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Being a fellow Wisconsin resident, I've known Neil Diboll for many years. His catalog is filled with excellent information & I've asked him many a question throughout the years. There is no easy answer for prairie re-establishment.

Zheesh! Even the use of vinegar as a weed killer is controversial. If I had to plan my gardens worried about what other people were going to think of my methods I would probably just end up sitting in a corner rocking back and forth.

Getting a meadow going is really really hard! We had a space that was mostly clover with some nasty commercial grass/weed mix there too. We tried to get rid of it all before starting with wildflowers, but just can't make it work. Even after several years of hand weeding and re-sowing wildflower seeds, it's not a meadow. I've decided not to waste any more of my life trying to weed this part of our property and will be slowly filling in with bushes, trees and newspaper-covered mulch.

I applaud those who can do this well. Short of putting down 5 inches of clean dirt and starting over, my dream meadow will have to remain a dream.

A comment was made about solarizing (covering the area to be planted in black plastic or newspaper to first kill off the weeds before planting the meadow), that it also kills off anything else in the soil in that area (including beneficial soil organisms). The implication was that this would be bad, but it seems to me that when the area is replanted, all those life forms will re-enter the area from surrounding soil, so it seems overly-dramatic to worry about. Besides which, a chemically-heavy and dependent lawn seems like a worse alternative.

Gosh, where to begin about this article in the WP?

It seems to be written by someone who has never installed a prairie/meadow - he makes it sound all "1-2-3-and there you are!" Take one look at the excellent multi-page instructions in Prairie Nursery's catalog and you'll see that this guy is way off the mark. I've done it a few times and it's a difficult, but not impossible undertaking.

As for solarizing, it only works well with clear plastic - why do people keep insisting on black? And, yes, it kills micro-organisms a few inches down into the soil. You'll be planting deeper than that, so why worry too much? Throw a layer of good mulch over the top and you're good to go.

5% vinegar will burn/kill the tops of plants, but they grow back. You need to use concentrated vinegar marketed for garden use. It absolutely does not change the pH of the soil, nor will it migrate 'into the bay,' as one commenter said.

Roundup/glyphosate is a systemic that works inside the plant. It has a relatively short life (i.e. is broken down quickly) in the soil, and it doesn't migrate. Broadleaf chemicals like 2,4-D really are pretty deadly & persistent, however, and should be avoided.

Take-away lesson: lame article, spastic comments. If you want to turn over a patch of lawn to meadow, the best place for instructions is Prairie Nursery.

Here's my contribution to the fray. If you live in a cold-winter area of the country, kill off your turf in the fall. The freeze-thaw winter cycles will break it up for you so that the following spring you rake out clumps without much pain to prepare your seedbed.

Are people trying to have a meadow in an area that was historically not a meadow? Does that make a difference? Should you try to make a meadow in what was 250 years ago all woods until our ancestors removed the woods to farm? Or for that matter, a swamp before our ancestors tiled it and drained it for farming?

I totally agree with Tami. When idiots start complaining about vinegar and solarizing it is time to give them their medication and put them back to bed.

I have seen for decades the suggestion of black plastic for solarization which is idiocy


I'm with Tami, too. Years ago, I created a meadow in my backyard (in WI) and it was fraught with problems due to beginner ignorance, and following directions such as nuking all existing vegetation and starting from scratch… also using 'wildflower' seed blends.

I've learned a lot since then, and though one CAN solarize and use chemicals to kill existing vegetation, it's not my preferred method.

I'm a landscape designer and gardening coach in Vancouver, WA, and the WP article and the other Lawn Reform Coalition posting regarding meadows spurred me on to making my own blog post. Read it here:

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