During these stressful times, there’s no surprise that gardening is booming as a popular pastime. This year, I thought I would join in the droves of new gardeners in creating my own little green retreat, and find some peace in getting out into nature.
I started off by scouring through gardening and landscaping books, Pinterest, and even joined a local gardening group on Facebook. It didn’t take long for me to find myself overwhelmed at the cost and time it would take to turn my long-neglected yard into a safe place for my family to spend time outdoors that was both beautiful and functional. I also had to keep in mind that I have two pairs of curious little hands that would make easy work of picking apart a vegetable or flower garden.
Not quite ready to give up, I went down a Google rabbit hole of low-maintenance, garden and lawn alternatives that brought me to the meadow garden. My vision of flowers and butterflies returned, and I was filled with hope that I can grow something good for all my backyard inhabitants. And you can too!
Here are five feel-good reasons to grow a meadow garden:
1. It’s good for the environment
Even though the first colors of spring in my yard were the purple blooms of Creeping Charlie and yellow dandelions, I was so excited and in awe of the wildlife my backyard was attracting. Bees were buzzing about, butterflies were visiting flowers, and birds were picking up insects. Meadow gardens have that same effect, while also adding beauty to the landscape.
When using native wildflowers and grasses, meadow gardens help rebuild and sustain ecosystems. They attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and certain types of birds. Beneficial insects find shelter amongst the tall vegetation and help control garden pests. Wildflowers in meadow gardens improve the soil by adding organic matter and loosening compacted areas. They also prevent erosion and reduce stormwater runoff.
2. Easy to start
When my family moved to Northeast Columbia at the end of summer last year, the yard needed some attention, to say the least. Aside from mowing, we left it alone until spring (note: I just learned that fall is actually a good time to prep soil for spring planting).
Turning it into a manicured lawn in time for summer this year would take herbicides, tilling, aerating, amending the soil, and other time and money consuming steps to get the soil ready to plant grass.
Fortunately, if vegetation, including weeds and grass, is growing in your soil, it’s possible for wildflowers in your meadow garden to grow there too. Native wildflowers need little soil preparation even in neglected yards with a thick layer of un-decomposed plant material on top, and just about every variety of weed in the Southeast United States, like mine. Simply start by digging out excess plant material and weeds, turn the soil, and rake up any roots or rocks. Then sow and compress your seeds into the soil. Finish up by watering the seeds.
3. Easy to maintain
Wildflowers possess a low-maintenance beauty. They don’t need fertilizers and herbicides to flourish, and can grow in poor soil. Once your wildflower seedlings are established, they can survive on natural rains. When weeds pop up here and there, pull them out and eventually wildflowers will fill the new space. Meadow gardens only need mowing/trimming once a year or less to prevent your meadow garden from being taken over by unwanted plants.
4. Improved Quality of life
Gardening, in general, is a stress reducer, but sometimes what you need is to just sit in your garden to relax. There is something to be experienced by spending time within the carefree, literal naturalness of a meadow garden. The fleeting and diverse flash of colors forces us to take notice of and connect with our environment. Being mindful and in the moment helps reduce anxiety and stress. Growing wildflowers also gives us peace of mind that we’re doing our part to take care of our planet.
5. Quality time with your kids in nature
Gardens provide kids with endless learning opportunities. In my case, “gardening” is my almost-two-year-old carrying around found sticks and running up and down our sloping backyard while my four-and-a-half-year-old picks dandelions and dead grass to use in his pretend play.
Once our wildflower garden is sown and grown, I won’t feel too bad about little feet running through a sea of colors, or a pretend chef plucking a few blooms to practice his cutting board skills. Meadow gardens are a wild space for exploring, imaginative play, and someday, memories to look back on as children get older.
Getting out and starting a garden doesn’t have to be a drain on resources; namely, time, money, or your own wellbeing. Planting a meadow garden can be good for both you and nature.