More Meadows

Will she ever stop writing about meadows, you ask. The answer is “no.”  I keep learning more about converting mowed lawn to meadow.  I will not stop sharing these ideas until suburban Delaware has converted most of the lawn space (except gathering spaces, paths and play areas) to some other type of planting.  Meadow is one of the best alternatives to lawn because it is relatively inexpensive to install and while not maintenance free, does not require weekly mowing, like a lawn, or routine weeding, like a landscape bed.

This week I saw three different beautiful meadows.  DelDOT is continuing to plant meadows to benefit pollinators, reduce mowing along the roadside and beautify the state with native plants.  Two new meadows along I95 between Newark and Wilmington are blooming with black-eyed Susan, lance leaved coreopsis, butterfly weed and more.  These were seeded in summer 2017 and are just starting to come into their own.  Both sites are also planted with native trees and shrubs to provide a woody backbone.  One site is just north of the I95 rest area and the other is on southbound I95 after the 141 exit. Check them out next time you are driving between Newark and Wilmington.

Black-eyed Susan blooming in the DelDOT meadow at the north end of the rest area on I95.

Working with summer interns from the Landscape Architecture program at UD, I had the opportunity to visit Laurel, DE.  They have been using green infrastructure to revitalize the town, bring in tourism and provide ecosystem services to Laurel residents.  Jules Bruck is working with a group of interns this summer to document the process of installing a planned wetland and seek SITES certification for the project.  SITES is a national organization that certifies sustainable landscape projects, similar to LEED for buildings.  A few years ago, Jules installed a meadow in Laurel and it looks fantastic after three years of growing pains.  It really brings home the message that meadow installation often requires patience.  It is important to set realistic expectations about what the meadow will look like in year 1, 2, 3, and 10!  The Laurel meadow was seeded with many flowering perennials and includes very little grass, usually the backbone of a meadow.  It meets the desires of Laurel residents with its colorful blooms.

A wide variety of blooming perennials provide a riot of color in this Laurel, DE meadow.

The third meadow I visited recently was at a friends’ house.  They are amateur beekeepers and wanted a place for their bees to forage.  With the help of entomology graduate student, John Menz, they tried another approach for establishing a meadow.  They had struggled with the “meadow in a can” concept last year and were unhappy with the results.  A bad nutsedge infestation among other weeds kept the meadow from fulfilling expectations.  Menz suggested trying a cover crop, buckwheat. Buckwheat is a warm weather plant that grows in ordinary garden soil and has minimal nutritional needs.  It germinates quickly and flowers in 5-6 weeks. Once seeds mature, it can be cut and tilled in. The brittle roots are easy to chop up with a hoe.  Because of its dense growth, it can smother out even the most tenacious weeds.  It has completely covered the nutsedge that was so prevalent in my friends’ meadow.  The seeds should resprout and provide multiple crops in one year.  I am curious to watch this approach to a small residential meadow develop over the next year.  I will keep you posted as well!

Buckwheat surrounding a pine needle path to a suburban garden and bee hive.

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5 thoughts on “More Meadows

  1. The meadows along 95 look fantastic. I was in Texas this spring and got a feel for the beauty possible through wildflowers along roadways. Is there an initiative to continue these plantings in Delaware? As I drive along Route 1, 95 and Route 13 I am so struck by the ubiquitous mowing and relative desert for birds and insects it causes.

  2. I read the article regarding meadows in The News Journal on June 28, 2018. Our family recently purchased a neglected 20 acre farm in Townsend, DE. We are working to clear some of the land and would like to start some meadows. We are city folk, so this stuff is new to us and we could use some advise. Also, I believe my nephew Salvatore R. D’Angelo is a working teacher on your campus – working for his PHD. Just a really cool connection!

    • Sue, your blog is telling me you responded to my question on 8/11/18 – but you did not.
      I am copying my inquiry to you here:
      I read the article regarding meadows in The News Journal on June 28, 2018. Our family recently purchased a neglected 20 acre farm in Townsend, DE. We are working to clear some of the land and would like to start some meadows. We are city folk, so this stuff is new to us and we could use some advise.

      • Stacey:

        The method you use to establish a meadow is dependent on the size of the meadow (20 acres – sounds like yours in large), the vegetation currently growing on the land and the surrounding vegetation (potential seed source). If you don’t have a big problem with invasive plants in or around the area, you can just let the vegetation grow and mow it once or twice a year. Eventually warm season grasses and native perennials forbs (to some extent) will start to grow. If you do have problems on the site or you want the process to go more quickly, you can kill the existing vegetation (using glyphosate, which may take several applications depending what is growing there) and then seed a meadow mix. Your mix should be predominantly warm season grasses since that is the backbone of a meadow. If you are seeding a small area, we recommend mixing the seed with sawdust and spreading the sawdust. It provides a good germination medium and prevents light from hitting the soil so crabgrass and foxtail (two annual grasses that require light for germination) are less likely to become early problems in your new meadow. Here is a publication that includes meadow establishment. (http://s3.amazonaws.com/udextension/lawngarden/files/2012/06/live_eco_final.pdf) I would be happy to meet with you in my office to discuss your situation once the semester gets rolling. My email address is sbarton@udel.edu.

        Sue

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