Installing a Native Meadow from Seed

Choose your site:

  • Size – meadows don’t have to be large, a small “pocket” or backyard meadow just 10’x10’ can support an amazing amount of beneficial plants and wildlife
  • Look for a sunny, visible, accessible spot
  • A partial-shade meadow is definitely possible, but a little more difficult and will attract less wildlife
  • Different moisture/soil types can be dealt with; there are plants that live in almost any soil
  • Your meadow will attract more wildlife if it connects/abuts with another habitat or structure (pond, stream, marsh, forest, tree/shrub hedge, shelter belt, garden, split rail fence, stone wall, large rock or brush shelters, etc.)

Prepare your site:

  • If your site already has a good mix of native species or if you’re not sure what lives there, just let it grow and watch what develops for a season or two.
  • If you have undesirable plants growing on the site that you wish to replace with native meadow species you can remove them by several methods:
    • Smothering them with newspaper, plastic/tarp, woodchips/mulch, etc.
    • Removal by digging with shovels or sod-cutter
    • Using a string-trimmer to severely “scalp” undesirable plants down to bare ground
    • Using a single treatment of a low-percentage solution of Round-up (3%-5%), being sure to carefully follow the label’s instructions and never apply herbicide on a windy or rainy day – herbicide is a last resort, but sometimes a useful option under certain circumstances
    • Seed-to-soil contact is essential, so be sure to clear away all debris (turf/grass, leaves, thatch, etc.) until you have exposed soil
    • Use rake to loosen and break up soil (no shovels/roto-tillers – they expose dormant weed seeds)

Mix and apply seeds:

  • Best time for installing a native seed meadow (i.e., best germination results) is Oct. through December, but it can be done anytime of the year – February thru April is also good.
  • Mix seeds thoroughly with peat moss (the best) or with vermiculite, potting soil or sawdust
  • Use approx. 1 part seeds to 5-10 parts mixing medium (peat moss, potting soil, etc.)
  • Spread/scatter seed mixture by hand or spreader evenly over your prepared site
  • Mix/scratch seed mix into soil with rake – do not turn soil or burry seeds (no digging)
  • Press seed mix into soil by stomping with feet, tires, rollers, etc.
  • Spread/sprinkle very light layer (1/2” or less) of straw (not hay), mulch or woodchips over your site – this light, scattered layer helps to trap moisture and protects seeds from extreme weather.
  • No need to ever water – seeds will sprout/grow at their own pace when they get enough rain