5 Compelling Reasons to Turn Your Lawn Into a Meadow

Cheryl Magyar / Insteading

Forget about that perfectly manicured lawn consisting of short green grass and nothing else. Boldly embrace biodiversity instead by turning that sterile lawn of yours into a mini-meadow or wildflower lawn of diverse proportions! The Earth will thank you, though your neighbors may raise an eyebrow or two. Let them.

lawn meadow
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading

There is no better feeling in the world than enjoying a steaming mug of herbal tea or hot coffee with your bare feet in the dewy wildness of it all, and the bees beginning to buzz around you. Meadows are pollen-rich havens for insects (and wonderful for your emotional well-being) as you get to spend more time outside directly involved in nature.

Related Post: Plants That Will Help Save The Bees

Allowing beneficial herbal “weedsโ€ to grow means that you get to keep your dandelions too. Did you know that the entire dandelion plant is useful from root to blossom?

dandelions
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And there’s more to it than just having a yard to host bees and common dandelions. You’ll also start attracting other visitors including hedgehogs and birds, poppies, valerian, and knapweed. Of course, there’s more than one way to turn your green lawn into a salubrious meadow. Letโ€™s examine two to start the mindset swap.

How to Turn Your Lawn Into a Meadow

If you’re still on the fence about taking the plunge into tall grass, you can ease into this process by lifting the blades on your mower to the highest setting and see what happens. Instead of mowing weekly, shoot for monthly instead, and allow plants to pop up naturally. You could also overseed your lawn with a wildflower mix.

Related Post: Why You Should Keep Your Dandelions

If you are full-out convinced that you should remove your lawn, then go ahead and scythe twice a season — not more — as if you were harvesting hay from the land. You can then use the excess green matter to mulch your no-dig garden, no matter what the time of year.

Why You Should Consider Removing Your Lawn

Traditional lawns take a lot of time and money to maintain, yet their benefits to the environment are limited. There are multiple ways to green your lawn by focusing on low-maintenance tactics such as using push mowers (difficult in their own way), refusing to use a leaf blower, or leaving the clippings on the lawn. That being said, work is still work.

Nature really does know what’s best when it comes to efficiency. The ground wants to be covered for a reason: to prevent erosion and water runoff. Leave growing to the experts (in this case, Mother Nature) and your wildflower lawn will be benefiting insect populations in no time at all.

baby sitting in meadow
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading

Studies show that 40% of insect species are in decline, and this situation must be halted if we love our gardens and orchards. With diverse fruits and vegetables comes a diversity of flowers to feed insects. We live in series of interconnected webs, and we must honor them all. Removing your lawn to favor biodiversity gets us one step closer to a sustainable future.

The Benefits of Removing Your Lawn

Patience is your friend as you wait for wildflowers to take their place in a newly created ecosystem. Your patience is rewarded with a bounty of blossoms, vibrant colors, and the sweet songs of birds. Some of us remove our lawns in order to grow gardens that produce food for us to eat, others will remove their lawns in order to cut back on physical work.

scything your wildflowers
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading

No matter what reason you choose, you can reap the benefits of foraging your own yard for plantain, nettle, chickweed, and red clover as medicinal plants to make your own tinctures. At the same time, you will be creating a unique habitat that attracts butterflies and other crawling creatures.

Related Post: Pollinators

You can maintain it just two or three times a year and let nature take its course. Removing your lawn will benefit everyone and everything, as well as improve the water retention of the soil underneath your feet.

Why Grass and Traditional Lawns Aren’t Ideal for Pollinators

Traditional lawns are green deserts that are unwelcoming for both insects and birds. On top of that problem, perfect lawns are often sprayed with herbicides and insecticides as a maintenance procedure to try and keep them pristine. โ€œTryโ€ being the key word here; lawns ache to be wild, and they can be once again if we stand back and watch.

wild lawns
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading

In order to attract pollinators to our backyards, we need to rethink what a beautiful lawn means to us. Short grass isnโ€™t going to cut it in terms of providing much-needed pollen, so when you are tired of plain green, let other native plants move in to make a stunning difference. Depending on your location, your wildflower lawn may include:

Howโ€™s that for a multi-species lawn? There are plenty more wildflowers that can be thrown into the mix, though it may take some time for them to get established.

Lawn Alternatives That Are Pollinator-Friendly

The invention of the lawnmower in the 1830s brought about a grass revolution. Up until then, meadows were managed either by scythe or grazing goats. It was a luxury to own such a plot of short grass, but now “the grass truly is greener on the other side” with wildflower lawns being the sought-after backyard scene.

Pollinator-friendly lawns shift the focus from lawn grasses that are pollinated by wind, to plants that need insects for pollination such as clover, creeping thyme, trefoil, lamium, and ajuga. Youโ€™ll have to get comfortable walking through a taller green space in order to aid the beneficial pollinators.

Why You Should Turn Your Lawn Into a Meadow

Attract Wildlife

As cities sprawl and creep across the land, so are lawns encroaching on space that should be reserved for wildlife. And as we replace all or part of our lawns with wildflower meadows that provide food and cover, we are able to attract all manner of wildlife.

Cheryl Magyar / Insteading

By seeding a mix of annuals and perennials, you may be providing nectar for hummingbirds, as well as larval food sources for butterflies. Seeds can be eaten by songbirds, and the tall plants will provide shelter for insects.

Increase Biodiversity

Your wildflower lawn will not be as neat and clean as a traditional lawn, yet we need to break some traditions in order to progress. Meadows can contain up to 100 species of flowering plants!

mature meadow
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And a wild lawn is about more than just plants, it attracts a diversity of insects and small mammals with it, increasing biodiversity with every season.

A Wildflower Lawn is Beautiful!

Perhaps we have forgotten just how much wildflowers bring us calm and peace. Imagine as you go outside, take a deep breath, and stare in awe at the nature that surrounds you โ€ฆ

โ€œIf all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wildflowers.โ€ — Thรฉrรจse of Lisieux

Easy to Maintain

Rather than mowing your lawn every week, now you get to scythe twice a year. Yes, the work is physical, but it is also a wonderful exercise that keeps you fit just as gardening does. A wildflower lawn is low-maintenance, requires little water input, and does not require a green thumb to keep it appealing all year long.

Return Land to Nature

Prairies and meadows are habitats hosting a diverse population of animals (especially insects) and plants. Sadly, they have been on the decline for the past half-century. Tractors and mowers are to blame just as much as our aesthetic grappling with the wildness of letting things grow.

mixed meadow flowers
Cheryl Magyar / Insteading

And yet, meadows can easily be brought back into the spotlight. Whether you are converting an existing lawn, starting a wildflower lawn from bare soil, or overseeding an old meadow, know that you are creating a beneficial living landscape. Read more about the return of the meadow at the Wild Seed Project.

Are you ready to turn your lawn into a meadow? Tell us all about your wildflower lawn in the comments below!

Resources:

Written by Cheryl Magyar

Cheryl Magyar is an environmental freelance writer and sustainable life designer with a passion for growing food locally and organically โ€” meat and vegetables alike. She lives with her husband and homeschooled daughter in the hills of northern Romania. Without a car, a fridge, or running water on their homestead, they have come to love the ways of old, and embrace sustainability. Read more of their stories and poems inspired by the environment at Forest Creek Meadows.

12 Comments

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  1. I live in a city in northern Indiana, USA and am dancing with our Codes office very carefully. They were giving us the stink eye about our lawn at first but are warming to it as we’re now offering homes to tree frogs and lots of pollinators. Adding in a meadow area was crucial and it’s ablaze with wildflowers (we simply scatter-sowed a premixed assortment of perennials. Our neighbors think we’re daft but we’re not the ones out there mowing twice per week ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. It is so wonderful to hear more and more stories like this! You are doing an incredibly wonderful thing for wildlife, allowing it to thrive in your backyard. Nature is not ours to conquer, it is a common place to share. Thank you!

  3. Yes Yes YES!! I’ve been hating on “modern” lawns for years, those sterile, barren wastelands of imported grasses that offer absolutely nothing to anyone except runoff. The history of where lawns originated is fascinating, and depressing, as you probably are familiar–just a elite status symbol that worked its awful way, inexorably, into the modern culture.

    Our Ozark homestead is so far outside of city limits that we’re not even technically in a city, and we love that. No stupid homeowner’s association breathing down our necks to “mow the lawn!” Instead, we have an abundance of glade and prairie wildflowers–and the diversity of them increases by the year. It’s like a wonderful treasure hunt. My treasures this year included yarrow, various echinaceas, spiderwort, strawberry, blueberry, beardtongue, alumroot, violets, rose verbena, daisies, baptista, and a whole lot more native flowers that I’m just learning about. Your article is beautiful–and I totally agree. I hope more people read it!! Finding tea from your land is so satisfying (we call it our “old field tea”), medicinals are literally growing out of every corner, and the butterflies are nearly as abundant as the flowers.

    And, as a final note, scything is just such a satisfying, beautiful art. We love making hay and straw the old, quiet way.

    I always appreciate your thoughtful and experience-based articles. Thanks for sharing!

    • It seems that it does indeed take moving out to the countryside to find more diversity in nature! I loved reading your list of treasures this season and am thrilled that you know many of them by name, I am still learning new ones all the time. At the moment the grass in our hay field is 4 to 5 feet tall in places, yet the under layers are so fascinating with little splashes of color, and the comfrey in the field is alive with buzzing bees. The bats are happy with their insect harvest, just as the barn swallows are feasting. When we share our space, there is enough for every living creature.

      And yes, scything is not only great exercise, but carbon-friendly too! Thank you for sharing a bit of your homestead story.

  4. I would love to let my lawn go to meadow but I live in tick-laden central New York. Won’t that increase their habitat, their numbers and my family’s risk of contracting Lyme disease? Thanks!

  5. Love this! I refuse to have a “lawn” someday when I own my own place. Plus most of the grasses that cause allergies are those that are not native which we decided to plant. So a natural field is also better for your health!

    • And there are so many wild edibles hiding in the density of it all! Not to mention the butterfly attraction, the hedgehog habitat and wild life in general. Meadows are definitely better for the health of us all!

  6. https://www.flickr.com/gp/23264388@N07/xEicz6

    A year ago we bought a 1 acre field on the Olympic Peninsula to start our retirement farm. Our goal has always been to help the pollinators, allow the deer to roam, build a small hoop house to grow some food, and enjoy the outdoors of the Olympic Peninsula. So far, the land is completely undisturbed while we button up our city wildlife sanctuary. Our plan is to keep a minimal footprint, while enjoying nature.
    Knowing that Iโ€™m not alone in my views will be helpful when the neighbors come with their mowers…

    • Imagine that you too can be of inspiration to your neighbors! When they hear and see the diversity of wildlife that you are attracting, they will consider following suite.

  7. A great trick I have learned, especially if living in a “neighborhood,” is to grow a neat hedge around the perimeter of your wildflower field. This can be typical evergreen hedging or a thick stripe of chives, rosemary etc. Just keep it clipped and neat and whatever is inside this border will be much more acceptable to your neighbors. Our problem is the briars and vines that show up when we quit mowing…

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