I get a lot of questions about what I do with the meadow in the winter. The answer is: nothing!
All of the spent plant material is still doing a job. It's providing winter habitat for pollinators and other wildlife, as well as being a giant source of bird food for the whole winter. It's fun to go out and see the different textures provided by the seedheads and see what has been nibbled on.
We will be cutting the meadow down in late winter. Somehow, we will try to cut the plant material into small pieces and leave them in place to reseed and mulch open spaces. I may use the weed wacker or the electric hedge clippers. It'll be another experiment and learning opportunity.
I have intended all along to share the costs associated with the meadow, as well as the number of man hours it has taken to install and maintain. I'm not so sure I've done a great job of tracking our work hours, but I am much better at tracking costs.
Equipment rental: $49
Meadow Seed: $99
Soil Test: $19
The "G" Word: $65
Additional Plants: $726
As a review, the equipment rental was for the sod cutter we used to remove all of our grass. I wouldn't recommend going that route, I believe solarizing is a much better option for us here in the Mid-Atlantic. If you're costing out your own project, replace the sod cutter expense with that of clear or black plastic to cover the entire area plus stakes.
We placed loose straw on the flat part of the meadow, and straw blankets on the sloped portion -- one set when we removed the sod in the fall, a new set put down immediately after seeding. I also added regular wood chip mulch around the edges to both help prevent the lawn grass from creeping in, and to make the meadow look like an intentional space.
Our meadow is approximately 900 ft², my seed order was for the minimum 1 lb. which would cover almost twice that area.
The additional plants consisted of two trays of plugs -- one of pale purple coneflower, one of rattlesnake master -- purchased retail from Prairie Moon ($290) plus other plants to fill in the front more organized "gardening" area. I could have purchased the plugs wholesale, but I wanted to make this project as close to what a non-industry professional's experience would be like and use the plants accessible to a regular consumer. These plant expenses would not be necessary if you don't want to plug in additional plants to your seed mix or plant a neighbor-friendly, quick-to-establish edge.
Hopefully this information helps any of you out there who are thinking about creating your own meadow. Remember, soil preparation is the most important step. Use those warm summer months to solarize your soil, and you will be off to a good start.
Catch up on our meadow making experience at the link below!