The making of a meadow, part 3

OMeadow basketOur backyard is Cinderella … wanting to be be dressed in lace and flowers … but today still wearing a petticoat of weed-blocking cardboard and straw.

All together, it's about 1,000 square feet being transformed into a self-sustaining meadow … part sun, part shade.

The idea is to simply crush the undergrowth with biodegradable cardboard and straw so that the top growth can be changed from stringy, tall weeds ... to a blend of short grass, clover, easy-care flowers, moss, violets, anything that will require no weekly labor. No, or little, mowing.

Eastern meadow blanketed in strawThe straw is brought home from a farm or garden supply store, two bales at a time. (Don't forget a drop cloth.)

The cardboard is ordinary boxes that we crush. Boxes degrade very quickly, as do metal staples, but packing tape seems impervious to weather. You can pull tape off in advance, or just gather it up later, as I do, when it works its way to the top of the ground.

I have about 500 square feet blanketed now. It's slippery to walk on, and makes our space look a lot larger than it did. Soon the Autumn leaves will add another biodegradable layer.


Meadow West side 09 with strawThe shorter the grass the better, when you don't want to mow. We buy Northern Turf from Gardens Alive. It only needs mowing once per year.

Our flower seeds are from OVM at e-Bay, which warranties their products and sells them in larger quantities, like 1000 or 5,000, or 10,000. Can you imagine 10,000 of your favorite flowers all together, like an ocean of color?

With such a large amount of seeds, you can create great swaths of color like a neighborhood Gertrude Jekyll, OR you can pre-mix quantities of different colors and make random blends the way nature (and I) will do. Here's our seed list for winter sowing, top to bottom, left to right:

Flower seeds for October 09• Yellow primrose
• Tussock bellflowers
• Dichondra
• Maiden pinks
• Shasta daisy
• Carmine poppy
• Feverfew matricaria
• Irish moss
• New England aster
• English daisy
• Snow in summer
• Dame's rocket

I don't buy wildflower blends in shaker cans, but if you want to try those, be sure to purchase them NOW, in Autumn, NOT in spring. Spread them on top of snow, if you can, because wildflower seeds often do better when exposed to freezing weather.

Meadow begun Spring 09Here is a collage of what I established this spring, from top to bottom, left to right, chicory, daisy, primrose, maiden pinks, gold yarrow, Miss Willmott potentilla, white larkspur, Baltimore Belle roses, Smiling Jean roses, and carmine poppy.

Then, last week, I scattered some wild-gathered seeds like Queen Anne's lace and thistle.

Wild gathering seeds:

I went for a walk into an area here known as John Brown's Farm where there are abandoned homesteads. I found three different flower seeds to try, for free, one being giant thistle (the seeds that fly around like Tinkerbell). Giant thistles have a large lavender crown flower that will hypnotize swarms of bees so that you can walk right up to them and they will not even look up.

I don't know if my wild-gathered seeds will establish themselves as I dream they will, but in the meantime, I am saving mushroom boxes to sow what I can this winter.






Meadow making, part 1

Meadow making part 2