New Year, New Meadow!
In early December, visitors on the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail may have noticed an unusual sight – us driving a large tractor up and down the lawn between Ponce City Market and Piedmont Park. Attached to this tractor was a no-till seed drill, which allows for the sowing of native seeds without disrupting soil. In using this method, we allow the area to maintain its natural soil structure and preserve its ability to retain moisture. Thanks to Piedmont Park Conservancy for generously donating the use of their tractor and time, we were able to seed 20+ species of native grasses and wildflowers in the now fenced off area. Some of the species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scorparium), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and orange milkweed (Aesclepia tuberosa).
While the majority of the southeast was historically forested, this was not true for every bit of land. Meadows were woven into the natural landscape in areas where the soil was shallow, where livestock grazed, in areas that experienced frequent fires, or alongside creeks and rivers where the floodplains and beavers provided a wet meadow habitat. Meadows and grasslands now cover roughly 10% of what they once did. Meadow restoration is an important component of Trees Atlanta’s restoration program, especially along the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum, where we have restored dozens of acres for pollinator habitat and education.
Meadow re-establishment takes time. Many of the species seeded within the BeltLine Arboretum are perennials and will grow year after year. In the first year, seedlings will grow slowly, staying small to establish their root systems. During this time, the area will be kept short to prevent weeds from seeding and spreading. In its second year, the meadow will be much taller but still may be establishing itself. In its third year, the meadow will be established and bloom year after year. An easy way to remember this is in the first year the meadow “sleeps,” in its second year it “creeps,” and in its third year it “leaps!”
Native Meadow in the BeltLine Arboretum (May 2013)
When it comes to yards, choosing native meadow spaces over a manicured lawn leads to many ecological benefits. Native grasses and wildflowers provide food and shelter to birds, bees, and other pollinator species. Many native pollinators are specialists, requiring a particular plant to complete their life cycle. 30% of native bees in the US are pollen specialists, making the diversity of native meadow space welcoming to an array of different pollinator species. Native landscapes also require less maintenance, reducing the need for lawn mowers. Fewer lawn mower emissions = cleaner air in our city.
If you’d like to learn more about meadows and the work we’re doing on the BeltLine Arboretum, sign up for a walking tour or register for an upcoming workshop on our calendar!
Written by Grace Manning