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Please join me in welcoming Owen Wormser, author of Lawns into Meadows




Read the book review here!

 


Owen will be hanging out in the forums until this Friday answering questions and sharing his experiences with you all.

At the end of the week, we'll make a drawing for 4 lucky winners to win a copy of his book! From now until Friday, all new posts in the Lawn forum are eligible to win.

To win, you must use a name that follows our naming policy and you must have your email set up to receive the Daily-ish email. Higher quality posts are weighed more highly than posts that just say, "I want this book!"

When the four winners are selected, they will be announced in this thread and their email address will be sent to the publisher, and the publisher will sort out the delivery details with the winners.


Please remember that we favour perennial discussion.  The threads you start will last beyond the event.  You don't need to use Owen's name to get his attention. We like these threads to be accessible to everyone, and some people may not post their experiences if the thread is directed to the author alone.


Posts in this thread won't count as an entry to win the book, but please say "Hi!" to Owen and make him feel welcome!
COMMENTS:
 
gardener
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Welcome, Owen! :)
 
master gardener
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Welcome Owen! I so hope that we can reach a lot of people on this topic. I admit my lawn doesn't go as far as qualifying as a "meadow", but I've got lots of English daisies blooming, and in the spring I've got crocus that comes up, and other miscellaneous plants I don't necessarily know the names of. I particularly like it when enough of the mushroom I recognize come up that I can actually harvest some! Yes, some grass is nice, but there's no reason it has to be a monoculture!
 
pollinator
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Hello!  Looking forward to this discussion!

I liked this passage from your publisher's excerpt:

You don’t have to live off the grid to help the environment. There is a reasonable middle road to lightening your burden on this planet. Among the many options easier than giving up everything to live in a cabin in the north woods of Maine: Consume less. Buy locally. Cut back on meat and dairy. Compost your food waste. Grow some of your own food. Use public transportation whenever possible. Fly less. You can also grow a meadow instead of a lawn.  



Glad to see an example of institutional-sized lawns (Mt Holyoke) in transition!  I'll have to see what intelligent questions I can ask about the differences/similarities between lawns, meadows and pasture.
 
gardener
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This is an interesting topic and I look forward to both the questions and answers in it.
John S
PDX OR
 
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Welcome Owen.  I gave up the billiard table lawn years ago but meet resistance from neighbours over fears that my “weeds” will somehow pollute their perfect lawns.  Look forward to following this topic, hopefully it will provide me with some answers.
 
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Welcome, Owen!

I am looking forward to reading everyone's thoughts on turning lawns into meadows.  

And any questions they might have.
 
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Well, this is great timing!

We just moved into a new house which has been afflicted with grass.

And we have been thinking of how to go about leaving a little bit of grass, and a whole bunch of flowers and edibles for insects through moo cows.

I will be off to see what info I can dig up about the book.

Good luck with sales and thanks for offering this!

Happy trails,

Keith
 
steward
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Hey Owen, glad you're here and thanks for joining us!
 
author
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Thanks for having me here!  I'm enjoying getting to know this forum....  Ultimately, the world of permaculture is far ahead of most folks when it comes to questioning such absurdities as cultivating lawns everywhere.  An area the size of Washington State is mowed turf in the US and the adverse impact of all that lawn is enormous. Meadows on the other hand, offer the opposite.  They use almost no resources while sinking significant amounts of carbons and providing lots of habitat for pollinators and other animals. Meadows offer a relatively simple way to help the environment and create abundance right in your own yard!
 
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Owen Wormser wrote:An area the size of Washington State is mowed turf in the US and the adverse impact of all that lawn is enormous.



I'm most amazed when owners of a larger suburban property will have what looks like 2 acres of lawn.  My thought has always been "if I'm spending that much time and money on land, it better feed me or at least provide some beautiful flowers for my house!"
 
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Hello Owen. My first post to You!
Two questions:
- Any suggestions about how to succesfully plant more seeds into existing lawns?
- What experience do you have in recultivating dry, sandy (very sandy) grounds to make them home to more biodiversity? My pain is that  almost none of the seeds I plant are germinating.
 
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This will be an interesting thread to read. I am in year 2ish of a transition from more conventional gardening (albeit with as much mulch as I can lay my hands on) to something with a lot more TEFA built in. This year is a very dry one in my region. I'm lucky enough to be able to cut my grass with a scythe--which I do only when I need the mulch. My "field" which is a clearing of about an acre in the New Hampshire woods certainly functions as a meadow--complete with Mama deer and faun this year. It's been teaching me  a lot in this season of dryness as I go out to find my breakfast of dandelion greens each morning and notice the wet spots and the dry spots and think big thoughts about how to make it all serve all of us (me AND the mama deer and her faun) better.
So, welcome, Owen.
 
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Hello and welcome Owen,

I have a yard with bermudagrass and johnsongrass and a bunch of weeds. I was following a rancher that claims planting "cover crops" will remove weeds? Does your experiences address that and is it really true there is a way to get rid of these two grasses?

don
 
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Awesome, welcome, Owen! I'm trying to acheive that goal in my back yard (inner city). Chickens paved the way (a-hem, e.g. decimated lawn for me) to stsrt this adventure. How do I get rid of what is left of city lawn-grass? That is my new weed; grows taller than the flowers etc. My nemesis. Do you have a good way to get rid of that type? Live in MN, probably a bluegrass mix. Thank you.
 
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Hello, Owen!!

I live on about 5 acres and would like to turn about an acre of it into a meadow. My problem is that it was unoccupied land for several years and lespedeza has taken hold. Is there a way to eliminate the lespedeza while stimulating the growth of meadow plants without using chemicals? Thanks!
 
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Hello, Owen.
I am interested in finding about how to combat the mow every week mind-set.
Thanks,
Michael Heath
 
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Ela Kubajek wrote:Hello Owen. My first post to You!
Two questions:
- Any suggestions about how to succesfully plant more seeds into existing lawns?
- What experience do you have in recultivating dry, sandy (very sandy) grounds to make them home to more biodiversity? My pain is that  almost none of the seeds I plant are germinating.



Scoring into a lawn using what's known as a drill seeder can help get seeds in contact with soil, increasing the odds they establish. Of course you can sprinkle seeds onto a lawn but that can be more of a crap shoot.  The thing with most lawns is that they are usually comprised of cool season grasses which spread thickly, creating a carpet that can make it difficult for newly sprouted meadow plants to establish because of the initial competition of the existing grass.  

I usually try to match plants to the existing environment, so in a very sandy area, I'd focus on species that truly like those conditions; unfortunately, that narrows the possibilities significantly if you're focusing on meadow plants (it's dune and desert species that usually can grow well on sand).  Because the lack of organic matter and the inability of sand to hold water, growing a meadow in this type of environment can be prohibitive.


 
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Welcome Owen!
 
pollinator
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I will start a new orchard next year.  The trees will be closely spaced in rows but enough room to get a tractor between the rows after the trees are grown. I will keep the trees to around 12 foot tall.  
Is it worth looking at adding meadow like strips in between the rows?
The soil is covered with wood chips then thin layer of woodland top soil and underneath clay.
 
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Howdy Owen,

So I pray you will forgive my ignorance on this topic or my following assumptions, but if it is what I think it is then I think about meadows every time I start up my lawnmower.  Seems that between the lawn and woods or lawn and pastures there ought to be a transition zone.  Is the idea to create a zone of moderate and focused growth, or one that will inhibit radical takeover of indigenous plants?  Here in Tennessee we are blessed/cursed(if you don't manage it) with the scenario where if you open up the soil surface, clearing away any vegetation, in a couple days it will green over and within a couple months there will be a hostile takeover of unwanted vegetation.  The lawn is great to walk in, but a lot of work. The pasture is incredibly thick and buggy.  Is a meadow the transition zone I need?  Often I will lift my pasture cutter up and mow at around 1 ft around the edges to soften the harshness of the transition between lawn and pasture.  If I'm in the wrong ball park please help me out.  Sincerely  Lj
 
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Hi Owen! I'm excited to learn more. We decided to finally ditch the lawn this year and seeded the area with native wildflowers for our region. I think quite a few sprouted, along with a bunch of grass (despite tilling three times over the course of several weeks like the instructions said). Will this grass be detrimental to our meadow seedlings? Thanks!
 
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Welcome Owen!  I'm excited to learn more!  8 )
 
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Welcome Owen from the semi sunny West of Ireland. I have a lovely back lawn converted to a wild meadow for many years and I am about to convert the front lawn to the same. I'd love to add some colour to it so looking forward to the book.
 
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Welcome Owen! From Utah. Would love to have a more natural landscape for the yard.
 
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Owen, welcome!  I have a question similar to Donald Ray's about competing out unwanted grasses.  In my case, it's bindweed.  I started my "meadow" several years ago by cutting back on the water, seeding with yarrow, and mowing with a scythe a few times over the spring/summer.  As the lawn grass weakened, other plants started coming up, such as black medic, the yarrow, various clovers, fescues, etc.  Unfortunately, bindweed also came up.  Just wondering if eventually it will be suppressed by the other plants, or if there is something I can do to help suppress it, if in fact I should.  Maybe it's performing a function in the transition to meadow?  Currently, it does help the area look green, and there's far too much for one person to pull up by hand.  Thank you.
 
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Hi Owen,

I have about two acres that used to be land my grandfather used to plow that now I let go wild. There is a ton of spotted knapweed, cats ear and different wild grasses. I have a love hate relationship with these weeds. I love them for all the beneficial insects, but I hate them because it’s a never ending struggle in my veg patch. How to I get more wildflowers mixed in? I haven’t had much success in the past.
 
pollinator
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A big Wisconsin WELCOME to you! We must end the tyranny of green sterile lawns. Who decided we had to have a *green* lawn? [Yes. I know. the pesticide industry, the mowers industry, the fertilizer industry, the covenant you signed when you bought the house in the burbs, the City...].
First, IF you mow, Let it rise higher, then mow at the highest setting for your deck: You will save a lot of water and a lot of dough on fertilizers and your lawn will actually look better, feel cooler under foot.
That is IF you mow. I have painters brush flowers, daisies, Ohio spiderwort, clover and beeeeaaauuutiful, always green never mowed moss on the north side of my house. My lawn has never looked better as I observe "no mow June". I'm even getting some milkweed. Could I transplant them? (I want a lot of them, in mass.
My honey bees just love milkweed. The honey they make from it compares well with clover plus it does not crystallize.
I am actually getting a prairie, without any effort, in Central Wisconsin. Who knew it could look so great!
 
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Hello Owen, we call our neighborhood 'Mown Acres' - people are mowing every day and that's the only time you see them outside. Can't wait to read your book!
 
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Hi Owen!

Welcome to the discussion!! I look forward to learning even more about plants and our relationship to them and all of nature!

Melissa
 
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Welcome Owen,
I look forward to your ideas on making meadows, turning lawn into areas that provide a sustainable area for insects and birds. My dilemma is that I have an invasive grass, that I am trying to get rid of , not using pesticides which  I am against, so I put black plastic down for 9months , pulled it up and put down cardboard and covered it with mulch and hope to reclaim this area by planting blueberry bushes and a few fruit trees. Wish me luck!
 
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HELLO. I have a similar question to Don Ray and Bill-- ABOUT COMPETING GRASSES AND BIND WEED. I look forward to reading your book. THANK YOU!
 
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Hi,
I love the sound of this book, but am just wondering how U.S specific it is in terms of species?

 
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We have half-a-dozen hundred-year-oaks in our front yard in Michigan.  A year ago an arborist told us that our lawn was not healthy for the trees.  The trees shade the grass, which starts to struggle, which makes you want to use fertilizer and pesticides, which hurts the trees, etc.  Therefore, we are letting the lawn go back to nature by not mowing.  The oak leaves and twigs are starting to accumulate and the grass is dying out, which seems fine to us.  The old oaks are far more precious than a manicured lawn.  We would be interested in hearing your perspectives on this situation.  Is there anything that we should or should not do to hasten or enhance this process?  Would wood chips help? We have other areas of woodland with a natural forest floor of decayed leaves, tufts of grass, understory plants, etc.  That seems like a fine idea for our front "lawn", too.  Thanks for any input.
 
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Hello!  I live in Safford AZ, and my ‘yard’ always looks terrible in the summer.  Actually all year long.  In the sun there is nothing.  In the more shaded areas I Have Bermuda, which I inherited from a previous owner.  It is so thick in a couple of areas that it chokes out everything else.  I would love to get some ideas as to what would work in these areas.  It would be great if there was something wonderful that would actually choke out the Bermuda, but I imagine that I will just have to get out there and dig it all out 😩.  And then I would love to find a ground cover that would hold up to Arizona summers sun.  A double bonus would be that it would hold up to some foot traffic.  In the front it has to look neat and more traditional.  In the backyard though I have some permaculture principals going on there and can leave it more wild.

Annette Watson
 
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David Glanfield wrote:Welcome Owen.  I gave up the billiard table lawn years ago but meet resistance from neighbours over fears that my “weeds” will somehow pollute their perfect lawns.  Look forward to following this topic, hopefully it will provide me with some answers.



Fear and loathing harbored by neighbors towards anything that is not a lawn is often one of the biggest hurdles when trying to transforming your yard into meadow. Education and outreach tend to be the solution to this (when possible) but that process can take time and it can certainly be tricky to navigate.... There is a chapter in my book about this more political side of things because if we want to move away from lawns, outreach work is critical because most people don't even know that lawns can have a detrimental effect.
 
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T. Down wrote:Hi,
I love the sound of this book, but am just wondering how U.S specific it is in terms of species?

The species that I focus on in the book are specific to the United States. However, the rest of the information in the book can be universally applied, regardless of where you live.  
 
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Dennis Bangham wrote:I will start a new orchard next year.  The trees will be closely spaced in rows but enough room to get a tractor between the rows after the trees are grown. I will keep the trees to around 12 foot tall.  
Is it worth looking at adding meadow like strips in between the rows?
The soil is covered with wood chips then thin layer of woodland top soil and underneath clay.



Yes!  Adding such strips and planting species that are beneficial to orchard trees helps can help with pest and disease control and it can also support a larger pool of pollinators, which in turn can increase the level of pollination of orchard trees.  I don't have a list of beneficial species that are specific to each orchard species but I know that information exists and has been researched from the perspective of creating permaculture stye guilds to support fruit trees.

 
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Annette Watson wrote:Hello!  I live in Safford AZ, and my ‘yard’ always looks terrible in the summer.  Actually all year long.  In the sun there is nothing.  In the more shaded areas I Have Bermuda, which I inherited from a previous owner.  It is so thick in a couple of areas that it chokes out everything else.  I would love to get some ideas as to what would work in these areas.  It would be great if there was something wonderful that would actually choke out the Bermuda, but I imagine that I will just have to get out there and dig it all out 😩.  And then I would love to find a ground cover that would hold up to Arizona summers sun.  A double bonus would be that it would hold up to some foot traffic.  In the front it has to look neat and more traditional.  In the backyard though I have some permaculture principals going on there and can leave it more wild.

Annette Watson



Unfortunately, in arid locations like Arizona that get less than 20 inches of rain a year, it is very, hard – actually more or less impossible – for most grasses and traditional meadow plants to grow throughout the year.  That doesn't mean you might not be able to find a groundcover that could work but unfortunately, I don't know what that species could be off the top of my head. Also, fyi, I answered another question in the Lawn forum yesterday about trying to establish meadow in an arid area, and if for a more detailed answer you may want to check that out.
 
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DavidM Mdavid wrote:We have half-a-dozen hundred-year-oaks in our front yard in Michigan.  A year ago an arborist told us that our lawn was not healthy for the trees.  The trees shade the grass, which starts to struggle, which makes you want to use fertilizer and pesticides, which hurts the trees, etc.  Therefore, we are letting the lawn go back to nature by not mowing.  The oak leaves and twigs are starting to accumulate and the grass is dying out, which seems fine to us.  The old oaks are far more precious than a manicured lawn.  We would be interested in hearing your perspectives on this situation.  Is there anything that we should or should not do to hasten or enhance this process?  Would wood chips help? We have other areas of woodland with a natural forest floor of decayed leaves, tufts of grass, understory plants, etc.  That seems like a fine idea for our front "lawn", too.  Thanks for any input.



The points your arborist made are good one and it's great to hear that you are prioritizing those beautiful oak trees over having a perfect lawn!  Your approach makes sense and if you don't want other woody plants and trees to establish, be sure to mow the area under the oaks once annually. And I would skip on using wood chips unless you want to inhibit anything else from growing in that location.  

The amount of shade present probably precludes a meadow (a meadow needs at least a half day of direct sunlight) but there are other non-meadow species that thrive under oak trees.  One grass-like plant that loves to grow under oaks that is very tough and low-maintenance is Pennsylvania Sedge (this might even be the tufts of grass you mentioned). I would also focus on identifying some of the nearby understory plants that you mentioned and plant more of the ones you like under the oaks. And even if you don't use the exact same species of understory plants that are growing nearby, plants that are similar and can tolerate those conditions would work well too. The trick is to match plants to this very specific environment; most won't like these conditions but there are certainly some species that certainly do.
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