Erosion was creating a safety hazard along the Rock River at a Waupun school. The erosion problem was resolved and the north side of the river was completed last summer. It was finished with riprap, shaped and seeded with grass. In June, a group of high school students was planning to complete the south side of the river by seeding native prairie grasses and wildflowers. Due to wet weather however, the project was postponed until July.
On July 17, a group of 12 Waupun High School students and former students, five adults, including school staff, and Neil DiBoll, owner of Prairie Nursery in Westfield, began working on the south side of the river at 7 a.m.
DiBoll provided the native wild flowers, prairie grasses and seeds for the project and supervised the project completion.
"I gave the kids an orientation so they understood exactly what we were doing and would be knowledgeable of the process," DiBoll explains.
The group started by seeding the native wetland seeds near the water which is typically wet or flooded. "Then we seeded the rest of the re-graded slope to attract butterflies and bees with a pollinator mix," he explains.
DiBoll showed the students how to mix the seed on the tarp with sawdust.
"We used sawdust because the seed is small and it needed to be spread thin," he says.
The students spread the seed mixed with sawdust.
"Then we started the installation of the plants."
That involved the adults drilling four-inch holes with a device a little smaller than an ice auger.
"The plants are in three-inch pots so the four-inch holes are perfect for the plants," he says. "They removed the plants from the pots and put them in the holes drilled by the adults."
Then all of the slopes were stabilized with a straw erosion blanket to prevent seed and plants from washing into the river.
"The trick to that was we had to roll the blanket out and cut holes where the holes are and then put the plant in through the erosion blanket and cover it up with soil," DiBoll explains.
The blanket holds everything in place and is kept in place with six-inch, U-shaped staples.
"We were really lucky," he says. "We finished around 3 p.m. and it started raining. It rained a half-inch and we didn't have to water anything."
DiBoll says he is grateful everything went smoothly despite temperatures soaring into the 90s.
"The kids were great and the adult crew leaders were fantastic," he says. "The whole team really worked well together. They were careful and nobody complained that it was a hot steamy day and they got the job done. I was impressed."
The City of Waupun said they have a tanker truck available for watering the site if it doesn't continue to receive timely rains.
Lots of wildflowers
The team planted more than 22 different wildflowers in the wetland mix and nine species of grasses, sedges and bulrushes including: many different cone flowers, red milkweed, wild senna and golden rods. There were 28 different wildflowers on the upland areas and four different grasses including: blazing stars, cone flowers, three different types of black-eyed Susans, Ohio spider wart, New England aster, rattle snake master – pollinated primarily by parasite wasps which attack garden pests and keep garden pests in control.
"The main plant we used in the wetland area is Fox sedge," DiBoll says. "Fox sedge is capable of being under water but can grow in the summer when it dries out. It also has dense roots to help hold the soil in place. About a third of the plants were Fox sedge. Between the Fox sedges, we filled in with ironweed, golden Alexander, obedient plant, great blue lobelia, boneset and purple stem aster."
DiBoll says the south shore will be very colorful when everything is blooming.
"Next year, we'll start to see some blooms," he says.
For more information on the flowers used for the project, visit the Prairie Nursery website at www.prairienursery.com.