Fall is such a wonderful time of year . . . leaves changing color, air crisp and cool, pumpkin spice lattes . . . yum! Fall is also a fantastic time to plant and tend to your gardens for next spring. Have you ever thought about creating a native wildflower meadow in your yard? Do you want to attract more bees and butterflies? Do you want to mow less? How about saving time, money, and gasoline?
Lawn alternatives, such as no-mow grass or meadows, are purposeful living spaces that are available to every homeowner, and all you need is a sunny piece of land. Although the maintenance of a no-mow meadow is simply a matter of adding beneficial native plants, removing invasives, and mowing the area once a year with a weedwhacker or a brush hog, sometimes it is difficult to figure out just how to get started.
October is the perfect time to get your no-mow meadow ready for a spectacular spring debut! Local nurseries are winding down for the season but can still have desirable native species available that would love living in your unmowed lawn. The first step is to purchase natives that would thrive in a meadow. These could include butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and blazing star (Liatris spicata), just to name a few. But for these native species to flourish and blossom in your meadow area, they need some exposed soil and some extra “leg” room. Choose your desired no-mow meadow spot. Place and plant your new native perennials right in your lawn, removing a large circle of turf to give the plants ample sun and room to grow. Let your new plants settle in – tucked away for winter in your new spring meadow.
Once the well-awaited arrival of spring peeks through and the grass needs to be mowed, mow your meadow area low just once, and then remove the grass clippings. This will allow the sun to reach your newly planted natives and reduce the competition from your grass, giving them a better chance to emerge and grow. It won’t take long for your new no-mow meadow to be discovered and filled with crickets, hoppers, butterflies, dragonflies, and birds! Keep in mind that just stopping the mowing won’t quite be enough. Your no-mow area will still need some tending and maintenance if your goal is to provide a purposeful and beneficial habitat for our local insects, bees, and butterflies! Maintenance will include yearly removal of invasive plants and woody material as well as mowing once in early spring (April-May). This can be done with a weedwhacker or, if the area is big, a brush mower or bush hog.
In the beginning, it will look “messy,” but not for long. With this yearly maintenance and mowing game plan, your unmowed area will become more diverse and colorful every year! Enjoy the disorganized life and energy of your meadow! If you want to diminish the “messy” look, mow some clean edges and paths through the meadow area, or create clean lines with native shrubs or rock edges. New native perennials and/or seeds can be added as well as Mother Nature working her free seed magic!
For more information on creating a native no-mow meadow and/or a list of recommended native plants, please contact email@example.com or call 716-664-2166 ext. 1005.
by Carol Markham, Conservationist for Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy