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40 Years of Learning Through Growing

Four decades ago, Alan Wade and several of his friends began Prairie Moon Nursery selling seeds out of his living room. They were following in the footsteps of Alan’s parents, Doug and Dot Wade, who started one of the first North American native plant nurseries in the 1970s. We continue to grow the ecotypes first collected by the Wades along with a wide range of ecotypes from across the Midwest. 

We are inspired and energized by our daily contact with so many who share our passion for ecological preservation and restoration. We’re all learning how to better assist nature through our experiments, from tiny backyard plantings to multi-acre projects. 

Thank you for joining us these past 40 years in learning through growing.

Dot Wade and her husband Doug, a student of Aldo Leopold, started one of the first true wildflower nurseries, Windrift Prairie Shop and Nursery.

doug wade

In 1982, with encouragement from his parents, Alan Wade began shipping seed with neighbors Vic, Tony, and Yarrow from his small house.

The first catalog was a trifold pamphlet that sold for 50¢ in the early 80s. By the early 90s, we had nearly 250 natives to list, graduating to a traditional catalog experience for the reader.

A 2 room building was proudly built in 1987.
The upstairs was a bookkeeping office,
and downstairs was a small warehouse.
Plumbing was a luxury, so we relied on an outhouse.

doug wade

We moved to computerized software in 1997 and launched our first website in 2003. This added efficiency and greatly expanded our customer reach.

doug wade

Construction began in 2007
on new land just 1 mile away.
This consolidated operations
under one 10,000 sq ft building,
with room to grow, or so we thought!

doug wade

In 2015, a greenhouse was added
to meet increasing plant demand.
By 2018, we tripled the greenhouse size.
Coming in 2022-23: a modernized seed processing
building and office expansion.

doug wade

Are You Mowing Your 1st Year Prairie?

Did you plant a native seed mix recently? MAKE SURE YOU MOW THIS SPRING!
Mowing your newly-planted site the first growing season is referred to as maintenance mowing. Right now you probably see a lot of weeds, some juvenile prairie grasses, and wildflower seedlings. Some native annuals from your seed mix, like Black-eyed Susan, may be about to bloom, but don’t be swayed, it’s time to mow!

Regular summer mowing will prevent quick-growing weeds from shading new native seedlings and dropping additional seeds on the site. Mowing will not harm new native plants!

If your first-year planting looks like this, mowing is overdue! You may be encouraged by the Black-eyed Susan or Daisy Fleabane and not want to mow, but also pictured, Canada Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace, are weeds and need to be mowed, along with the native “pioneer species”, to allow light in.

If your planting still looks like a lot of bare dirt and nothing to mow, fear not! That just means you don’t have many weeds to contend with. First-year planting often look like this in early June. You will start to see more growth throughout the summer.

Set your mower to a high setting; 4-6″ on most mowers. Mow as frequently as your site demands; usually that is when growth reaches 8-10 inches or weeds want to flower.

Here is a 1st year planting next to a 3rd year prairie. We practiced maintenance mowing multiple times during the spring-summer to allow light to infiltrate and to prevent weeds from going to seed. Mowing will not harm young native plants. You can usually stop mowing at the end of the first season. If weeds are thick in the beginning of the second season, mow or spot-mow once or twice.

Hand-held string trimmers are ideal for small areas or steep slopes.

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