Ilse: Pocket Prairies Taking Root in Austin

3 Pocket Prairies, 3 Different Approaches

Our three principals at Studio Balcones have each created personal pocket prairies with their own distinct approaches. Today, we’re chatting with Ilse about her experience getting a pocket prairie started at her home. You can learn more about pocket prairies and their benefits through our previous post here. And don’t forget to check out Michael’s Pocket Prairie and Jennifer’s Pocket Prairie!

What was the state of the landscape when you moved in?  

We moved into this house in 2021 and it was just a sea of full sun, sad bermuda grass with small islands of buffalo grasses here and there. In terms of trees and shrubs, we had a small cedar elm, a crepe myrtle, a spider lily, and some weird 1950’s tree. We did have a giant Texas sage though. 

Ilse's Yard in 2021 - all Bermudagrass
2021 Bermudagrass Front Yard

When did you decide to plant a pocket prairie? 

Not long after we moved in, we quickly learned we don’t like mowing lawns and I wanted to experiment with seeding a landscape.  

What was your process/what steps did you take?

I initially did a planting design that removed all lawn and relied more heavily on container grown plants. But then we began working on an addition and remodel for our house and decided to do something more inexpensive as an interim lawn.

solarizing plastic on a front yard killing grass

What were any significant dates? 

In August 2022, we put down black plastic to kill as much of the bermuda grass as possible – without using chemicals. About a year later in May, we pulled up the plastic, tilled the soil, and added in 50% compost and 50% mulch mix. We then seeded with about four pounds of Blackland Prairie seed mix and three points of Thunder Turf. We also added a small vegetable garden between the driveway and front walkway that summer. 

mulch being spread for pocket prairie front yardlandscapers mulching the front yard pocket prairie
August 2022

What is your maintenance plan? 

We’re trying to decide what our next steps are for the fall… everything is looking quite crispy…. Do we mow it?  Do we stomp it down?  We shall see!  So far, maintenance has been weeding to keep out invasive species such as that pesky bermuda grass. 

raking out the mulch for the front yard pocket prairie

How much do you water in the hottest months of the year?  

We were hand watering a bit every day up until we went on vacation in August. Despite our efforts, it started to look brown so we paused on watering. We will see how it comes back next season! Sometimes all you can do is a little trial and error.

Favorite part of having a prairie at your house?

Seeing it take shape! And the anticipation of the butterflies, bees in the months that will come.

2023 Ilse's growing pocket prairie