How to Restore Native Plants to a Meadow

by Barbara Walvoord

Our  meadows at Lathrop are a mixture of native plants and alien plants. Scientific study shows that the more native plants we have, the more bees, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife our meadows can support.

Experts have a number of methods to reduce alien plants and increase natives.  We are not destroying everything with Roundup, burning the meadow, or tilling it repeatedly over an entire season.  Instead, we’ve chosen overseeding, plugging, and smothering.

Overseeding: In the swale behind Huckleberry Lane, one snowy day last winter, we spread native seeds right over the existing plants, relying on the snow to work them down into the soil.  In this method, only a few seeds come up, but now we have native beebalm in that swale–yaaaay!

Plugging: We used plant plugs in several places–the Huckleberry swale, Cranberry meadow, near the community garden, and in the Mid-Woods meadow. The plugs have nearly all survived. In the mid-woods meadow, the big bluestem grass already has produced an offspring as its seeds drifted to the nearby land. So our meadow now has golden groundsel, mountain mint, blue lobelia, oxeye sunflower, and others–yaaay!!

Smothering:  In the mid-woods meadow at the end of the Wide Woods path, and also by the community garden, we covered a small area, not the whole meadow, with a black ground cloth that lets in water, but not sunlight.

Last week, after  the mid-woods meadow ground cover had been in place for 3 seasons, Sharon and I took it up, revealing the naked earth underneath. When it snows, we will spread wildflower seeds right on top of the snow.   Next spring, that little patch will be full of native wildflowers and grasses, which then will spread gradually throughout the meadow.

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