A friend informed me I had neglected the garden category of Real Life of an MSW. I disagreed as all the posts are there to learn how to plant an amazing garden, to learn what herbs go together, and so on. What I have neglected to share is last year I managed to grow my own personal meadow. If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen the breath-taking photos. Nothing made me feel calmer and more tranquil then stepping out into my back yard into a floral wonderland. To create your own, follow these steps.
Choose a suitable area. You might want to turn some of your lawn, or an old flower border into your new wildflower meadow.
It needs to somewhere open and sunny, but can be flat or sloping. A relatively large area is best, where you have space for growing a range of wildflowers.
Reducing the fertility. Your soil is likely to be too rich for a meadow if it’s had plenty of fertilizer added over the years. The best way to reduce the fertility is to remove the top three to six inches of topsoil, using a turf cutter, or a spade and muscle-power!
Dig the soil and get rid of any weeds. Time for more backbreaking effort! You want to create a fine tilth (soil which looks like breadcrumbs) for seed sowing, as you would with a lawn. Once you have bare soil, lay black plastic over it so that any weed seeds already in the soil germinate and die. Some people resort to chemicals at this stage
Choose your wildflower seed mix. Good mixes include:
- birds-foot trefoil (important for common blue butterfly caterpillars)
- common sorrel (important for small copper butterfly caterpillars)
- field scabious
- hoary plantain
- greater and common knapweed
- lady’s bedstraw
- meadow buttercup
- ox-eye daisy
- red clover
- ribwort plantain
- wild carrot
- plus a range of wild grasses, such as bents, fescues and crested dogstail (not lawn grasses).
And the magic ingredient is yellow rattle, an annual flower that has a special ability to reduce the vigour of the grasses.
At last, sowing! This is the fun bit and is best done in April or May . You need about five grams of seed per square metre of meadow. Just scatter the seed as you walk across the ground. To try and get an even coverage, split your seeds into batches and sow one batch walking in one direction and another batch walking at 90 degrees. There’s no need to rake the seed in or cover it with soil, but gently walk across it so that the seeds are in contact with the soil. You may need to net it from birds.
Keep it well watered until it has established.
Aftercare. In the first growing season, cut the growth in midsummer and remove all the dead, spent material (known as the arisings).In subsequent seasons, the main method for managing a meadow is to not mow from early April to late July, August or even early September. It’s best to vary the time you cut each year or some plants may begin to dominate others. If you’re cutting early (eg July), leave an uncut refuge for grasshoppers as their nymphs are most vulnerable then.
Your meadow will evolve year by year, with some species coming through strongly to start with and then others taking over. You should see bees and butterflies start to use your meadow and, if you’re really lucky, grasshoppers. Birds should feed there and bats may fly over the top. Yes, it can become one of the most life-filled parts of your garden. Recent studies in London parks have indicated substantial invertebrate benefits within two years of meadow creation.