Tuesday’s Tips — Planting My Meadow

Mary Beth: I’ve been dreaming about planting a meadow in my yard for a long time and the new gas line we had installed a couple of months ago provided me with the last push I needed to get this project underway. After searching for the right mixture for my zone (intermountain climate, Sunset Zone 2B), I purchased my seeds from Durango Nursery and Supply Co. and Western Native Seed.

Envisioning a mixture of grasses with attractive seed heads that would catch the light and serve as a soft back drop for the wildflowers, I decided on a one-pound bulk bag of Mountain Meadow from Southwest Seed Inc. To that I added a two-pound mix of Western Native Seed’s Montane Grass Mix and Montane Wildflowers and one packet of Ratibida columnifera because I love those little Mexican hat flowers. And finally, I bought a packet of Solidago Canadensis for the bees. I was also lucky enough to have a neighbor give us a gift of wildflower seeds from Clear Water Farm which had a wonderful mix of wildflowers. Might be overkill, but that’s me!

The meadow will be behind the split rail fence and down the hill.

I was so excited that I wanted to plant the seeds right away, but the instructions suggested waiting until after the first frost to plant the native grasses and delaying the wildflower seeding until the spring. On the other hand, it said that if you have a mix of both to plant them all in the fall. Sound confusing? A little! And one bag of seeds was a mixture of wildflowers and native grass seeds which really didn’t help. Finally, after going back and forth on how to approach it, I decided I would mix all the seeds I had and plant now.

I was really careful when I mixed them because some of the very tiny flower seeds tended to sift down to the bottom of the bucket.  Next I had to deal with our weather which is very unpredictable. While I was waiting for a first frost, we got a first freeze which made some of my other garden chores a bit more urgent, especially since I hadn’t yet dug up my dahlia tubers. Luckily they were unscathed from that first freezing night and after I put them in their winter resting place, I was able to start on the meadow.

Because I had to wait for the sun to warm the soil so I could prep it, I didn’t get going until late afternoon. Fortunately my job was a little easier as the ground was already loose from the excavation work for the gas line and most of the prep of raking the soil and removing rocks had been done back when I planted 300 daffodil bulbs five weeks ago. All I had to do was rake up the pine needles and rough up the soil a bit so the seed would have good contact.

I spread the seed by hand and went back over the area with the rake scratching the seed into the soil. For good measure I lightly spread some Gro-Power fertilizer on top. In the book The American Meadow Garden, John Greenlee suggests covering the seeds with a 2 inch layer of mulch. Since I have an unending supply of pine needles (also called “pine straw”), I spread a very light layer on top of the seeded area.

As an experiment a while ago I had spread a little bit of the wildflower seeds down where I planted the daffodils. I was pleased to see that those seeds had taken and were doing very well. I saw lupine and California poppies sprouting, yea! For a little insurance I saved about a quarter of the seeds which I will put down in the spring.

So now I’m hoping for the ground to get covered next month with a blanket of snow which will keep the seeds protected until the spring when it melts away and the meadow starts to come alive.

Here’s the area I’ve been working on. It starts through the trees up to an area where there are no pine trees and on up to the north side of the house. It will take 2-3 years to see the meadow fully mature. Even so I should see a few flowers blooming and some of the grasses will start to grow. I’m hoping more butterflies and dragonflies will be visiting next year and I know the bees will be happy!

5 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Tips — Planting My Meadow

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    1. Hi Kathy – Mary Beth has a good post about this here: Digging Up Dahlia Tubers. . However, in Zone 8 you can leave them in the ground to overwinter. Cut back the foliage leaving a 1″ to 4″ stem, clean up the area and cover with 3″ of dry mulch. They should be fine and will re-emerge when the soil warms up in the spring.

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