I received a lot of responses to my meadow column in the News Journal. Here is one of the responses with my answers:
I read your article “Would a meadow a home work for you” in The News Journal, dated Saturday 7/26 suggesting I could start a fairly large “Meadow” by not cutting your front lawn and let nature “seed”, transform, the lawn area into a meadow.
I like the benefits of this concept eg: reducing the costs of cutting the grass, less watering, chemicals, and the increased rain water saturation to the and so, and I am interested but, I have a few questions before proceeding;
1. “won’t the lawn just turn into a weed patch of crabgrass, thistle, plantain, etc. when I stop cutting my grass”?
2. “what will prevent the weeds from crowding out the grasses and flowers mentioned in the article”?
3. “how can I control the spread of the weed seeds to my neighbors”?
4. “do you know if a “meadow” affects the value of my home considering right now all of my neighbors have lawns?
Great questions. What the “lawn” becomes is highly dependent on what is currently in the lawn and the plants nearby. If you currently have a vigorous stand of cool season turf, you will just get a taller stand of cool season turf. Crabgrass is not a problem in a meadow, because the seed needs light to germinate. Unless, you have many open patches in your lawn currently, the taller grass pretty much excludes light from reaching the soil and crabgrass will not grow. In fact, crabgrass is less of a problem in a meadow than in a mown lawn. Thistle could be a problem if you have it nearby. It would need to be treated with an herbicide to get it under control. Lontrel is recommended for use on Canada thistle. Plantain would be a relatively desirable component of a meadow. Its seed heads are interesting and it isn’t a problem plant.
Grasses are fairly competitive, so once you have a good stand in place they will do a good job of competing with incoming weeds. I guess that also depends on what you define as a weed. Many lawn weeds are not really weeds in a meadow. Woody plants can be controlled in a meadow by mowing once or twice a year.
If the meadow becomes more diverse with age, which it will naturally do, there may be seeds that your neighbor would define as weeds. But, there are probably natural areas, roadsides etc. that are already contributing weed seeds to your neighbor’s property. You won’t be increasing that dramatically by having a meadow.
If you want a really great meadow that is comprised of warm season grasses and a few desirable perennials, it is best to seed the meadow with the plants you want. Eventually warm season grasses will probably come into the meadow on their own. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) grows extremely well in southern Delaware and may become a component of your meadow over time. Or you could seed it into the lawn and jump start the process.