As part of the improvements funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to the Lower Merion Conservancy, several areas of lawn along the trail will be converted into meadow landscapes. The largest area is the hill and swale in between the paved trail and the service driveway underneath the power lines, as pictured above. Because of the power lines, it is not possible to plant trees in this area.
As the panorama shows, this area currently is entirely lawn that is mowed weekly during the growing season. The lawn provides little benefit for wildlife and only minimal benefit in terms of stormwater retention. The replanted space will have a mowed border along the paved trail and a mowed path, but the rest of the area will only be mowed once per year to discourage woody plant growth in future.
Low-growing shrubs are permitted under the powerlines, and the meadow will be bordered on the lower edge by shrubs, featuring species that provide food and cover for birds and other animals, as shown in the plan below. The shrub plantings are shown in blue and green.
Preparation for meadow plantings usually includes killing all the existing vegetation, generally using an herbicide such as glyphosate. This is not being done here. Instead, specific parts of the meadow will be densely planted with plugs being inserted directly into the existing turf. The plan above shows these areas in salmon and bright yellow. The rest of the area, which is labeled "no mow," will consist of the existing turfgrasses which will no longer be regularly mowed.
One advantage of this method is that no herbicides will be introduced into the environment. In addition, by not killing all the vegetation we will reduce soil disturbance and hopefully have reduced colonization of weeds from seeds. Instead of creating a large space of bare soil that can be easily washed away, turf is left in place. We feel that these advantages outweigh the disadvantages. These include accepting that the no-mow areas will largely be non-native cool season grasses. While we are overseeding with native plants, and we have hopes that some of the native plants will spread from the beds into the no-mow area, if this occurs it will be a gradual process taking place over many years. The grasses and other plants chosen for the beds are vigorously growing species that should be well-adapted for the job. You can zoom in on the plan above to see the species lists, or look at the table reproduced below.