Go for Green - The Active Living and Environment Program, encourages
outdoor physical activity that protects, enhances or restores
environment. When we Go for Green, we improve our own health,
through active living and the health of the planet,
by being good
environmental citizens.Gardening is active living. Is it the second most popular physical activity in Canada,
it offers the opportunity for lifelong participation, and can be a positive contributor to the natural environment.One of
the most evocative words in the English language is meadow. To say it is to immediately conjure up images of a sun-soaked
field of swaying grasses and wildflowers, a comforting landscape that soothes the senses and calms the nerves.Meadow and prairie
gardens offer that restful beauty--right outside the door.Meadows naturally occur in sunny spots, where there is a gap in
tree cover, for example, and sun-loving plants sprout up, taking advantage of the sunlight. If left to their own devices,
in the wild, meadows will eventually turn to forest, as woody plants such as trees and shrubs take hold and slowly mature.
are three main types of prairie landscapes in Canada: the tallgrass prairies of southeastern Manitoba and southwestern Ontario;
the mixed-grass prairies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba; and the inter-mountain grasslands of British Columbia.
Each of these prairie landscapes has evolved in response to the different levels and patterns of rainfall and to the area's
soils. Each has characteristic plant communities that give the prairie its general
mood and distinctive features.
Tallgrass prairie is one of the most endangered ecological
communities in Canada--less than
1% of the original tallgrass community remains
intact in Manitoba and Ontario. Fifty to 80% of the
original mixed-grass prairie and inter-mountain
grassland communities of Canada have been
lost to farming and development over the
past hundred years.
To determine what meadow and prairie plants
are native to your area,consult a field guide,
such as Peterson's or Audubon's, or contact a
field naturalist group.
Along with their beauty, one of the main
benefits of meadow and prairie gardens
is that they are easy to care for. After
you've done the preliminary, admittedly
hard work of eradicating weeds, your
meadow or prairie garden will require
relatively little maintenance work.
(Reality check: except for continuing
to weed as unwanted plants pop up.)
Preparing a weed-free soil bed in
which to grow your meadow and
prairie plants is the single, most important job in the life of your
garden. The work
you do now to get rid of weeds will pay off in the
long term with reduced weed growth. One thing you won't need to do in
prairie or meadow garden is to supplement the soil with nutrient-
rich amendments such as manure. Native meadow and prairie
adapted to nutrient-poor soil, so you don't need to add fertilizers
either. Save your time and energy for
working on the weeds!
There are many different ways to prepare a weed-free soil bed, and
the methods you choose
will depend on the size of your garden. For
smaller gardens, you can either pull out weeds by hand or smother
a thick layer of newspapers or plastic left on the plot
over a season. If you're converting an area of lawn to a meadow
prairie garden, you'll need to dig up all the grass with a spade or
pitchfork, or you can rent a rototiller. For
large areas (an old
field, for example), use a rototiller or tractor-pulled plough to
turn under existing vegetation;
after this, weed seeds in the soil
will germinate, so you'll need to use a tractor-pulled disc to kill
them. This process
can be repeated, perhaps even throughout one whole
growing season, until few weed seeds are left to germinate in the
a Meadow or Prairie Garden
You can use either seeds or seedlings to plant your garden. Count on
pounds of seed per acre (4 to 5 ounces per 1,000 square
feet) or about one seedling per square foot. You can broadcast
in the late fall (the seeds will then go through their natural
dormancy period over the winter and germinate in
the spring) or you
can broadcast them in spring (but only if the seeds have been
can also be planted in the spring or fall. Keep young
plants well watered as they're getting established, and be careful
to cultivate around the newly planted seedlings--you don't want
to disrupt their roots.
Seeds or Seedlings?
a large area, it's much cheaper to use seeds.
Seedlings, though, will produce showy blooms faster than seeds, and
meadow will look well established by the second year after
A good compromise between budget and
patience is to use a mix of
seeds and seedlings--while the seeds are getting established, the
seedlings will be putting
on a flowery show.
Meadow and Prairie Maintenance
Vigilant weeding is the main gardening maintenance chore in the
and prairie garden. Pull up weeds before they go to seed.
Meadow and prairie gardens also respond well, with vigorous renewed
to mowing. Cut plants to about 6 inches in the early spring
or late fall.
A Burning Question
In the wild, prairie ecosystems evolved under conditions of periodic
fires set by lightning strikes and by the
Native Peoples. Far from
harming prairies, fire actually benefits prairie plant communities.
However, before you even
consider a prairie burn, contact your
provincial ministry of natural resources and your local fire
department. An informative
pamphlet called "How To Manage Small
Prairie Fires" is available from Prairie Habitats
www.prairiehabitats.com P.O. Box 10, Argyle, Manitoba R0C 0B0.
Some Low-Maintenance, Drought-Tolerant Garden
All of these plants virtually look after themselves:
asters, milk vetch, harebell, northern bedstraw,
prairie clover, bergamot, yellow coneflower, goldenrod, false indigo,
leadplant, butterfly weed,
evening primrose, cinquefoil, black-eyed
Susan, cup plant, coreopsis.
Native Grasses for the Meadow and Prairie
Wild prairies and meadows include not just beautiful wildflowers, but
many native grasses as well. Complete
your garden plan with these
gorgeous grasses: big bluestem, little bluestem, side-oats grama,
blue grama, Canada wild
rye, June grass, panic grass, switch grass,
Indian grass, dropseed.
If you want a native meadow garden, don't use
a "meadow in a can"
instant seed mixture. Most contain non-native annuals, which will
look good in the first year but
will die off quickly and be replaced
the sound you hear:
the Western Meadowlark.
more meadowlark recordings
you can encourage butterflies
to visit your yard by planting
native prairie wildflowers.
Toll Free Number
Turn in Poachers.
Report Forest Fires.