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Katy Texas News
Posted February 23, 2011

The Katy Prairie Conservancy (KPC) is kicking off its annual Great Grow Out, a citywide effort where volunteers of all ages grow wildflowers and grasses from seeds until they are old enough to be transferred to prairie restoration sites in the Houston area. The Great Grow Out is in its second year and KPC’s goal is to have between 4,000 – 5,000 plants grown by volunteers this year. The program is already underway, with students at both Westside High School and Coulter Elementary School participating. Seedlings will be transferred to local schools, KPC’s Native Seed Nursery, and Hermann Park’s Whistlestop Prairie, providing much-needed plant material.

“Growing seeds into beautiful grasses and wildflowers is an easy way to get kids connected to citizen conservation,” says Jaime Gonzalez, KPC’s Community Education Manager. “Planting the seeds, nurturing them, and watching them grow into seedlings ensure a deeper connection with our hometown habitat.” March is an ideal time to grow-out seeds, as the warmer weather will induce plants to grow much faster. “This is a great service opportunity for schools and scout groups, as well as church groups, individuals, and corporations. You don’t need to have a green thumb, because we have seeds of all levels of difficulty.” Anyone can participate, from large groups to individuals.

The coastal prairie is one of the most imperiled ecosystems in the United States. Grassland restoration is particularly difficult because of the lack of suitable locally-adapted seed and plant material. The Grew Grow Out bridges that gap by using seeds, which represent prairie indicator-species such as Texas coneflower, indiangrass, big and little bluestem, rattlesnake master, prairie blazing star, and swamp sunflower, gathered from prairie sites in and around the Houston area. While the plants may take a little longer to grow than typical mass-produced seeds, these plants provide many benefits, including food for a diverse mix of birds, mammals, frogs, lizards, and butterflies; building soil; controlling erosion; and absorbing rainwater to mitigate flooding. The also help promote a sense of place to Houston and our natural ecosystem in an increasingly globalized world. Once the seeds have sprouted and grown into seedlings, they can be returned to KPC for use in restoration projects.

“The kids really caught on to the native plant aspect,” says Frank Abbott, a teacher at Pershing Middle School whose students participated in the Great Grow Out last year by growing over 1,000 Texas coneflower seedlings at the campus. “They felt like this was their contribution to the environment.” Mr. Abbott is currently working approval to get a shade structure for seedlings at Pershing to help protect the seedlings from harsh weather conditions as part of his efforts to make the school a greener campus.

The Great Grow Out is an annual city-wide event focused on citizen conservation where volunteers grow local prairie plants from seeds for use in conservation projects. In 2010, over 3,000 plants totaling a cost of nearly $1,500 were grown by school groups, scouts, garden clubs, individuals, and more. Groups and individuals interested in obtaining seeds should call 713.523.6135 or email info@katyprairie.org. Seeds can be mailed or picked up.

The Katy Prairie Conservancy has been working since 1992 to preserve a sustainable portion of the Katy Prairie, a flat out wonderful gem on Houston’s west side, for the benefit of its wildlife and all Texans forever. KPC has conserved nearly 18,000 acres of land so that future generations can enjoy this amazing part of Texas’s natural heritage. Please mention you found this on www.KatyMagazine.com.

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