Tired of Mowing the Lawn?

by: EJ on 07/31/2018

Tired of mowing the lawn? Sue Reed and Ginny Stibolt have the answer for you!  Change your lawn into a beautiful natural meadow.  Today’s excerpt is from their wonderful book, Climate-Wise Landscaping: Practical Actions for a Sustainable Future. You can download the entire chapter here. And remember receive 35% off New Society titles when you order online at www.newsociety.com. Enter code Summer18 at checkout and click redeem. Offer valid until August 2nd.

There are several ways to create a meadow in urban/suburban landscapes. No matter which you choose, be aware that a new meadow will probably take several years to become a relatively stable ecosystem.  Establishing a meadow takes a bit more care than lawn. And meadow maintenance, while much less intensive than lawn care in terms of time, energy, and fossil fuels, requires a bit more knowledge and attention, a small price for the great pleasure of having a vibrant meadow in the landscape.

Just stop mowing. This strategy can work for a lawn in any state of health — thick and lush, or thin andstraggly. At first, the growth will be fairly uniform, but within a few months different types of plants will show themselves, especially if sustainable lawn care without pesticides has been practiced for a year or more. While a lawn-started meadow will look weedy at first, it is definitely the easiest way to start.


Scalp the lawn. If the lawn is thin, the other option is to mow the lawn to 1 inch or shorter. Rake up all the clippings and loosen the soil as you rake. Time this mowing so that it is the ideal time to sow native wildflower seed for the region. In the South, fall is the best time, since the grass will be going into winter dormancy. Irrigate daily for a week, and then gradually cut back to little or no irrigation. With either method, since the existing grass is not killed, these meadows will have a relatively high grass population, but some grass could be replaced over time in selected areas with forbs (non-grass flowering plants). Plants or plugs will work better than seed in this scenario. 

Note: If the site contains an extensive population of invasive plants, this method is not appropriate, but if there are only a few areas of undesirable or aggressive plants, they can be removed by hand at the start.


Start a meadow by eliminating all existing vegetation. There are several ways to do this, with pros and cons for each method. Whichever method you chose, the idea is to create a more or less clean slate, to give your seeds or plants a better chance of survival. (See the sidebar on page 26 to learn about methods for removing lawn.) If your site presently contains many annual weeds or invasive plants, consult with a local agricultural extension or natural resources agent to determine best strategies for removal.

Plant the meadow. A wildflower meadow is a complex ecosystem consisting of annuals, biennials, and perennials and will vary greatly in different climates. In a natural environment, a meadow may consist mostly of grasses with only a 20% or less coverage by forbs (flowers). In a created meadow, many people include a higher ratio of forbs for the beauty of their flowers and habitat values — 40% is a good starting point. Be sure to include several species with variable blooming times so that something is flowering throughout the growing season to serve the pollinators.


If you don’t wish to decide on your own mix of plants or seeds, many companies offer pre-made meadow seed mixes suitable for various conditions; these tend to be more affordable than customized mixes, and the results can often be modified later by adding other sprigs or plants to an established meadow. In addition, the best suppliers and nurseries provide step-by-step instructions for installation, along with helpful phone advice.


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