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In the meadow

I haven’t done a very good job in my career when it comes to keeping my opinion about grass under wraps. I’ve been pretty vocal about trying to get homeowners to look at other options instead of going with the default lawn in the yard. When I purchased my current home, I was stuck in the exact same way a lot of my followers have been; I have a lawn that is over an acre. Clearly, I couldn’t ignore the situation given my years of campaigning against grass. Instead, I decided to do a little good for the world and planted a meadow full of a combination of wild flowers (including some non-traditional meadow flowers for all the purists out there). Now I have a space that gives back to nature in the form of pollen for bees and butterflies.

If you are considering a meadow/wild flower garden, there are a few things to consider first:

1. Removing the grass. Before you can start planting seeds, you need to find a safe and ethical way to remove all of the existing lawn. (Spraying the entire area with an herbicide defeats the purpose of doing something healthy for nature). In my case, I covered the entire lawn with a series of heavy tarps to naturally smother all of the grass beneath them. It takes about 4-6 months to really ensure that the hardiest of weeds living in the lawn won’t come back. Once you’re done, till or plow the area to make sure that the roots of the now yellow lawn are exposed to the sun for a few days. This will help ensure that your meadow starts out with as few weeds as possible.

2. Choose the right seed selection. I was surprised to find that several of the mixes available online carried invasive species like purple loosestrife. Do your research and check the plants that you will be putting into your yard. The best mixes have a combination of perennials, self-seeding annuals and some biennials, which take 2 years to flower and reseed. Also check the square footage that each package will cover. If you are planning to sow the seeds by scattering them by hand then I suggest you double what you think you need. Trust me on this, I ran out halfway through spreading.

3. Contain your garden. These plants that you are introducing are naturally designed to spread (and they will!). Make sure that you have a way to prevent the seeds from ending up in your neighbour’s lawn. I was lucky with a large copse of spruce backing one side of my meadow and the driveway on the other. I will still have to keep an eye out for plants that spread using the wind.

4. You still have to weed. For the first 3 years of a meadow garden, you will have to pull out the invasive weeds so that they don’t take over the space. I just spent 2 hours pulling out all kinds of unwanted plants. This is part of the reason why researching what plants are in your seed mix is so important. (At least you’ll know what should be in the meadow!)

I know that my little meadow isn’t for everyone. For some, nothing will compare to the look of a freshly mown lawn. For others, this haphazard option of small flowers that bloom on their own schedule is irresistibly charming. I describe my little piece of nature as ‘perfectly imperfect’. It’s hard not to run through it singing the ‘Hills are Alive with the sound of music!’


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