You might think the only difference is size. It's true that a meadow is larger than your typical garden bed, but that isn't the only difference. A pollinator garden is a well tended space that is generally mulched and has space between individual plants. A meadow is a naturalized space that is not mulched and the space between wildflowers is filled with native grasses. The methods of site preparation and the planting and seeding process are different for a garden verses a meadow.
A meadow installation cost varies based on size, site conditions and product desired. Your patch can be of any size from a 100 square foot garden to a several acre field. The cost of a meadow ranges from $8 per square foot for mini meadows to under $1 per square foot for larger meadows, over 1/4 acre. This includes the cost of site preparation, plant material, installation labor, watering during establishment, and 1 year of maintenance on your patch. A portion of the cost is due at time of installation and the balance is divided up in 2 parts over the remainder of the year (or following season for fall plantings). Annual maintenance of your meadow, beyond one year, is available at an hourly rate of $45/hour. The plants used in installations will typically be landscape plugs of a dozen or more different species of high quality nectar source, native perennials grown at the Patchwork Meadows Greenhouse but may sometimes include plants of other sizes purchased from other wholesale nurseries. Seeds are sourced regionally or collected locally.
Choosing a suitable site: The ideal conditions for creating a meadow are hot, dry, full sun, fields and slopes with southern exposure. The further you deviate from those conditions, the higher the weed pressure and maintenance needs of a meadow. Low, wet, areas along streams are the most difficult to establish and manage and should be avoided. Riparian areas are more suitable for a rain garden than a meadow.
Site Preparation Killing grass and/or existing vegetation can be done by either solarization or chemical application depending on site conditions, the time of year, the planting timeline desired and owner preference. The planting areas will be over seeded with a native perennial seed mix that may also include annuals, such as clover, partridge pea, black eyed susan, and native grasses. Pine straw will be used to hold soil and protect seeds and plants during germination and establishment. If site preparation beyond the killing of grass is necessary (if aggressive weeds/bushes are present) there may be an additional cost based on labor required
When a wildflower meadow is properly established & stabilized with native grasses, maintenance needs can be relatively low. A meadow can be cut back (mowed or weed-wacked) once a year during mid summer to control height and/or at the beginning of a new growing season to prevent woody species from succeeding. The weeding out of aggressive, invasive plants and non native grasses a couple of times each season is also likely necessary.
More traditional style pollinator garden installation is also priced by the square foot and includes site prep, plant material, and one year maintenance. The technique of layering mulch and cardboard is typically used to kill grass and existing vegetation if necessary.
Native wildflower seedings are great for slopes where traditional lawn grasses won't easily establish and/or would otherwise be difficult to mow or maintain. They are one of the best places to sow a wildflower mix as many of these natives are drought tolerant and thrive in shallow soils and harsh environments.
During my years answering retail nursery questions, one of the most frequently asked questions was, "what can I plant on my bank"? I have learned that unless you want a monoculture of Juniper or another non native groundcover, the answer is a diverse planting of native wildflowers & grasses.
Non native groundcovers create an ecological desert as native insects and fauna, which are the basis of the natural food web, can't exist.
Consulting and design fees: $65 for first hour and $45 for each additional hour.
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Photo Credits: Danielle Griffin & Geoffrey Neal & Lisa Kruss
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