After three attempts to schedule a controlled burn in the south meadow, the weather finally cooperated, and the burn took place on Tuesday, March 24. Ned Gerber, Habitat Ecologist, from Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage (www.cheswildlife.org) provided a small group of dedicated and interested observers with an explanation of meadow managem
ent, and the benefits of using fire to maintain healthy meadows.
To preserve nesting habitat and diversity of wildlife and plant species, only a portion of a meadow is either mowed or burned at one time. Half the south meadow was burned that morning with the fire being started on one end of the meadow, and slowly encouraged to move into the wind (called a backing fire) across the portion that was prepared for burning. Exit routes for wildlife were preserved, and the slowness of the burn ensured easy escape for any critters hiding in the burn area.
Burning is one of a few tools used to keep meadow environments healthy. Along with mowing and herbicide applications, burning helps control woody plant species, and reduces winter debris to create enhanced conditions for the survival of warm season grasses, and herbaceous flowering plants. Timing is critical for either mowing or burning, and in this area of the world February and March are optimal times for both. Waiting until February to perform a controlled burn or mow a portion of meadow is late enough to preserve winter cover for wildlife, and early enough to protect spring nesting habitat.
For more information about either managing an existing meadow or converting acreage into meadow, please contact Ned Gerber at www.cheswildlife.org, or Sue Wyndham, Land Stewardship Coordinator, Adkins Arboretum, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.