Garden Notes: “From Lawn to Meadow”

June 15, 2022

By Kathleen Kennedy

Lessons learned from a workshop on May 21, 2022 – led by Brian Smith

Removing a portion - or all - of your cultivated lawn serves several purposes. Most importantly, a biodiverse landscape supports insects and wildlife better than a monoculture of manicured grass. Plants in a meadow support many kinds of beneficial insects, including pollinating bees and wasps, butterflies, lady bugs, caterpillars and more. Many of these insects feed our birds and wildlife. A well-planted meadow offers a density of host plants for butterflies. Planting densely offers places for them to lay eggs that hatch as caterpillars that feed on these plants until they metamorphose into butterflies.

Removing lawn to create a meadow can be accomplished in several ways. Here at Bridge Gardens, we started in March and used the “smother technique” by laying down clean corrugated cardboard, not touched by ink, staples, or tape. We secured the cardboard with bricks and then covered with mulch and allowed it to decompose over several months this spring. You can also use a thick layer of newspaper in a similar fashion and let it decompose. A speedier method is to cut out your lawn area. September is a great time to begin this project, or you can wait for the early spring as we did.

Once the lawn area is eliminated, it’s time to plant your meadow. A meadow is a planned combination of native grasses and flowering perennials and may also contain native shrubs and woody perennials. Keep in mind that native plants will do best in your area because they are adapted to your climate and soils and will require minimal care after they are established. However, a meadow does require irrigation to start.

You may be tempted to purchase a “meadow seed mix” but be wary. These mixes often contain non-native, and possibly invasive weed seeds. This method is the hardest way to establish a healthy meadow. It’s much better to plant intentionally, with plugs of grasses, along with a variety of blooming and non-blooming plants. During our workshop, led by Brian Smith, attendees helped Garden Director Rick Bogusch plant the meadow with a variety of native plants including Little Bluestem, Orange Butterflyweed, Dotted Horsemint, Golden Alexanders, Robin’s Plantain, Mountain Mint, Showy Goldenrod, Slender Goldentop and False Indigo.

Other options Brian suggests include: Sideoats Gramma, Wild Strawberry, Wild Indigo, Liatris Blazing Star, Blackeyed Susan, and Native Heuchera.

We’re planning a follow up workshop in autumn, stay tuned!

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