Native meadows evoke a sense of familiarity and calm. Recreating scenes that humans have known and evolved with for thousands of years speaks to our ancestral connection to the landscapes around us. Native prairie calls an image of endless plains in the midwest, but there is evidence that our eastern woodlands were burned and managed for open landscapes throughout human history in this region. We also know that there were grasslands and meadows here due to the historic presence of bird species like bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows and eastern meadowlarks who rely on large open acreage to breed. Meadows speak to us in a way that lawns cannot.

The importance of native meadows to our ecosystems and human health is far reaching. The time and money we spend mowing lawns, applying synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, and emitting carbon dioxide to remove leaves is truly a multifaceted waste. Turf grass is not native to the US, and especially when mowing it, it provides about as much benefit to fauna as a parking lot. Many of our native grasses and wildflowers are a rarity and insects have very specific relationships with individual species that are crucial to their reproduction.

We design our meadows to match the landscape, hydrology, and soil on which they would naturally occur. We take great care in our seed selection process and account for microhabitats like water-holding depressions, rock ledge, and woods edge. Each plant seeded fills a niche, temporally, seasonally, and functionally. By designing like nature, we can create a self sustaining ecosystem to remain in perpetuity. That being said, it’s important to decide from the onset what level of succession is to be allowed. To remain meadow, the landscape needs to be mowed once a year to prevent the growth of woody species. We could also choose for it to be a shrubland or savannah, and select for the woody trees or shrubs that suit the site.

The use of a nurse crop is important when planting native meadow seed. Many of the native seeds need a period of cold stratification to germinate, or simply take their time until exact temperature and moisture conditions are met to germinate. We seed in a nurse crop, like oats, to hold space and provide protection to young seedlings as the meadow establishes during the first year.

Installation Process

Most of the installation process is focused on preparation, which takes about a month and a half. Meadow prep is done in either early spring or late summer. The high level of prep we provide is the biggest factor in meadow success. We begin by mowing the existing vegetation as low as possible and removing the organic matter, which can either be composted on site or hauled away for a cost. If erosion control is necessary for the site, it is installed at this point. Then we use a harley rake to expose the roots of the existing vegetation. This is followed by three applications of organic herbicide, two weeks apart each, so that each flush of regrowth is controlled. Seeding is the last step, which is done with a no-till Truax seeder.

Maintenance Process

Though meadows are lower maintenance in the long run than a lawn or tended garden, there is no landscape that is completely maintenance free. During the first few years of establishment maintenance must be performed to eliminate invasive species. Our crew will come through new meadows on a bi-weekly or monthly basis to remove seed heads, cut back, or pull undesirable species. By year three to five, the meadow will have established well enough to completely cover any bare soil, and be dense enough to disallow the opportunity for undesirable species to germinate. This is the importance in using the proper proportion of ground cover species. In year one, we will mow the meadow four times, to allow light to penetrate so that the slower growing late successional species can establish.

Garden Design

We love designing small garden style landscapes just as much as large meadows! We use the same ecological principles to guide plant selection based on site analysis. A few of the important plant characteristics to consider are behavior, shade tolerance, soil preferences, and bloom time. We aim to cover the ground in plants to eliminate the need to mulch once plants have matured. We love all styles of gardens, from cottage to contemporary and massing to drifting to matrix plantings, and will work with clients to bring their vision to life.

Hardscaping has been a foundational aspect of Matt’s Landscaping for 15 years, and nothing brings a planting to life like local bluestone or reclaimed granite steppers. Add to that a custom built patio, vegetable garden, arbor or deck and the outdoor living space really comes to light. We also specialize in water features like ponds with native plant biofiltration. There’s really no limit to what we do in built landscapes.

Invasive Species Removal

An invasive species is a plant that becomes established outside of its native range, where it poses a threat to the native ecological diversity. A plant has the capacity to become invasive when it outcompetes local flora, reducing the native species and negatively affecting the insects and animals that rely on those species. Plants from other countries escape their natural enemies, allowing them to thrive in conditions with no disease or predators – not having checks and balances, their populations explode. It should be stated that not all non-native plants are invasive. Many popular garden plants, like salvia, Asiatic crabapples, and catmint are well behaved and do not escape cultivation. Some of the major invasives include Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, Asiatic bittersweet, and mugwort. These have all been shown to cause ecological damage. Also, when they clog up forest edges, they just look ugly!

There are many methods to control invasive species. We own and operate a forest mulcher, which can go through over an acre of invasive shrubs in a day. We also perform manual removal by cutting and pulling in smaller and hard to access places. Invasive removal is a great job for the winter, when the heavy forest mulcher can be in wet places without causing compaction. Hand removal is great to do when not many other landscaping tasks can be done.Our team is highly experienced with invasive plant identification and the various strategies that are most effective with different species

Before: pulling bittersweet
Before: Bittersweet, buckthorn, non-native grape, honeysuckle - blocks sight from the marsh
After, with erosion control for the meadow going in

Habitat Restoration

We are a team of college educated ecologists that are trained in reading the landscape to understand what it historically would have been. Habitat restoration is really a mix of invasive species removal, native plantings, hydrology remediation, and subsequent monitoring and maintenance. Habitat restoration is one of the things that brings our team the most joy – to begin to remedy disturbance, improper culvert installations, stream bank erosion, and replace native plant communities is a major reason that Matt’s ecological division was started.

Plant Health Care

We bring plant health care into the world of ecology with compost tea. We have a state of the art compost tea brewer, and carefully craft our own compost on site with high quality materials and amendments. Brewing compost tea is the process of extracting and multiplying the beneficial microbes in compost and converting it to a liquid state so that it can be applied with a tank sprayer. It innoculates the soil where the microbiology provides a plethora of benefits:

  • Making nutrients bioavailable to plants
  • Stimulating root growth and lessening transplant shock
  • Fighting plant diseases
  • Improving water retention capacity and soil structure
  • Improving overall soil health

Injecting compost tea into the root zone is very helpful for helping stressed trees and shrubs. Applying compost tea as a foliar spray to fruit trees throughout the season colonizes the surface area and greatly reduces disease pressure. Compost tea is also incredible for lawns, where it greens up the grass and eliminates the need for harmful synthetic fertilizers.