Wilmot Community Association Bringing Neighbors Together For 60 Years!

Wilmot Community Association Bringing Neighbors Together For 60 Years!

Crash Course on Building a Meadow

Created by Suzanne Paul
For talk about creating pollinator-friendly gardens
Sponsored by the Wilmot Community Association & the Wilmot Garden Club

March 26, 2023

Many recipes are available for how to and why to establish a meadow that will benefit pollinators, but I like the notion that we all are better served if we experiment. And I should warn you now … meadows are addictive. Having the basic information helps, including:

  • Keep the ground covered with plants to discourage weeds, a hint on plant spacing helps (see below.)
  • Don’t water and fertilize once the plants have had a season to establish; let them work themselves out.
  • This takes the burden off of us; we get to spend time learning about plants and observing insects and walking around shaking seed heads here and there.
  • You can use any combination of grasses and sedges to flowering perennials that you want but the area will feel more like a meadow than a perennial border if you use a minimum of 60 percent grassy elements.
  • When working with a blank slate, I space out the grasses and sedges first and then fill in with the flowering plants. This way I am sure to have the grassy plants well distributed throughout.

Side note: Sedges (Carex) are cool season plants and green up earlier than the grasses, which are warm season plants and come into their own in the heat of summer.

I don’t get to concerned about taller grasses shading the flowering plants, there will be enough light filtering through to reach them in most cases, especially if the flowering plant can tolerate some shade, like Penstemon, part sun means part sun.

Plants that are rhizomatous, like Monarda and Pycnanthemum, will spread on their own. Happy re-seeders will travel as well.

You would be well served to watch baby plants grow. Learn how to identify seedlings. They are your plant stock for the future!

If you are working in a small area and you want it to look restful, opt for fewer species or keep a closely tied color theme. A rambunctious look will be a riot of color. The more the merrier they say.

Always remember that a meadow is meant to change from year to year. You will find that some plants are particularly suited to your site and will be more prominent. This is half the fun of it, watching change.

A good rule of thumb for meadow plantings is to take an average of the mature widths of the plants
that you chose and cut that by one third. This will help prevent undesirables from establishing. For
example, I will plant 18 to 20 inches ‘on center’ spacing if the plants I am working with have a mature
width between 24 to 30 inches wide.