Maintenance requirements for the first season after plugging consisted of
about 20 hours a week of hand weeding and weekly watering with a
sprinkler unless an inch of rain had fallen during the week.
Maintenance in subsequent years is all about the constant encroachment of invasive plants and tree
seedlings, which are hand-pulled or spot-sprayed. (Plants with the
urge to invade this meadow include Ailianthus, oriental bittersweet,
Lonicera japonica, Polygonum cupidatum ‘japanese smart weed’, Pyrus and
ampelopsis.) The other maintenance is a thorough mowing every February, with more frequent mowing of the paths.
But critters must love the results because the meadow’s inhabitants and visitors include: Red
fox, eastern box turtles, black racer snakes, red shouldered hawk, red tailed
hawk, indigo buntings, eastern bluebirds, orchard orioles, eastern kingbird,
gold finches, swallows, carolina wren, carolina chickadee, cedar waxwing, song
sparrow, brown thrashers, as well as hundreds of butterflies including
Fritillary, Eastern swallow tails and Painted ladies and several thousand native
And more meadows:
- A meadow at the National Arboretum was created by just letting a
field grow and removing the woodies and invasives individually. (And
your intrepid blogger will be doing a site visit to report on the
- Midsummer mowing keeps the meadow short enough for the wildflowers
to actually be seen, but has to be timed correctly to avoid destroying
- Alternatives to Round-up are the old newspaper trick, and solarization with the use of clear plastic.
- Use of forb plugs rather than seeds increases the chances of success.
- Meadows are transitional stages, usually on their way to becoming
forest, so no wonder they’re so much work. Prairies, on the other
hand, are stable communities, mainly grassland. So if you live
someplace that naturally reverts to prairie, go for it.
I’ll end with this sobering assessment from the article: "While
meadows appear to come about as gracious, spontaneous gifts of nature,
appearances deceive." But the author also makes this very important
point – that the initial maintenance of meadows may be intensive, but
ultimately they have a low impact on the environment.
Thanks to American Gardener editor Davis Ellis and
horticulturist Peggy Bowers of the AHS for help with this article.
Lower photo – Bowers hard at work – courtesy of the American