Hello, I have an acre at the back of my yard that I would like to convert from mowed grass to a native meadow. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to do this? The plan needs to be low maintenance and affordable. I don't want to let the area just go on its own because all I will get is multiflora rose, honeysuckle and autumn olive which are all highly-invasive and non-native. Right now, I'm thinking about just taking a shovel and digging up the grass and planting plants. I could start with a 20'x20' area, but that plan would take years and years to cover the whole acre. Also, because of deer, the whole area will need to be fenced to 8' so I would appreciate ideas on how to do that without going broke.
There are a number of nurseries in the midwest that specialize in seed mixtures for meadow creation in different soils, exposures etc. as well as providing guidance in such endeavors. Here is a link to the "How To" on the Prairie Moon Nursery website: http://www.prairiemoon.com/how-to-grow-a-prairie-from-seed
You might check around locally and see what sort of native plant societies there are, and esp if anyone nearby (a private individual as well a public land) has done something similar. Could have technical advice as well as words of encouragement and perhaps would let you mow to collect some seed.
It can be done by hand - we've got a two acre neighborhood site we're close to done with. But it has taken years and a corps of volunteers. For us that made sense, because it was a community building project, too, but for your own self, the upfront expense of hiring a tractor, buying a large quantity of seed, etc may make sense. If it seems like a big number, divide it out over all the years you won't be hand cultivating.
Thanks, Realbird. I actually already talked to the horticulturist at the local native plant society. He said that they have tried seeding native plants on several occasions and it generally doesn’t work. In their experience, only 10% of the seeds will germinate each year. In addition, most natives grow much slower than the local invasive weeds so the desirable plants get choked out. He said that it generally works much better to prepare a small plot of about 20’ X 20’ and use that for seed flats and a young plant nursery. He said that a 4” plant has a much better chance of survival than a native plant seed. A local native plant nursery recommends a "pocket" method:http://www.toadshade.com/Meadow.html. I'll probably end up combining these two ideas, but like you said...it is going to take many, many years.
Your neighborhood site sounds wonderful - I would love to see some photos!
Start with a small plot and ruthlessly annihilate non-native species...expand from there. We're slowly winning the same battle on 37 acres here. As you were already advised, letting native species grow a bit first, before transplanting, will help them compete. I grow several desired natives in my home garden then transplant them to cleared areas in the acreage we wish to rehabilitate.
Thanks for the encouragement, SteveOh. If you can do it with 37 acres, I guess I can do one! I started a 15'x15' section last month and it is already packed with natives. I also decided to fill in with some trees and large bushes (very excited about the three American Hazelnut bushes that I got last weekend)...only 15 years to go and I'll be done. ;-)
Penannophia, that's the spirit! You can get the upper hand in this battle.
For wild roses and honeysuckle, cut them down and Roundup the fresh cut stems ( a paint brush works well for targeted applications), or if you're not the "spraying" type, cut down the existing undesirables and cover the ground in black plastic for the summer. The very high heat will kill the existing plants and the seeds. The only problem is that the heat from the plastic will likely kill the roots of the native plants also.