• How to weed a meadow in the Sierra Foothills

    by  • February 12, 2011 • Meadow project

    Project: Weeding the Meadow

    The ‘meadow’, in February 2011, 3 months after planting.

    After rains and four weeks of sunny weather, a check on the progress of weeds and seedlings in the meadow showed lots of green, and yesterday it took a lot less time to weed than I thought, about an hour and a half.  This is a 30×30 foot area, 900 sq ft, an area the size of my entire backyard in Southern California. I was delighted about how well the double spraying treatment with the systemic herbicide had worked.  See the Weed seedling photos below.

    How to weed a meadow:


    • Target which weeds to eradicate. I picked filaree, a truly evil weed.
    • Apply a systemic herbicide twice and wait for it to work. I sprayed in Fall heat waves waited for the second batch of weed seedlings to die, then planted.   Meadow planting
    • Plant sample seed trays to show what the good seedlings look like.
    • Know the weed seedlings in your area. I searched each type of flower and grass I knew I had to view images of what the seedling would look like. Then I took my own photos, of those seedlings plus the weed seedlings and labeled each one.

    Use good posture
    Weeding and other gardening chores can quickly tire even strong backs. Here are three postures, squatting, sitting or standing, I use.

    • In poison oak areas, keep your feet and squat. Poison oak oil can soak through your clothes.  Don’t ask me how I know.
    • Sit in one area and weed what you can reach, then move to another area.
    • Stand, bracing one elbow on your knee, while keeping your back straight to protect it while you reach for weeds. There is a yoga pose called “Standing Half Forward Bend”, which is similar! While standing, you will step or squash the fewest seedlings.


    • Timing. The trick is to weed before they go to seed, of course.
    • Many of the weeds are the flat-to-the-ground type, filaree, dandelions, chickweed and vetch, don’t travel by runners and can be clipped at the ground.
    • Use a narrow hori-hori or weeding knife, or an inexpensive steak knife like I do.  Find these at a thrift store. I cut the weeds at the ground and collect the weeds in one or two spots to gather up when I’m done.
    • Where one weed is, more will be.  I know I missed some spots when seeding the meadow and they showed up with brighter areas of green, where the weeds were merrily and vigorously growing.

    Weed or flower seedlings?

    • If you have trouble distinguishing the weeds from flower seedlings, check an area you have not seeded for what the weed seedlings look like there.
    • Some seedlings were too small to identify, so I’ll plant to do another weeding in a few weeks.
    • Mark unknown seedlings with a white plastic picnic knife to check later.  You may be able to ID it then.

    I enjoy weeding, but thought it would be two-three days job. I found it extremely satisfying to see how few weeds there were and how well the seedlings are doing. Many are over 2 inches. Now with rain and snow possibly coming next week, we’ll see how these little natives survive the rest of the winter.

     Weed seedlings I found    See all seedling photos here


    The Meadow project, month by month
    What am I really doing in the garden in October?  Planning and removing weeds
    Do you dream of a natural and beautiful wildflower meadow?  Finding and sowing seeding
    Let’s check for progress on the meadow!  Weeding and watching the weather
    How to weed a meadow in the Sierra Foothills  More weeding…letting the sprouts thrive
    Let’s check on Fall and Winter projects!  Identifying seedlings
    The wildflower meadow in May   Small triumphs
    My California native meadow in June  Starting to bloom
    The midsummer meadow  The peak bloom
    Stomping down the Autumn meadow  Neatening up
    Native California meadow in the second year

    See  also Wildlife in the Sierra Foothill Garden, under  ‘Existing Native Plants’.


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.