Fall is the best time to plant a meadow — all you have to do is take a cue from nature and mimic what you see along roadsides and in fields. Meadows are beautiful and guaranteed to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other birds looking for seeds, nectar and insects. Plant a meadow and they will come — just watch this video Bob made in our garden!
I would much rather pull weeds out of a beautiful wildflower and native grass meadow teaming with wildlife than mow turf grass any day! Hummingbirds slurping, bees buzzing, hover flies hovering, butterflies drinking and goldfinches picking are all wonders I encounter in my front yard meadow on a daily basis in the spring, summer and fall. On the host plants, I get to observe butterflies ovipositing (laying eggs) then caterpillars munching, metamorphosing and emerging from their chrysalises to start the whole process over again.
5 Steps to Creating a Native Wildflower Meadow
1. To create a meadow, start with a small area or you will quickly become overwhelmed with filling the space (plus it will be easier to sneak it into the neighborhood if you grow the space a little at a time).
2. Remove the top layer of grass with a flat-headed shovel or sod remover. Use the grass pieces to patch turf in other areas of the yard where you may have brown or thin spots. Remove any stubborn weed and grass roots by hand.
3. Add an organic layer to replace the topsoil you remove with the grass. I like to use a mixture of cheap topsoil and composted manure from the local garden supply store and composted leaves from my own compost pile.
4. Plant or patch native grasses and wildflowers, sprinkle wildflower and grass seeds over the area using seed shakers, and top off with a thin layer of raked leaves from your yard. Water to establish and weed to maintain.
5. Add more diversity in flowers and grasses in the spring and fall of each year as you learn new species. Observe and learn, and the meadow will give a sense of empowerment in righting some of the wrongs done to the environment.
A meadow does not have to be a large plot nor does is have to be messy. Even the smallest grouping of prairie wildflowers in a planter or a neat bed bordered by clipped lawn can be beautiful and attract an amazing diversity in wildlife. Remember, native plants are the most important building block of the food chain. Plants native to your region are the key in attracting native wildlife, as the plants and wildlife have co-evolved. Ultimately, by providing plenty of seeds, nectar and insects, you’ll be inviting your winged friends over for a fine dining experience. If you want them to stick around, just add water, places to hide, and nesting boxes.
Use this photo gallery with tips and native plant suggestions to start planning your own wildflower meadow at home this season!