, primarily caterpillars. It takes thousands of caterpillars and insects in order to raise and fledge a clutch of young birds.

Essential nutrient cycling is expedited by carrion beetles, fly larvae and other scavenging insects, enriching the soil.

A few square feet or several acres, we can all make a difference…



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