Answer: I'm glad you've found us! It's not workable to try to eliminate all the weeds before planting - accept the fact that this is a long-term process, and will be most successful if you work with nature rather than against her. Fortunately, thistles, which are "pioneer" plants that grow in disturbed or marginal soils, can easily be controled by mowing and soil improvement, as can most broadleafed forbs (a kind term for weeds). It's best to have your soil tested first so you'll know just what nutrients should be added. Your extension service can help you with soil test information. Depending on the fertility and condition of the backfill, you may need to bring in a lot of organic matter (humus, compost, aged manure, etc.) to create a soil environment where seeded grasses will thrive. Once you've done the soil improvement, mow the meadow area regularly to 3" or less, and the grasses should be better able to compete with forbs, and eventually win over. If you want book titles on landscaping or lawn care, I can highly recommend "Lawn Care for Dummies" by Lance Walheim. It covers everything you need to know to cultivate and maintain a healthy lawn.
It must feel like a daunting prospect at this point, but I hope you'll find it an interesting adventure as you progress through the project. Best of luck!
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