For many years, the areas alongside roads, power lines, transmission lines, and pipelines have been mown short and sprayed with pesticides. We are all used to seeing these areas neat and trim, but the truth is that there really is not a need for it, and the practice has actually greatly reduced habitat for pollinating insects and wild animals. When the grass is short, there is not enough food or shelter, so they find themselves with nowhere to go.
The good news is that Canada is starting to realize the opportunity provided through these areas, and is slowly beginning to revert them back to their natural states. Similar efforts are also in place in the U.S. and the U.K. The Canadian Wildlife Federation states that there are 1.4 million kilometres of roads in Canada that could provide endless miles of grasses and wildflowers for pollinators, which in addition to bees also includes butterflies. It’s sad to say that monarch butterfly migration has dropped 80 per cent in the last 20 years, but efforts like these can help restore their population.
The Canadian Wildlife Federation also points to tons of opportunity in our own yards and on our business properties as well. There are 6.2 million lawns in Canada. If we all converted just one-quarter of our yard space into a natural meadow we could provide 14,400 hectares of habitat for pollinators. Another reason to create a meadow is to cut down the average 48 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions put out by the average gas-powered lawn mower each summer, and also reduce the amount of water needed to keep lawns irrigated. In addition, meadows are much more effective at creating oxygen than lawns, cleaning up the air for everyone.
What will a meadow look like?
We all love our flat expanses of emerald green lawns, which provide lots of space for picnics, playing ball, sunbathing, and games. But, we also all know that lawns require a lot of upkeep, starting with a thorough spring cleaning. We love the process of raking, aerating, and fertilizing, and then trimming and mowing, but we also love supporting a healthy population of pollinators, which are essential for the growth of crops and 90 per cent of the world’s wild plants.
We’re not saying that you have to give up your lawn entirely, but if you have a space that’s not being used to its full potential – whether it be because it’s too sloped, too sunny, too close to a road, and so on, it may be perfect to create a meadow.
A proper meadow should be at least 50% forb cover, says conservationtools.org. That means it must consist of at least 50% wildflowers. When picking your location, remember that sunny spots are where you are most likely to have success.
One way to create a meadow is to get rid of all the grass in the area and dig out a completely clean garden with fresh soil ready for seeds to be scattered. Others work in some of the existing grass. There are many different ways to do this.
To prep a meadow to incorporate 50% or less of the existing grass:
- Mow the area for the last time to a height of not less than three inches.
- Give the area a thorough power rake to get rid of as much thatch as possible.
- Aerate thoroughly.
- Scarify, or scrape, the surface to loosen the top layer of dirt.
- Pull out or remove clumps to ensure there is space for your wildflowers.
- Put down a layer of top soil.
- Mix in seeds.
- Add fertilizer.
- Water regularly until seeds are well established.
Native plants for your meadow
Some Alberta nurseries such as Wild About Flowers in Black Diamond focus solely on native species. Their experts head out into Alberta’s natural areas to collect seeds from native plants to grow in their facilities. These plants are hardy and obviously well-suited to our climate. Choices are as diverse as sunflowers, asters, spirea, black-eyed susans, violets, forget-me-nots and so on, and all will assist in attracting bees and butterflies to your Calgary yard.
Mirage is a flexible, friendly, and responsible Calgary landscaping company
Mirage Landscaping is a family-owned company specializing in residential and commercial lawn care services for these southeast Calgary districts and communities:
Auburn Bay, Chaparral, Chaparral Valley, Copperfield, Cranston, Douglasdale, Heritage Pointe, Lake Bonavista, Mahogany, McKenzie Lake, Mackenzie Towne, Maple Ridge, New Brighton, Odgen/Lynwood/Millican, Parkland, Riverbend, Sundance, Walden, and Willow Park.