Beauty of an Ugly Field

It may sound paradoxical, but great beauty exists in what some people would consider an ugly, overgrown field, especially down a fencerow.

 “From the perspective of someone interested in wildlife, yes, there’s real beauty in a so-called ugly field,” said Donnie Buckland, the NWTF’s private lands coordinator. “Very few creatures can live in a mowed fescue field, where the fences have had all the vegetation cut from around them, and the thick sod allows little ground movement for smaller, less mobile species. This type of habitat is really a wildlife desert with little food value and no benefit for birds that like some bare ground and forbs for travel and food searching.”

Buckland says serious changes must occur if landowners, hunt club members and folks who lease land want more deer, turkey and quail, as well as nongame animals, on their fescue-centric fields.

The to do list should include:

  • Clear away all the thick grass that may be right up to the fence line
  • Use tilling, disking and burning to encourage new growth
  • Ragweed, foxtail, pokeweed and other beneficial “ugly” plants may grow on their own with many wildlife benefits.
  • Plant strips of cereal grains, such as oats and winter wheat, and then over-seed them with a legume mixture.
  • Brush piles constructed from downed trees and placed near fencerows provide sanctuaries for birds and small game.
  • Plant hard mast-bearing trees, such as sawtooth oak trees, white oaks and Northern red oaks or their native counterparts for your area.
  • Plant apple and other fruit trees to create edge habitat

All of these changes can benefit wildlife. Adding the hard mast-bearing trees can help in three additional ways: creating a blind, offering additional food sources and providing excellent cover.

Don’t have a fencerow? It’s easy to create a fencerow-type habitat with just a few steps. Start by preparing a bare strip and then simply set posts and run a wire between them in the middle of a field. Birds will appreciate the perch and will naturally add weed and other seeds, which will have blackberries, cedars and many other trees, shrubs and vines growing very soon.

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