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7 Steps to a Right-Size Meadow Garden

Home & Garden
7 Steps to a Right-Size Meadow Garden

To create the most realistic looking right-size meadow, I suggest a space no smaller than 100 square feet (i.e., 5 feet wide by 20 feet long).
Let’s start by going through steps for the site preparation.
■ Step 1: Locate an area on your property that gets full sun, a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight, and is well drained.
■ Step 2: Kill the existing grass by either solarization (see below) or spraying with an organic herbicide such as Phydura, Avenger or Burnout II (all OMRI approved). Do not remove the grass after it dies. It will serve as an organic mulch mat that slowly decomposes and keeps dormant weed seeds below it from germinating.
Solarization: Mow the grass as short as possible, then cover it with clear 1–4 millimeter thick plastic (water the area first) or newspaper (see details in the section on living rugs). If you are using plastic, seal the edges with rocks or landscape staples. For best results, wait up to 6 months before removing the plastic if the area was weed infested.
■ Step 3: Cover the dead grass with a 3- to 5-inch layer of topsoil (the weed-free quality you would use for a vegetable or flower garden). Rake the soil level and then allow it to settle (eliminating air pockets) for a week or two. Sprinkling the leveled soil with water will help speed up the process.
■ Step 4: It’s time to plant. Set out pots of “ground cover” grasses (grasses that shade the soil from incoming weed seeds), pollinator-friendly perennials, and taller ornamental grasses. Depending on the mature size of the potted plants, I recommend spacing pots approximately 18 inches apart. This will allow space for wildflower seeds that will be sown after the pots are installed.
■ Step 5: After the containers are planted, overseed open areas between plants with a regionally appropriate native seed mix composed of annuals (ideally reseeding varieties) and biennials. Follow packet instructions. The mix can also include perennials but this may require additional thinning of plants as the meadow matures. Look for mixes that are appropriate for your site conditions.
■ Step 6: Make sure to water the garden every few days (if there is no rain) for the first few weeks as container plants get established and seeds germinate. After this, once a week should be adequate. No mulch required.
■ Step 7: Be on the lookout for weeds that may blow into the garden as it is filling in. “Editing” will be an annual process as you thin out plants that may be “overly enthusiastic,” add more of those you really like, or cast more wildflower seeds.