Turning a lawn into wildflower meadow #805913

Asked August 12, 2022, 8:20 AM EDT

Hello. I'm interested in turning some of my grass lawn into a wildflower meadow. Our yard has been sprayed for weeds this past year, but I like the idea of spraying chemicals on the grass less and less as our family grows. However, If we don't spray, the weeds run out of control and I don't want that, either. In an attempt to address both issues (not spraying and not getting overrun by weeds), I thought about turning the back 1/8-1/4 acre or so where the weeds are the worst into a wildflower meadow. Our soil has lots of clay and it is not well-draining. I wouldn't say it's so bad that there's standing water after a typical rain, but it's the last area to dry out. I live in Stark Co. Is a wildflower meadow even possible? Are there any resources that you recommend? I don't even know where to start. Do you think one would accomplish the task of keeping the weeds at bay without spraying? Thank you so much. Julia Floro

Stark County Ohio

Expert Response

Hi. Turning part of your lawn should be possible, assuming it receives at least part sun (4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day), as most meadow plants prefer full to partial sun. Your best option for a relatively large area like that would be to seed it with native species that have evolved to survive (and thrive) in the conditions in northeast Ohio like those you describe. Typically a seed packet will include many species (perhaps two dozen) that prefer similar conditions (ranging from full sun in dry conditions to partial sun in wetter conditions). The main work involved is getting rid of the lawn grass and weeds that are currently there, which need to be killed before seeding if you want the native seed to germinate and do well. This can be done in a variety of ways including smothering them, doing controlled burns, or using non-elective herbicides. This PDF from the U. of New Hampshire does a great job of explaining the process of establishing a wildflower meadow from seed. I’d also recommend this article from Piedmont Master Gardeners (U. of Virginia), which discusses meadows vs. prairies. Ohio was originally covered by both forest (including meadows) and prairie. Therefore, you will find Ohio seed mixes for both meadows and prairies. Since the eastern half of the state was originally covered by forest (including Stark Co.), you should go with a meadow seed mix rather than prairie. If you search for “Ohio native seed mix” on the internet, you can find some providers. For example, the Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District collaborated with Prairie Moon Nursery to sell native seed mixes, and Cuyahoga County SWCD collaborated with OPN (formerly Ohio Prairie Nursery) for their sale. You can buy bulk seed to cover the area you intend to seed. If you have any questions about the process, you can certainly follow up by replying to this email. If you decide to use an herbicide to clear your area, be sure to read and follow the label directions carefully. Additionally, here is an excellent fact sheet from Ohio State U. on natural organic lawn care, which should help with maintenance of other areas of your yard.

Darin Croft - MGV Replied August 14, 2022, 7:58 AM EDT
Thank you so much for your detailed response, Darin. I appreciate all of the resources you've included. Thanks again!

God bless,

On Sun, Aug 14, 2022 at 7:58 AM Ask Extension <> wrote:
Julia Floro Replied August 25, 2022, 9:30 AM EDT
You are welcome. I'm glad the information was useful. Good luck!
Darin Croft - MGV Replied August 27, 2022, 8:05 AM EDT

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