A Natural Meadow or Prairie Brings Us Back to Our Roots
A little over a hundred years ago, hundreds of thousands of miles of grasslands covered just over a quarter of the continental United States. These native grasslands supplied habitat to an estimated 60 million Bison, not to mention a variety of species of grassland birds and other animals that made up the grasslands ecosystem. With the spread of agriculture across North America, along with the spread of the suburban lifestyle and the lawns that came with it, much of this native grassland gave way to farmland and lawns. Today, an estimated 24 million acres of lawn surrounds homes in America.
Recently many homeowners have begun to replace their lawns with a natural meadow and prairie that is made up of native grasses and flowers. Although the change to a native meadow can take some time and some elbow grease, there are quite a few advantages to having a native meadow surround your home instead of a turf lawn. Below, we’ll take a look at just what makes a meadow so great, along with how that meadow is different from your lawn.
How Are Meadows and Prairies Different From My Lawn?
The key difference between a natural meadow or a prairie and a lawn is that the former are made up of native grasses and plants, whereas lawns are made up of grasses that are there for their durability and may not be (and in many cases are not) native to the area. As to the difference between a prairie and a meadow, prairies generally contain more native grasses and fewer wildflowers and for this reason they are more often found in warmer climates.
There are two types of prairies or meadows: annual or perennial. An annual natural meadow grow quickly in the first year and provide a wealth of life and color in a relatively short amount of time. Annual meadows are the kind of meadow that is contained in packaged meadow mixes. In contrast to annual meadows, perennial meadows take two to three years to take hold. This is because perennial plants and grasses have deep root systems and they spend much of their energy in the first year in root growth. In the second year, these plants and grasses spread their root systems and also start to spread above ground as well. By the third year, the perennial meadow or prairie establishes itself, providing an abundance of color and beauty that is native to your area.
The Benefits of Native Plants and Wildflowers on Your Land
There are a variety of benefits that come from having native plants and wildflowers in your prairie or meadow, not the least of which are the benefits to wildlife, the ecology and your wallet.
By replacing your lawn with native wildflowers and grasses, you are providing local wildlife with a more livable habitat. The clumped structure of native grasses provides nesting, hiding and feeding space for local wildlife. The bare, open space between these clumps of grass are composed of loosely structured ground that is the perfect space for birds to feed on seeds and insects.
Aside from bringing in wildlife, the presence of native grasses can bring strength to the land. Most native grass species are perennial and as noted above, this means that they create deeper root systems, extending between five and fifteen feet below the ground. Such a deep root system has a variety of advantages:
- Deep roots can reach nutrients, water and minerals that can keep them healthy in hot, dry summers
- Deep roots reduce erosion by stabilizing the soil
- The large mass of roots contributes to soil fertility
- A deep root system makes it harder for invasive species such as Ivy and Goldenrod to take root
Finally, planting native grasses and wildflowers has economic benefits. Since such grasses and wildflowers are built to survive in these soils, they provide little to no fertilizer or irrigation after planting. With less maintenance, you will have more time to enjoy your natural meadow or prairie.
In the next post, I’ll take a look at how you can turn your lawn into a meadow or prairie, and just how that Orec Brush Cutter helps you keeping your prairie or meadow at its best.