• Happy is the meadow planter

    by  • October 6, 2013 • Meadow project

    First weeks of Fall in the Sierra foothills

    The season has changed in the foothills around Oakhurst. The fierce heat of the last month has broken and the cool of this morning is delicious. I’ve been hand watering all along and I can see the end to this chore coming. I take stock of the garden today and have started clipping back and neatening,…buttoning up the garden for the season. This Fall, I’ll begin the fourth full year of my meadow project and today I take stock of what is there now and what I’ll do next.

    This year experiment was adding weekly water.

    This year experiment was adding weekly water

    Compare this view with last year’s:

    The meadow last October 2012

    The meadow last October 2012

    This year’s experiment…water!

    I watered about once a week and that was the big difference. I felt I wanted the meadow to look more garden-like and less, well, natural, I guess. I wanted green! The meadow area was much prettier all through the hot summer, when in other years it was dead and dry by July. With water, the Mediterraneans could grow, the Autumn sages, the penstemons, grasses and Chaste trees. New natives sprouted here, the Golden Fleece, or Ericameria arborescens and Heerman’s tarweed and were left to grow adding September color


    The much greener meadow plants, mixed with perennials

    The much greener meadow plants, mixed with perennials

    And below, without summer water:

    Perennial perimeter last October 2012.

    Perennial perimeter last October 2012, very, very dry

    What changed?

    This summer the bloom was more than last year. There was more flax, much more, and more yarrow. The two native cudweeds both flourished. There were less poppies, Clarkia amoena and Globe Gilia, Gilia capitata. There were more manzanita sprouts, now growing a foot or more. (Remember, I had sprayed this area thoroughly ,…twice in Fall 2010, with Roundup to kill the weeds that first year and by continuing to hand weed, the natives in the natural seed bank are flourishing.)

    Many more flax flowers appeared this year

    Many more flax flowers, Linum lewisii, appeared this year

    I learned about native cudweeds

    These two cudweeds,  behave and bloom like yarrow and since they grow so well when groomed up and given a bit of water, I’ve grown to like them very much.

    Cudweeds increased not because of the water, but because of the weeding.

    Cudweeds, growing among the Ox-eye daisies,  increased not because of the water, but because of the weeding.

    Cudweeds  are members of the Asteraceae (sunflower) family. The grey-green Wright’s cudweed on the left, Pseudognaphalium canescens, is a perennial herb that is native to California.  The bright nearly yellow-green California cudweed, or California everlasting, Pseudognaphalium californicum, is an annual or perennial herb that is native to California and is also found elsewhere in North America and beyond.


    Monkey flowers were planted

    Cardinal monkey flowers, Mimulus cardinalis, were planted.


    Holocarpha heermannii, Heermann's tarweed

    I like a bit of the Heermann’s tarweed, Holocarpha heermannii, here in the meadow….it blends well with the surrounding natural meadows


    There are some areas I’ll rake and weed, getting ready to add more seeds to the established meadow plants on my south facing slope. Last year, weeds weren’t much of an issue as everything was dead, but I’m headed out now to weed out the ‘baddies’ by hand.

    Gophers ate their fill but still the meadow is there

    Gophers ate their fill but still the meadow is there


    Beautiful Penstemon Margarita BOP (bottom of porch)

    Beautiful Penstemon Margarita BOP (bottom of porch)

    Penstemon Margarita BOP, a particularly beautiful variety, is easily found in native and regular nurseries now. Named by Las Pilitas Nursery for the location where they discovered this color penstemon….at the bottom of their porch.

    Irredescent penstemon

    Iridescent penstemon


    penstemon, ox-eye daisies and lavender, mulched with pine needles

    Penstemon, ox-eye daisies and lavender, mulched with pine needles


    Autumn sage in October

    Autumn sage, one of the perennials added, in October

    Grow your own meadow

    1) Plan and find seeds Now, in early Fall is the time to begin a meadow or to plant more seeds. If you are planning to sow seeds, prepare now,…spray weeds or hoe weeds and rake smooth an area to plant.

    2) Sow and step Wait for the first rain, while acquiring your seeds, (see below). On the first rainy day in October or November, scatter the seed and step on it as you go. Good soil contact…that is what you’re shooting for and this will also prevent the birds from carrying away your future meadow. Sow and step, sow and step and if you have a line of children to follow you stepping also on the seeds,…even better!

    3) Identify seedlings and weed Sow some seed in a pot or two, so when the seedlings come up, you’ll recognize them. You’ll be able to tell them from the weeds that you’ll keep out of your space. Weed this area and it will make room for the good seeds to sprout. The next days will be exciting and calming, too, as you see the way of Nature progress, seeds popping up …unfurling into first leaves and blooms. Happy is the meadow planter.


    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

    *There was a California native meadow project done at Yerba Buena Nursery in 2005. They have it organized in an easy to navigate week by week sequence with tips included so if you want more details, check it out.

    More links:

    S&S Seeds, Inc.

    How to sow wildflower seeds article by Judith Larner

    Wildflower FAQ by Wildseed Farms


    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.