Converting Lawn to Meadow at the Goddard Space Flight Center

Americans have a lot of lawn – an area over 8 times the size of New Jersey is dedicated to alien grasses and the constant mowing that they require. Much of this lawn is unused, even unwanted. This is the situation at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which maintains about 100 acres of turf. Staff were interested in converting unused lawns to meadows for the cost savings and the environmental benefits: pollinator habitat, cleaner air, cleaner water. Unfortunately, no one on the staff had converted lawn to meadow before, so they teamed up with the Maryland Master Gardener program, and the Meadow Making Advanced Training class series was born!

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Master Gardeners and Goddard staff have worked side by side, learning how to convert unused lawn into native meadow by solarizing weeds, adjusting soil pH, remediating soil compaction, sowing native seeds, and monitoring the germination of native seedlings and weeds.

All that planning and preparation have paid off. On Tuesday I visited to assist Goddard staff with the monthly monitoring and maintenance of the meadow. Of the 34 native species originally sown or plugged, 24 were confirmed present, and some are even blooming already:

  • pink fuzzybean
  • black-eyed susan
  • daisy fleabane
  • hyssop thoroughwort
  • late flowering thoroughwort
  • common self-heal
Monarch caterpillars at the Goddard Meadow

We also conducted pollinator counts, sowed more forage radish seeds (to break up soil compaction), and applied a third round of sulfur (to lower soil pH).

By Sara Tangren, Ph. D
Agent Associate | Master Gardener Trainer | Sustainable Horticulture and Native Plants


5 thoughts on “Converting Lawn to Meadow at the Goddard Space Flight Center

  1. A Danko August 11, 2017 / 2:17 pm

    I wish the author had added the Latin names for the native species she cited. “Fuzzybean”?????

  2. pisstkitty August 11, 2017 / 2:21 pm

    This is great! Wonderful info on the process too.

  3. Anna August 18, 2017 / 10:56 am

    Oh this must have been so gratifying! Excellent work!

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