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.



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 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.

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