The Making of a Meadow

Mid Summer Meadow

Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odorless but all together perfume the air.~Georges Bernanos

 

This week on the 15th it is once again Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (GBBD) hosted by Carol@May Dream Gardens and Gesine@Seepferds-Garten.  My zone 5 garden here in central New York State has nothing blooming.  In fact it is pretty ratty looking with spent flowers seed heads on tall stalks half eaten by birds.  But I love the look.  The birds are frequent visitors looking for seed and with no snow cover they find seeds and insects especially under the leaf litter.

We are having a rather unusual weather pattern here in the snow belt.  Lots of rain filling my rain gardens to over flowing, but really no measurable snow.  It all stems from a weak La Niña coupled with a positive arctic oscillation.  No really this is real weather jargon from our local weatherman at his blog, and it is quite fascinating.  If we have a downward trend and move more to a negative oscillation we will get the cold and snow that stays.  Right now it is trending well above normal to the positive so we have temps in the 40s.  The cold air is staying up N of us and hitting other regions of the US more Western and Central.

So now that you suffered through this science lesson what does it all mean?  It means I need to find something interesting to talk about this GBBD.  I decided you might find it interesting to learn about my meadow.  Yes, I have a meadow that grows just beyond the fence on my suburban property here in our neighborhood housing development.  How is this possible?  Well this housing development was designed with “protected areas”.  This means we cannot disturb these areas at all and they are monitored by the Department of Environmental Conservation.  I bought my lot knowing that it bordered on one of these areas.  It is an irregularly shaped plot of land.  Once I knew I wanted a picket fence, I knew that part of the property would not be fenced in because of the irregular plot. So that is when I decided I would leave a bit wild.  I knew I wanted it to be a meadow.

So how to start?  I will tell you this is not one of those perfect stories where I create a meadow with all the right steps and no issues…starting a meadow is a lot of work.  But I think it is worth it.

The Start

Meadow in Early Spring

The land was stripped of all its rich top layers and only hard clay remained.  So this was going to be a difficult chore.  And the vegetation that was left was mostly weeds.  OK it wasn’t a pretty start and it’s confession time.  At the time I started this project 5 years ago, I did not know about native plants or chemicals and their harm.  So yes I used a chemical herbicide to try and kill the weeds.  And surprise it didn’t work all that great.

Once I had killed some of the weeds and native plants, I spread top soil and peat…yes now I know not the best choice.  Then I found meadow seed for the Northeast online and used this.  I cast lots of seed in the spring for a couple of years, and low and behold I had plants growing and flowers.

Meadow in Mid Spring

The Mistakes

I know this looks beautiful so what could be the problem:

1.  The chemicals used kept the pollinators at bay.

2.  The soil used to amend was not a good choice and lacked any real organic matter to help the meadow plants grow and reduce the weeds.

3.  Little research was done to find the best plants for the meadow.  The daisies pictured above are actually an invasive plant.

4.  Weeds are still a big problem.

Meadow in Early Summer

The Do-Over

So what did I learn?  I learned there is a better way to do this project that will yield you better results.  But whatever method you choose, you have to remember that this is not something you plant quickly and requires little follow up.  Quite the opposite.  So here is my advice if you want to plant a meadow.

1.  Check out the area you want to plant the meadow for soil type; wet or dry; how much shade and sun does it get and what native plants are already growing.  You want to keep these plants.

Mid Fall Meadow

2.  The best way to start is to divide the area so you tackle one section at a time.  Clean up the debris around first.  Then lay newspaper on top of the soil and vegetation you want to suppress when it is either very early spring or fall.  Layer a good amount of compost on top of the newspaper and leave it for a season.

3.  While you are waiting to plant,  research the native wildflowers in your area.  I suggest buying a good book or utilizing web resources.  Make a plan for the meadow-what you are planting where.

4.  Next try to find local nurseries that carry native plants.  You want to find those that are grown in your area for the best results.  If you cannot find any in your area, there are places to order from online.

5.  I suggest you use a combo of plants and seeds.  Be very sure that the seeds you buy are native and not invasive.  You may want to stay away from mixes especially if you do not know exactly what is in the mix.  You can purchase several seeds and mix them yourself.  Many seeds and plants are best planted in fall when temps are cooler and there is more rain and less stress on the plants.

6.  Be sure to include native shrubs for cover and food.  Look for host and nectar plants for butterflies; plants that hummers will frequent and birds will use for food as they go to seed.

7.  The planting will take a while and you may have to reseed.  Be patient as many plants will be slow to grow.  I also added some bulbs for early color in the spring.  This is up to you.

 

Resources

Wild Ones-great organization to learn more about natives plants and natural landscapes.  They have lots of resources.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center-a great database of native plants

Plant Native-another excellent resource

enature.com-another source of info about natives and invasives

Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens-great blog where you can search for information.  The team will also answer questions.  You can find them on Facebook as well.

Beautiful Wildlife Gardens-sister blog to Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens.  Again it is a great resource and also on Facebook.  Both blogs were a great resource for me.  Now I am able to share my knowledge on this blog.

Urban and Suburban Meadows: Bringing Meadowscaping to Big and Small Spaces-great book showing you the how tos for building a meadow using native plants.

Prairie Moon Nursery-great online nursery and resource about native plants.

Easywildflowers Native Plant Nurseryanother great resource and nursery for information about wildflower seeds and wildflower potted plants native to the Midwest and Eastern USA

American Beauties Native Plants-is a supplier of native plants that are easy to use and the sale of these plants benefits the National Wildlife Federation.  It is also a good resource for native plant info and where to find these plants.

Late Fall Meadow

I am also linking in this month to Carolyn@This Grandmother’s Garden for her Walk in the Garden meme.  I am showing off my frosted meadow blooms.

As you can see, everything is encased in a heavy layer of frost with a dusting of snow on top.  I call it snost.  Looks prettier than it sounds.  The meadow is the best garden for 4 season interest, for creating a peaceful haven and for drawing in wildlife of all kinds.  You can see bees, butterflies, caterpillars, dragonflies, snakes, frogs, toads, fox, deer, rabbits and birds of all sorts throughout the seasons.  The meadow is one of the most beautiful spots I know to be one with nature, feel the flow of life and find your soul.  It is my lesson in patience and a dream come true.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

 

Coming next week is Wildflower Wednesday and Garden Bloggers Foliage Day.  I will be showcasing the fabulous National Forest in Northern Arizona.  I’ll also have a Christmas Surprise on the 23rd.   And please join me at Beautiful Wildlife Gardens for my latest post, Plant This, Not That New York Style.  New post goes up on the Winter Solstice, December 22nd.

 

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.  So drop by to check out all the wonderful flowers this Friday.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.


51 comments

  1. Christina says:

    Hi, thanks for visiting my post about seedheads, I’m surprised you used so much compost etc. in creating your meadow; usually the best thing is to take all the fertility away from the ground (historically this was done by pouring boiling water on the soil and scraping of the top layer. As you say a meadow is a process rather than a one off planting – yours is beginning to have some great plants now, Christina

    • Donna says:

      It would have been best to start that way and kill the weeds but I also would have killed some of the native plants growing. I should have done more research. I am just now adding compost in hopes of creating better soil for plants to grow and seed to germinate. It also discourages some of the aggressive weeds they say. We shall see.

  2. Carolyn♥ says:

    Thank you for the link, Donna. “Walk in the Gardens” begins the first day of each month and runs for a week. So glad you’ve shared your post… and I love your snost! I sense you are very proud of that meadow, and rightly so, what solace it must bring to you.

    • Donna says:

      Good to know so I can plan better next time. Since I do My Gardens Eye Verse the first Monday of every month, I will add the Garden Walk to it as well…Isn’t the snost fun…and you are correct I am proud of the meadow and what it has brought to my small patch…so much solace and peace and critters…

  3. Alberto@Altroverde says:

    Hi Donna! Thank you for this very interesting post, I’d like to start a meadow too, somewhere in my garden. I can see it’s a lot of work though… Yours is beautiful. I like a lot your bird’s house. 🙂

    I will try and follow your advice about doing some research on natives, the temptation of using american natives is strong for me but I must resist!

    • Donna says:

      Alberto that is wonderful…you might be surprised to find out what plants make up a meadow in Italy..there may be some that are the same for me. One of the main reasons I built the meadow was to attract our state bird the Bluebird which is why there is a bird house…it attracts lots of birds all spring and is fun to watch…

  4. Donna says:

    Donna, from your mistakes and do-over list, you easily discovered meadow making is much more involved than it looks. So many think that it is easy by just throwing seeds to the wind, but it is a long process to get them looking so beautiful and keeping the weeds at bay. Plus, they revert over time and upkeep keeps one busy too, but well worth the effort.

    • Donna says:

      Well said Donna…I thought I could short cut it but I am still keeping invasive weeds at bay…good point that you have to keep working on it or the weeds will take over…

  5. b-a-g says:

    Donna – I’ve loved your meadow from the first photos that you shared. I’ll bookmark this post for when I find the courage to pull out my lawn.

    • Donna says:

      I will look forward to that day. I am so glad you liked the post. I especially did this one for you because I remember how much you loved the meadow. I am also pulling out more grass in the garden areas to expand gardens….

    • Donna says:

      I will keep doing this labor of love for as long as I live here…yes Lady Slippers are native and I would love to plant them although I would probably reserve a spot in the shadier area of my garden…they are hard to find and expensive to buy..protected in the wild…I want to be sure I know what I am doing growing these beauties..then it will be a gift to myself to buy a couple and watch them grow.

    • Donna says:

      So glad you liked it Christine…you could easily do this..although you consider yourself a newbie you learn so fast…I do love the “snost”. We had “snizzle” the other day. It was drizzling but with snow. I love making up these words.

  6. HolleyGarden says:

    I think meadows are so natural, that everyone believes they would be easy to create. Not so! I tried once, but made more mistakes than you, so finally gave up! Yours is looking beautiful – in all seasons.

  7. Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens says:

    After over 35 years of gardening (I started young), I still make mistakes whenever I do something new. Now I think of it as part of the process, and the process is fun. I am always telling my customers that top soil and peat moss are a waste of money. They look at me like I am crazy, but in my book compost is king.

    • Donna says:

      Show them this post then Carolyn… definitely easy to use from bags peat and top soil, but it gets you no where…I agree the learning process is fun although now I have a lot of invasives (some my own planting) to get rid of….

  8. Bom says:

    I love how you showcase your meadow through the seasons. I didn’t even realize that you had committed mistakes. Hah! Shows you what I know. I wish I could have a meadow of my own someday. Cuts of land being sold now are small and the big ones are really big not to mention expensive. We do own farmland but it is far from where we live and it is used only for rice crops.

    • Donna says:

      We can always dream can’t we…maybe someday Bom. So glad you liked the post…the beauty of the meadow it is forgiving of your mistakes…

  9. Alistair says:

    Ah, once upon a time I was single minded, but how as gardeners we eventually appreciate gardens in all its guises. I would love to have the space for a meadow such as yours Donna. Have a great Christmas and I will see you in 2012, in the cyber world of course.

    • Donna says:

      We do evolve as gardeners Alistair. So glad you enjoyed the post…are you travelling for the holidays? Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year…see you in 2012 although I will be posting every Monday so keep stopping by…

  10. thevioletfern says:

    What a beautiful meadow! I wish I had more space and I could create a meadow based upon what you have learned. I now use newspaper, mulch and compost to create all my new beds. What a great list of resources you have provided as well. I love the snost!

    • Donna says:

      Kathy, maybe you will be able to start a meadow. Of course you can come down and collect seed and take some plants from the meadow to use. Hopefully this spring or summer we can get a chance to visit each other and you can see the meadow for yourself. The “snost” was a great surprise…so glad you enjoyed the post!!

    • Donna says:

      Catharine you are so right. It has been the hardest garden to grow and to get to establish the way I want. It can also be an addiction because it has to be constantly attended to…

  11. debsgarden says:

    Your meadow is beautiful, and I appreciate your sharing the process. I have a wild area I have envisioned as a meadow for years but have lacked the courage to commit to the time and effort to turn it into something so lovely as yours. When I decide to do it, I will remember your advice.

  12. andrea says:

    Hi Donna, I also thought doing meadows is easy until you told us. But I can see it really depends on the climate, as your style will not do well here in the tropics. I thought you will just leave everything to the colonizers and let them do their roles. But here, it is nice to have grazers to keep the grasses low. Moreover, i love your information on climate change. Maybe the countries who are expecting more rain will be getting only partial because most of the rains are poured here causing much flood, landslides, etc.

    • Donna says:

      Andrea so glad you enjoyed the post…what a wonderful thing to see meadows all over the world…the climate around the world has been very strange indeed.

  13. Scott Weber says:

    Great post…it’s always reassuring to hear about other gardener’s mis-steps! I would love to try this…if only I had room…maybe at my next house 😉

    • Donna says:

      Scott it is helpful to know the good and bad or we cannot learn…I hope you have the chance to make a meadow someday! So glad you stopped by…

  14. Hanni says:

    I’ve always admired meadows from afar – yours included! You have written some excellent suggestions about how to begin one…they seem very overwhelming to me. I may consider doing a mini-meadow as that seems less stressful.

    • Donna says:

      Hanni thank you for your kind words about my meadow….it can be overwhelming so starting small is a great way to go…I hope you get a chance to grow a mini-meadow…you will love it!!

  15. Beth says:

    Donna, Your meadow is really stunning! I especially enjoyed hearing how you did it, and how you would recommend doing it. Gardening is partly about trial and error, partly about science, and a lot about our dreams!
    Hugs,Beth

    • Donna says:

      Beth I am glad you got something from my mistakes and suggestions…it is a lot about our dreams..without them we would not put in the effort…

  16. Stacy says:

    Donna, what a wonderful post–a lesson in meteorology and in meadow-building, all in one fell swoop! Even though I have a tiny urban garden, I really appreciate what you say here. I suppose all of us dream about the acreage in the country some day… but also, one of the most (irritating and) valuable lessons I’ve been STARTING to learn is not to take short-cuts. I’ve read that in books before, but it means more to hear it from a fellow gardener/experimenter/discoverer like yourself.

    • Donna says:

      Oh Stacy thx so much…I have had to learn the hard way not to short-cut as well…glad you enjoyed the weather lesson…it is fascinating…

  17. landscapelover says:

    Donna

    Your meadow is beautiful and, like many of your readers I love the “snost” – both the picture and the word! Why do you think meadows are so hard to establish and maintain? Is it where we humans have messed around with local fauna and flora so much? Or is it just that in some places meadow is not a natural state? Or some other reason?! Jill

    • Donna says:

      Jill so glad you enjoyed the meadow and snost. I think we have messed to much with local environments and invasives and real weeds take over….of course the meadow is not natural in some places so we have to consider where we put them…

    • Donna says:

      Mac so nice to have you visit the garden and I am so glad you enjoyed the post and the meadow….you are quite right about the word meadow…it just seems to evoke feelings of peace and pictures of flowers swaying…

  18. Jean says:

    Donna, I love this post, both for its wisdom and for the practical advice. We all need to be reminded that becoming a gardener, like gardening, is a process. There is always more to learn, and the wise gardener learns from nature’s lessons and from her own mistakes. Thanks for this; I found it inspiring.

    • Donna says:

      Oh Jean I am humbled…someone else just told me I inspired them to garden and I was so surprised and happy to have had that effect…you know me Jean…I never am afraid to show my mistakes if others can learn from them…seems the teacher in me is always at the forefront of what I do!!

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