5 tips on meadowscaping your yard

photo Patricia Cregan, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., stands in her meadow in the back of her home, planted with native wildflowers.

If you go

• What: "Meadowscaping: A Recipe for Healthy Urban and Suburban Landscapes" seminar.• When: 7 p.m. Monday, July 9.• Where: Chattanooga State Community College's Humanities Auditorium, 4501 Amnicola Highway.• Admission: $10 adults, $5 students and seniors over 65; payable at the door.• Website: www.chattanooga natives.blogspot.com/p/meeting-schedule.html.

A nationally renowned organic landscape designer is coming to Chattanooga to teach area residents how to make a meadow.

The Tennessee Valley Chapter of Wild Ones is sponsoring the seminar by Catherine Zimmerman. "Meadowscaping: A Recipe for Healthy Urban and Suburban Landscapes" will be held July 9, said chapter member Sally Wencel.

Zimmerman, an award-winning director of photography, has more than 35 years of experience as a documentary filmmaker, with an emphasis on education and environmental issues. She is also an author and certified horticulturist who is helping urban and suburban landowners take a more natural approach to landscaping, according to a news release.

Using a practice called "meadowscaping," Zimmerman inspires people to eliminate pesticides, reduce lawn and return their land to a natural habitat for native plants and wildlife.

The presentation will cover why meadow and prairie habitats are so beneficial, both economically and environmentally, and provide a step-by-step primer on reducing lawn size and organically installing a beautiful meadow or prairie in one's yard. Zimmerman said no space is too small for a nature area.

Wild Ones is a national nonprofit organization with more than 50 chapters in 12 states whose members promote landscaping practices that preserve biodiversity.

"Catherine's point with meadowscaping is anyone can install a meadow, large or small, to replace turf grass sections of a yard," Wencel said. "If there is enough sun for grass, there is enough sun for a meadow."

Wencel said she has a small meadow in her front yard.

"(It) also serves as a rain garden to help divert rainwater coming from my driveway and neighbor's house," she said. "It's not just

homeowners who can convert part of their yard into a meadow. Churches, schools, businesses -- any property owner with large tracts of grass, other than soccer, baseball and football fields, could have a meadow."

There is, though, a drawback for some local residents.

"Chattanooga does not provide any exemption from the 'weed ordinance' for natural lawns," Wencel said, explaining that based on complaints, particularly from neighbors, a meadow may be prohibited by the city of Chattanooga.

"Meadows are not illegal per se," she said. "It's how the city chooses to enforce a vague ordinance or whether adjacent landowners will complain to the city about a meadow that creates any doubt about their legality."

For those who can meadowscape, Zimmerman offers the following tips.


1 Site selection and analysis: Meadows are full-sun, native-plant communities. Full sun means at least six hours of sun throughout the day. It is important to figure out what kind of soil and moisture conditions exist on the site. Is the soil dry, medium or wet? Matching the right plant with the right soil condition is key to success.

2 Site preparation: Take time to do good site preparation. The site must be completely cleared of vegetation. A few methods are smothering with newsprint or cardboard, spraying with herbicide or striping with a sod cutter. Disturb the soil as little as possible. Do not till. It will bring up weed seeds and cause huge maintenance issues.

3 Design: Don't pick plants simply because you like the color or texture. Refer to your site-analysis notes. Plants need to be planted according to the condition they like. Decide how tall you want your meadow, and make sure to include 40 percent to 60 percent in grasses to help stabilize, inhibit weeds and give year-round interest. Using a mowed border around the meadow sets it off as an intended garden space.

4 Planting: Meadows can be seeded or planted with live plants. Using live plants is more expensive, but you get blooms the first year. Seeded meadows may take up to three years to establish. Meadows thrive in poor soils, so fertilizers are not required. When using live plants, watering is required until the meadow plants establish.

5 Maintenance: The advantages of creating a meadow are that, once established, it requires little maintenance, no fertilizers, no watering and no pesticides. Unlike lawns, meadows are mowed once in late winter or early spring.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/karennazorhill.

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