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Blooming Meadows - Abandoning Lawns for Wildflowers

Blooming Meadows - Abandoning Lawns for Wildflowers

By Ashleigh Smith, True Leaf Market
Photographs courtesy of True Leaf Market

The popular trend of turning lawns into wildflower meadows continues to grow each year. This is largely due to the threats against declining pollinator populations due to invasive plants, disease, and pesticide exposure. Besides these threats, lawns aren’t really a sustainable choice anyways.

In the United States, lawns were first popularized by the wealthy during colonial times. This stems from the symbolism of lawns representing upper-class wealth in Britain. Later, the American dream became one of home ownership in well-kept, suburban neighborhoods where lawns were often connected from property to property.

However, we now know the vital role wildflower meadows play in maintaining a sustainable future. Decades of landscaping catered to showcasing invasive species have created an imbalance that now affects the vital pollinators needed for our food production.

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This isn’t to say that lawns are to be avoided at all costs, as they do play a functional role in the landscape. However, most landscapes are simply too much lawn and not enough diversity. Reducing lawns to approximately 40% of the landscape not only creates room for greater variation in plant life but also creates a more attractive view. This ratio maintains enough space for young children, families, and those who utilize lawn spaces for recreational activities to continue to enjoy an open lawn while making better use of often unused space.

When deciding how to fill the other 60% of the space, consider growing an assortment of wildflowers that will provide colorful visual interest, support pollinator populations, and contribute to a healthy and balanced ecosystem. For those who want to maintain the grand lawn appearance, a mix of grass and clover is a more water-friendly approach.

While wildflowers are not maintenance-free, they do require less water and effort compared to the traditional lawn. Wildflower gardens can not only help you save on water but also thrive in various soil conditions.

To maintain a healthy wildflower garden, it is important to start with a clear growing surface. Like other plants, wildflowers grow best without competition. Make sure your growing surface is cleared of weeds and debris. Before planting, lightly till the soil about three inches deep. This will help the seeds have better contact with the soil as they become established. Spread your desired wildflower seeds according to their planting instructions. Using a wildflower seed shaker can help to evenly spread the seeds. Provide water as needed. After planting, wildflowers are relatively low maintenance.

Throughout the season, tidy your garden to maintain an attractive appearance by deadheading occasionally and removing competitive weeds. At the end of the fall season, harvest any flowers you want to preserve and remove any bulky plant debris. Take care not to disturb the soil more than needed. Be sure to pull weeds before going to seed, if possible. This will help prevent a weedy mess from competing with your spring growth. After the wildflowers have wilted and started to brown, mow the meadow, leaving it about four to six inches high. This will help with reseeding and maintaining a tidy growing area.

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When selecting which wildflowers to grow, it is important to choose those that are well-suited to your growing region. What is native to one location may be invasive in another. Plus, many wildflowers thrive due to regional climate factors. In cool, northern, mountainous areas, wildflowers typically need a cool dormant season to trigger good germination in the spring. In dry desert landscapes, resilience and tolerance to drought and poor soils are imperative to a wildflower's survival. Growing regional wildflower seed mixes can make the selection process simple and easy.

Whether you live in the suburbs or the country, wildflowers have a place in your landscape. Not only do they support pollinator habitats, they also increase the visual appeal of the common suburban landscape. Let your home stand out among a sea of identical lawns begging for diverse companionship.

Feel overwhelmed by the idea of scaling back on your lawn space? Try sketching it out. Plan for a central grassy area that will fulfill your recreation needs and fill in from there. Wildflowers are sure to create a beautiful frame between your home and manicured lawn that will wow the whole neighborhood. Learn more: www.trueleafmarket.com.

Ashleigh Smith is the Managing Editor at True Leaf Market with a bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University - Idaho. True Leaf Market is a nationally certified organic, non-GMO seed and horticultural company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The True Leaf Market staff specializes in supplying a large selection of conventional, heirloom, and organic seeds to home gardeners everywhere. Learn more about our seeds, supplies, and other growing ideas: www.trueleafmarket.com.


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