I am trying to turn part of my front lawn into a wildflower meadow that will support bees, birds and butterflies. The problem with a regular old lawn is that it is a food desert for bees; there are no flowering plants for them to eat. The yards here in Suburbia are made up of mostly green lawn with a few flowering plants at the edges, not enough to make a desirable habitat for the bees and butterflies. I’m trying to turn a huge swath of my front yard into a bee-friendly meadow of different kinds of wildflowers that will take turns blooming all throughout the summer.
It has to be pretty, or my neighbors will complain, so I have to do it right. One thing I have noticed about us urban dwellers is that we have no patience for organic processes. We want our lawns green RIGHT NOW, and the flowers to ALL bloom ALL the time. We expect everything to look like a page out of Better Homes and Gardens, and that is not reality. Things in nature take time. Hopefully my neighbors don’t pitch a fit if my meadow is slow to flower.
The first step was removing the top layer of mulch so that I can get to the landscape fabric underneath. This patch of yard is under two oak trees, and the grass died because of the shade from the trees. My husband had the concrete decorative border installed, put landscape fabric down to kill the weeds that were popping up in the bare patches where the grass had died, and then covered the whole thing with mulch. It was no maintenance, but it was also ugly. No color, no texture, nothing attractive about plain ol’ brown mulch.
I raked up the mulch and moved it into my garden beds. As I raked, I noticed that the mulch has already started to decompose and underneath there was a thin layer of good, black dirt. It was blocked by the landscape fabric from making its way down into the Georgia clay, but on top of that fabric I actually had a nice layer of soil established. I was excited to be able to transfer that material into my garden!
My garden is mostly done for the summer. We’ve had a major heat wave and a lot of my veggies just withered away, despite my efforts to keep them watered. I flattened out the dead plants by stepping on them, and topped them with the mulch. All winter long that organic material can sit in my garden beds and turn itself into rich, black soil.
I was able to put the mulch all along the side of my neighbor’s house, where I’m planning to put in more herbs and flowers. My neighbors never go in their side yard, and the area along the side of the house was getting weedy and overgrown. I asked permission to spruce it up and they agreed. I pulled the weeds, laid them on the dirt and then covered them with a deep layer of mulch that should smother any of the ones I missed. Next year I’ll be able to plant right into that organic material.
One thing I’ve learned about gardening this year is never to let organic material go to waste. Dead leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, and acorn hulls are all available in my yard. These are the things that typically get carted off to the landfill when they should be composted and put back into the soil. We can use our old plants to grow new plants and our old food to grow new food. The mulch from my front yard is going to help me smother weeds and it’s going to turn into rich, black soil for me to plant into next year.
The next step in my lawn to meadow project is to rip up the landscaping fabric so that I can plant into it. I imagine it’s going to be kind of a nightmare under there, from a gardening perspective anyway. That fabric kills the soil underneath. It doesn’t allow earthworms and other bugs to colonize, and it doesn’t allow any nutrients to decay into it. Luckily, wildflowers are adapted to grow in poor soil.
I’m very excited to reclaim this area of my front yard and turn it from a dead zone into a habitat for bees, birds and butterflies. I’m excited to heal the soil and bring it from death to life!