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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Backyard Meadow | How To Grow Through The Seasons

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Growing a rye grass meadow in the backyard is easy and looks good through three seasons of the year in north Texas. See how to begin and to grow a grass meadow with no pesticides, with no fertilizers, and with little supplementary watering. 

Backyard meadow under oak tree with girl statue
The backyard meadow shown is part of a two-acre lot in the countryside outside any city limits in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Where you are located has a major impact on what your yard must look like. City codes regulate yards, and close neighbors in housing subdivisions expect lawns to look uniform. 

B A C K Y A R D   M E A D O W  

how to grow a meadow through the seasons 

The catch is the three seasons are Fall, Winter, and Spring. During Summer the rye grass is dead, and the yard is bare. The upside to this reversed green lawn time period is having a green lawn with a fraction of the work required for a traditional lawn.  

Here's how to have a backyard meadow for anyone whose setting and city codes allow it.

F A L L 

French zinc plate stand with fall pumpkins overlooks backyard meadow
Planting season is late September to early October to get the seeds in the ground before the Fall rains begin. This view through the window of the backyard meadow was taken the first week of November. 

Begin by clearing the ground where the rye grass is to be planted. Remove any leaves and any unwanted plants. 

After the ground is cleared, use a rake to loosen the soil. Plant the rye grass seeds, and use the rake again to lightly cover the seeds with soil. 

Lightly water so the seeds can begin to sprout. Seedlings usually appear within a week. Do not fertilize. Do not use emergent weed killers.  

Check with a local garden shop to determine the best variety of rye grass to use in your area. This meadow was sown with an annual rye grass which means the meadow must be sown again each Fall. The cost of bags of annual rye grass is less than the annual cost of fertilizer and pesticide used on traditional lawns.  

W I N T E R 

Bradford pear tree in full bloom in meadow
The meadow under a Bradford pear tree on March 12 shows the grass is short. The grass has to be mown only two to three times during Fall and Winter. At each mowing, the lawn mower height was set to its highest setting. 

The goal in Fall and Winter is for the grassy meadow to be close to the ground as a beautiful green space when most of the trees and shrubs are gray and bare. 

The grass grows slowly during Fall and Winter because the temperatures are cool and no fertilizers have been applied. 

Water only when there have not been any rains for a couple of weeks. Frequent watering encourages the grass to grow more and would necessitate more frequent mowings. 

Backyard rye grass meadow in early spring with vintage park bench
A closer view on March 12 of the grass shows sections of the grass are taller than a close-cut traditional lawn. If the grass is cut during March and April, the lawn mower is once again set at its highest mowing setting. 

Spring green meadow with garden bench under a blooming pear tree
The meadow only extends to a natural gulley that divides the backyard from a naturalized wooded area. Beyond the gulley the native vegetation grows until a late Spring mowing cuts everything back close to the ground for both the grassy meadow and the native areas. 

S P R I N G 

The meadow reaches its peak and is in its fullest glory! 

South backyard green meadow with vintage park bench under a pear tree
By April 8 the grass glimmers in the sunlight and gently sways in the breeze reminiscent of English meadows in the Cotswolds. 

Spring Botanic Bleu French Country white limestone garden shed in trees
The meadow winds around the back of the house along the brick pavers leading to the garden shed/house. 

Spring Botanic Bleu limestone garden house in backyard
Sidewalks make it easy to walk around the yard while still enjoying the grassy meadows and lead to the little French Country garden shed where my French Country Christmas and Spring Events happen.  

Spring green grass meadow under oak trees
The area between the garden shed/house and the west side of the house is also part of the backyard meadow. 

East spring meadow on hillside beneath oak trees
The grassy meadow extends up the hillside where the Spring daffodils have finished blooming and their leaves are storing nutrients for next Spring's blooms. The daffodil stems are left to mature until they yellow and fall over and will be cut down when the grassy meadow is cut. 

French country urn with blue sage in backyard
A French Country urn with blue sage rises above the tall meadow grass. 

Post and beam country house with green meadow backyard
Large decks on three sides of the post and beam house provide level outdoor living space above the surrounding backyard hillside meadow. 

Spring porch above green meadow backyard
The covered porch is directly across from the little French Country garden shed. Look how tall the rye grass is on the east side of the house! 

South green grass meadow backyard
By April 18, the backyard meadow on the south side of the house now lays over after heavy Spring rains. After the grass drys from the rain, it perks back up and billows once again in the Spring breezes. 

Spring meadow with oak tree and girl statue
The cats love stalking insects and each other in the meadow much like their large wildcat cousins stalk prey in the African savannahs. Callie is hiding out on a tree branch from a neighbor's dog. Up there she can keep track of where he is in the meadow. 

Backyard sidewalk around oak tree with girl statue
Here is last year's backyard meadow on May 28. The grass had gone to seed, browned out, and was ready to be mown down for the summer. 

Spring grass meadow with girl statue and oak tree in backyard
I throw my arms out and twirl in delight at the green grass meadow for three seasons of the year, especially during its heyday each Spring. 

I throw my arms out and twirl in delight that the backyard meadows are environmentally friendly spaces free from chemicals. Birds, bees, and butterflies thrive! Water is conserved by not watering a summer lawn. Fall, Winter, and Spring rains provide almost all the water needed. And, the meadow only requires minimal mowing. 

A brown ground in Summer versus a green lawn in Summer is an easy choice for a house in the countryside when a beautiful meadow for three seasons is the reward. 

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