Maintaining a wildflower meadow

judy-gardenerOctober 9, 2006

I am getting ready to plant a wildflower meadow on a 3000 sq. ft. fairly flat area. I know that for the first couple of years to keep the weeds from taking over it will need to be cut down. And occasionally after that as well. I've read that you should cut it no shorter than 6" - 8" so the wildflowers will grow but the weeds won't. What kind of field mower or brush mower can I purchase to cut at this height. All the equipment I've seen does not cut higher than 4". I want a walk behind self propelled mower that is around $2,000 (or less of course). I am also going to use this mower to maintain a grassy meadow on a 1/4 acre with a 20' gradual slope. Any suggestions would be helpful.

Thanks!

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joepyeweed(5b IL)

You can cut it shorter than that.... If you set a regular lawn mower on the tallest setting it should cut to about 3" or 4" and that will work just fine. You should be able to get a nice self propelled lawn mower for around $400.

The drawback to cutting at this height with a normal mower is that you will have to cut it probably once a month during the growing season in order for the mower to work and not get clogged up and stuck.

Some people just use a weedwacker for smaller areas. Or you could try one of those Weed and brush mowers, but I don't think they are self propelled.

The 6" or 8" cut comes from what a field chopper cuts that a farmer would use on a huge farm field. Its not a hard rule of thumb, and cutting it shorter won't harm your plants.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 9:52AM
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gw:judy-gardener

Thanks!!! I am definitely going to purchase a field/brush mower because we also have an area on the other side of our property that's 1/4 acre and partially sloped where we planted an erosion grass mix that will need to be mowed a couple times a year. And I think the brand DR has a self propelled one.

How often do you need to mow the wildflower meadow and what time of the year are the best times to help prevent weed population?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 1:26PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Generally you would mow it once a year. I usually mow in the spring but will alternate with an occaisional fall mow every fourth or fifth year.

An early spring mow - Leaves the plants stand through winter and can provide food and cover for winter wildlife. A spring mow should be done early before any migrating birds start nesting.

However - its also good to occaisionally mow off in the fall depending upon what is growing, if you need to control some weedy fall blooming species(ie. goldenrod). Mow it off before the fall bloomers go to seed.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 12:16PM
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gw:judy-gardener

Cool!! Thanks Joepyeweed. Do you also get out there and hand weed during the growing season? How large is your wildflower meadow? I know we probably don't have the same climate conditions and the main difference is that we have much milder winters. It usually doesn't get much lower than 25 - 30 degrees. But, it sounds like you have been successful in keeping the weeds and grasses under control. Some people here say that's almost impossible to do.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 12:26PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

When growing a meadow - some weeds are acceptable. And you will have lots of weeds the first couple seasons. But if you can keep them from reproducing then the desirable stuff will eventually outcompete them, but a meadow will never be "free" of weeds.

And I have a lot of grass... the prairie grasses tend to take over as time passes... but thats okay I like the grasses.

I have a few small prairie plots that I maintain. They are not really large enough to be a "real" prairie. One is just a 10' x 40' patch at some rental property that I own. I grow all natives, including a rain garden and wildflower buffer on my property. And we (my brother & I) maintain a prairie planting that is about 2 acres on land at my mother's house in Wisconsin.

I also do volunteer work with the local nature center to help them maintain some remnant prairies and woodland areas on public property.

I do hand weed the small prairie plot and the plantings around my home. I do not hand weed the plot at my mom's or the stuff on public land. We control weeds mostly with presribed burns on the larger tracts.

And my brother's job is to plant prairies to create wildlife habitat. We have many converstations sharing our experiences with managing and planting prairies.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 5:16PM
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mwbeall(IN5 E tallgrassregion)

Hey, ALL!!!
I found a great tool! I bought a cordless hedge trimmer! It works great for topping small plots. I hope you can have the same joy I had trimming the "nasty's" out of your small plots and it makes for a grrreat day, given good weather. I use it on that pokeweed too! Check it out; it cost me abt $79!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 5:24PM
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