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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summertime Lawn Blues

Is your lawn currently a crunchy brown color? Are you sick of mowing in the blistering heat? There is another option available to you which will result in lower maintenance, more diverse plant species, and it will attract more wildlife to your yard.

You could convert your lawn to a meadow.  There are a few basic steps to the conversion method:

1. Remove/kill the grass from the lawn.
2. Choose and plant desirable seeds or plugs.
3. Actively weed/manage the meadow until it is established.

Some design things to keep in mind when you are planting your meadow are:
You always want to have some type of border or edge so that your neighbors do not think it is a field of weeds.  For suburban areas, it is a good idea to make sure that there is a strip of lawn edging the meadow so that it looks like it is something that has been purposeful, not neglected.

This is a hayfield to meadow conversion that was done by seed.  This photo was taken in year 4.
There are many ways to remove the grass from your lawn depending on your preference.  The main thing is that it should all be removed/killed or your planting will not work.

Depending on the size of the area that you are planting, plugs can be an excellent way to go . You will see a result much quicker than if you start the project from seed.  The cost of plugs is more expensive than the cost of seeds.  If you decide to plant a meadow, it is important to make sure that you choose a good selection of NATIVE grasses and wildflowers.

It is very important to keep out weedy invasives when the meadow is first established.  One of the major invasive issues in newly planted meadows is Canada Thistle.  This plant can be quite noxious if it is not immediately removed from  your planting.  Once the meadow is firmly established, the amount of weeding maintenance will drastically be reduced, but you must be attentive for the first few years that your meadow is planted. 

There are many great resources that can help you with your lawn to meadow conversion project.  Your local cooperative extension office can be quite helpful in answering questions.  This is the link to those of you in PA:    Many land conservation organizations, such as TLC, will offer assistance in getting you started with your project. Our Landscape Visionaries Program would be happy to assist you with the meadow conversion.

Just think of that natural bird feeder that is just waiting to be planted in your front lawn.  You will be able to spend more time watching birds and much less time mowing as an established meadow only needs to be mowed once a year.

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