The objective of this study was to determine whether a planted mesocosm mimics a natural habitat in terms of N2O and CH4 fluxes, soil characteristics and potential nitrification and denitrification activities. We compared mesocosms in unchambered open-field plots and in open-top chambers with nonfiltered ambient air with three natural meadows that had similar soil characteristics and species composition. The N2O fluxes in the mesocosms were very similar to the fluxes in the three natural meadows. There were no marked differences in potential nitrification and denitrification activities between the mesocosms and the natural meadows, either. Only the CH4 fluxes differed slightly between the mesocosms and some of the natural meadows. Therefore, it seems that the mesocosms compared rather well to natural habitats. The open-top chambers modified only the soil water content, the values being higher in the unchambered plots than in the chambered plots. These results thus suggest that the open-top chamber experiment enables estimates of greenhouse gas and potential activities of nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria in unfertilized Finnish meadows, in spite of the chamber effects on the soil water content.