June 21, 2023 7:00 AM EDT
In 2010, when Bruce Lockhart was looking for a solution to a rocky septic tank on his 87-acre property in central Massachusetts, Meadows immediately came to mind. Before setting up the pasture, the 100-by-100-foot area was basically “rocks and sand and ragweed,” so Lockhart decided he had little to lose by trying, he says. . He consulted Vermont-based garden designer Gordon Hayward to create a harmonious list of plants, repeatedly interweaving certain star performers (such as salvia).
After six months of weeding the property, Lockhart planted perennials and biennials in 1,600 one-gallon containers. The tapestry contained 10% of his grass, such as Meadow Drop Seeds (Sporobolus heterolepis), Purple Marsh Grass (Molinia coerulea) and switching grass (Panicum cultivars) to create a mix that works all year round. The resulting meadow was in breathtaking bliss for two years. The witch grass has invaded there.
Lockhart is still dedicated to his pasture, but the project turned out to be more work than he expected. Instead of the maintenance-free configuration he envisioned, he now begins to pencil in time to weed the meadows on a weekly schedule. A few years after its installation, the Sage of the Prairie (Salvia genus), yarrow (Genus Achillea) and Turkish sage (Flomis Luciliana) disappeared from the scene. On the other hand, Ironweed (vernonia novevoracensis), New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), Threadleaf Brewster (amsonia hubrichti), Culver’s root (Veronica Strum Virginicum) and corn flour (echinacea purpurea) self-seeding in the bald area, increasing its presence. The ornamental grass was so successful that he increased it to 15-20 percent of his composition. Although different from his original vision, he is happy with the result. “I just don’t have the energy to realize my dream meadow,” he says. “I just enjoy watching how it evolves.”
Other pasture owners came to similar places. Sheila Perrin of Westchester County, New York, said 19 years ago she established about four acres of pasture on a 14-acre lot. The space includes both natural areas and formal and classical plantings as part of an overall plan put together by ecological landscape designer Larry Wiener. They used a combination of custom seeds and plugliners specifically targeted to succeed in her soil conditions. The resulting grassland has evolved considerably, says Perrin.
But it wasn’t easy. “Anyone who thinks pastures aren’t a place to work is unfortunately wrong,” she says. Her main battle is against weeds, especially the stag beetle. Despite the difficulties, her support for the grasslands is unwavering. In fact, she’s expanding her footprint, removing a section of grass along the driveway and filling it with low-growing ornamental grass. One advantage is pasture performance in drought seasons. Perrin has never watered her pastures, but she works hard to keep them watered.
Jamie Printon, an Upper New York landscaper, has found that some of her most successful pasture conversions were former farmlands that had previously been cleared of weeds. A lawn area where grass can be removed. Or newly devastated land at a housing construction site.
Prosperity and beauty of native plants
She sows a mixture of commercially available wildflowers and grasses into prepared flowerbeds. And for a more “curated result,” she inserts small plug liners of native plants. Her favorite is bee balm (Monarda genus), Cornflower (echinacea purpurea), butterfly weed (Asklepias tuberosa), foxglove (penstemon digitalis), black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia) And I love grass (Egrostis spectabilis). Meadows aren’t maintenance-free, but “they require less maintenance than traditional flowerbeds,” she says.
Weiner agrees. “In a typical herbaceous garden, each plant has its own space. In grasslands, plants are spatially mixed,” he says. This tightly woven construction helps create a tapestry effect that can be mitigated (but not eliminated). weed.
In addition to weed removal, pastures will require regular mowing. But again, much less attention than the lawn demands. Most mature pastures are pruned at least once a year to prevent early successive rooting of shrubs and trees and eventual transformation of the landscape into scrubland and then forest. The mowing schedule depends on the soil. On his 7 acre property on my own in Connecticut, there is 1 acre of his pasture that was made before the land was purchased 27 years ago. Ideally, you’d like to mow in the spring, but the seasonal meltwater makes the site muddy. Instead, mow in early winter, before the first snow. Due to the recent abundance of floating weed seeds, invasive plant patrol has become increasingly difficult.
Still, this meadow is one of the easiest “gardens” on my property, and nothing can replace it. Like most pasture keepers, I am riveted from the first golden alexanders of spring to the last goldenrod and joe pie weeds of fall. From my ringside seat, I could see everything happening: hawks swooping for prey, greenfinch scavenging for seeds among tall flower heads, the wind bowing and dancing, the hot summer nights, and fireflies drifting above. can see And once a week, when I pull weeds in the morning, I’m not just a bystander. I will also be part of the dough.
Tovah Martin is a gardener and freelance writer living in Connecticut.find her online tovahmartin.com.