Mini Meadows Are the Perfect Small-Space Garden

Cheap and easy to plant, trending mini meadows work in even the tiniest garden space.

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March 30, 2020

Photo By: American Meadows

Photo By: Storey Publishing

Photo By: Rob Cardillo

Photo By: Michael Lizotte

Photo By: Rob Cardillo

Photo By: Mars Vilaubi

Photo By: Joshua McCullough

Photo By: Rob Cardillo Photography

Photo By: Rob Cardillo

Photo By: Fredrick Strauss

Creating a Mini Meadow Is Easy and Wallet-Friendly

A gorgeous garden doesn't need a lot of space or money. You can grow a mini meadow in as little as 50 square feet and less than $20, says American Meadows owner Mike Lizotte, aka "The Seed Man." While a traditional meadow is a field covered in grasses and wildflowers, a mini meadow fits a wealth of pollinator-attracting native and wildflowers into a small space. "It might be a few thousand square feet, it might be a window box in your apartment. Simple, easy, informal beautification from planting flowers!" Just 1/4 pound of wildflower seeds, Lizotte adds, will cover up to 250 square feet. Use a regional mix if you start from seeds, so you'll get varieties selected to thrive in your region.

Mini Meadows

Preparation is the key to a successful meadow, says Mike Lizotte, author of Mini Meadows: Grow a Little Patch of Colorful Flowers Anywhere Around Your Yard. "The better your prepare your growing area, getting rid of existing vegetation, the better your results will be." Start by working your soil until it's loose and friable. While a soil test isn't always necessary, Lizotte says it can be helpful. Ask your local cooperative extension service to do the test so you can add amendments like fertilizer, compost or other organic matter, if they're indicated.

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Sowing Seeds

Starting a meadow from plants or plugs is fine for gardeners who want "instant gratification," Lizotte says, or for those planting on difficult sites like hills and slopes, but most meadows are grown from seeds. Some seeds are small and tricky to handle, so if you're starting with 100 percent pure seeds, he suggests mixing them in a ratio of one part seeds to five parts builders' or sandbox sand. The sand will help distribute lightweight seeds more evenly and let you see where they land. Scatter them over your site with a spreader or go back and forth several times, tossing handfuls from a bucket, as he prefers to do.

Grow a Mini Meadow Under a Window

If space is tight, use what you have. Even a strip of good, well-drained soil under a window can accommodate a bed of bright meadow plants. "Annuals are very popular," Lizotte says. "Not only do they provide instant gratification with big, bold color just weeks after planting, they help suppress the weeds as your perennials (assuming you planted a mix of annuals and perennials) develop their root systems during their first year of growth." Some of his favorites include poppies, cosmos, calendulas, borage, alyssum and zinnias. Remember: for best results, choose meadow plants or seeds recommended for your garden zone.

Sow a Mini Meadow on a Hill or Slope

Lizotte doesn't usually recommend covering your seeds or raking them into the soil after sowing them. Most are small, and covering them would affect their germination. However, if you're planting on a hill or slope, he suggests lightly covering the seeds with chopped straw. (Avoid hay, which often contains weed seeds.) Then water the seeds to encourage them to sprout and keep them watered regularly, or as often as your seed packet directions indicate. A high-quality meadow mix, Lizotte says, should sprout in 10 to 20 days. Once it's established, it can help control erosion and hold down weeds and unwanted grass.

Plant a Mini Meadow in Your Front Yard

Mini meadows have multiple uses. If you're tired of mowing a lawn, substitute a meadow. Then, Lizotte says, you'll only need to mow once or twice a year. If you want to sow more seeds for your meadow, mow in the fall, so when you distribute additional seeds, it will be easier for them to make contact with the soil. Otherwise, he says, wait until the following spring to mow, and leave the seeds and stems to overwinter and provide food for birds and other wildlife. An added bonus: you can weed whack or brush hog a meadow if you don't like mowing.

Start a Mini Meadow Along the Street

Those narrow strips of land between the sidewalk and the street are called hell strips for a reason: almost nothing will grow in them, except for nuisance grasses or weeds. They're unsightly and impossible to mow, but Lizotte says you can turn them into attractive mini meadows. Most meadow plants can take the full sun and poor soil found in hell strips, and they can usually survive on whatever rainwater they can get. Asters, penstemons and grasses like little bluestem are good choices for these areas — but check with your local department of public works to be sure it's okay to plant in a hell strip before you get started.

Rudbeckias

You seldom have to worry about spraying meadow plants for diseases or pests. "Disease is very, very rare when it comes to wildflowers and meadows," Lizotte says. "Due to the ‘whimsical’ nature of most meadow settings, they allow for good airflow and are not prone to disease. Most meadows will attract nature, such as birds, bees and butterflies, so bugs are a good thing! In most meadow settings, both small and big, chemicals and sprays are not relevant to maintain the beauty throughout the season."

Let a Mini Meadow Go to Seed in Fall

Birds and other wild creatures aren't the only ones that benefit from meadows. Leave meadow plants to die back naturally in the cold, and beneficial insects can make homes in their uncut stems and stalks to survive the winter. Faded plants also give pollinators a place to take shelter and lay eggs. Lizotte recommends adding nesting boxes to your mini meadow if they're permitted by your homeowners' association or other regulatory organization. They'll add even more habitat for wildlife.

Plant a Mini Meadow in a Box

Even a small container can hold a mini meadow, Lizotte says, and offer plants that provide food or nectar for pollinators like bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. Grow low-maintenance annuals like zinnias, toadflax, red poppies and Plains coreopsis. Perennials that offer shelter or serve as host plants for pollinators include common yarrow, wild lupine, thyme and Joe Pye weed. To help control pests like aphids and thrips, plant dill, purple prairie clover and rock cress to draw beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings. These plants are just suggestions and may not grow successfully in all areas; choose meadow plants recommended for your garden region for best results.

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