Protecting our environment, one stormwater practice at a time.
Open Space — Meadows
A meadow is an open area of land with few or no trees, vegetated with native grasses and wildflowers. Plants in this habitat provide food and shelter for wildlife. More stormwater infiltrates into a meadow than a turf field because native plants create void spaces in the soil through deep root growth.
How Meadows Work
Native meadow plants have deep roots which create spaces in the soil as they grow, allowing more water to soak into the ground. Turf grass has a shallow root system. Native meadow plants are more suited to Virginia’s climate and do not require the same intensity of care as non-native species. Replacing turf grass with a meadow provides many benefits, including.
- Wildlife food and habitat
- Less maintenance
- Improved water quality
- Groundwater recharge
- Improved soil infiltration
- Erosion control
Infiltration is a process where water on the ground soaks into the underlying soil by traveling through void spaces (pores) between soil particles. Compacted soils have smaller void spaces which causes more stormwater runoff and less infiltration. The potential for stream erosion increases as additional runoff flows overland instead of infiltrating into the soil.
Manually remove all turf grass and weeds before planting a meadow. Tilling the soil will reduce soil compaction and break up any remaining root systems. Plant selection will depend on the site conditions of the area including soil characteristics. Meadows should be established by the third growing cycle.
How to Maintain a Meadow
- Mow the meadow four times in the first year to a height of 6 to 8 inches to encourage good root development in perennial flowers and grasses
- After the first year, mow annually in late winter or early spring
- Invasive species should be removed throughout the year and native plants should be replaced when necessary
- Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars depend on the milkweed plants as their food source. Milkweed plants require sunny, open places like meadows to grow.<
- There are wet meadows and dry meadows. Different plants are suited to these habitats.
- An invasive plant species is a non-native species that outcompetes native flora.
- After the first year, mow annually in late-winter or early-spring to provide food and cover for wildlife during the winter.
- Filter strips or open space practices may incorporate a meadow.
The information in this fact sheet is general in nature and is not intended to determine maintenance responsibility.
For more information, contact:
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division
10635 West Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030
703-877-2800, TTY 711