The Kankakee Sands Native Plant Nursery is an 80 acre seed production facility located on the southern end of the Kankakee Sands Restoration. The purpose of the nursery is to provide seeds for the 7,600 acre prairie restoration.
The nursery was established in 1999 in an old soybean field using seed of native plants from Newton and surrounding counties. Today, the nursery has over 130 different native, perennial grasses and flower species growing in organized beds. Over a ton of seeds are harvested annually and are planted in the project. As per the conditions of the soil found on the vast site, there must be a good mix of plants that can grow in either wet, mesic (not too wet, not too dry) or dry soil conditions. Examples of species that require these conditions are:
White Wild Indigo
Prairie Alum Root
Blue Flag Iris
Great Blue Lobelia
Canada Wild Rye
Side Oats Grama
How We Work at the Native Plant Nursery
The nursery operates with a staff that includes the year-round Nursery Manager, a seasonal management assistant and a seasonal equipment operator. There is also a summer crew consisting of students from local area schools. Volunteers are also a wonderful source of help at the nursery and throughout the preserve. Visit our listing of stewardship workdays to find volunteer opportunities at Kankakee Sands.
Seasonally, work begins at the nursery in early February when local seeds are grown in the greenhouse. These seedlings are then transferred to the beds. Over the following months, the beds are weeded and watered until the plants produce sees which are ready for harvest. By mid-November the last seed at the nursery has been harvested and the cycle will continue in the following February.
The nursery has a greenhouse which produces roughly 20,000 plant plugs a year. The plugs are used in the nursery beds or are planted directly into a Kankakee Sands restoration unit. The greenhouse was funded through a grant awarded by the Indianapolis Power and Light Company, or IPALCO.
Several pieces of large farm equipment, including tractors, mowers and a combine, are used at the nursery. They are stored in a Morton Pole Barn, built in 2001, and a three sided storage shed that was graciously funded by one of our donors. A center pivot irrigation system is also used to water the plants.