Tips for Creating a Wildflower Meadow
Mow grass regularly during this month to encourage good growth. Mowing is the best way to ensure you have a good lawn. Once a week is fine but for a really good lawn, twice a week. The reason for this is that the less grass that is taken off at each cut, the healthier it will remain. It is also important to mow the grass in a different direction each time. If you mow in the same direction every time the grass begins to grow that way and the mower blades, especially on a cylinder mower, will not cut it as well. Don’t forget edging: trim the edges at the same time as the lawn is cut. It makes all the difference to the appearance of a garden if the edges are cut regularly and it’s less work doing it once a week as the trimmings are few and don’t have to be cleared up.
If you have the space, leaving an area of grass to grow without cutting is a great way to help wildlife in a garden. Having a more natural garden is less work and, done in the right way, can look very attractive. Small things in a garden can have a big impact and there is a growing awareness that deliberately leaving an area to grow more freely is the best way to help wildlife. As added extra bonus, the time spent on the maintenance of more natural gardens is less.
There are two way to start: either from scratch, by sowing a mix of grass and flower seeds onto bare soil, preferably in the early autumn, or sow wildflower seeds in part of your lawn. Perennial wildflowers like a hard life and need impoverished soil low in nutrients. If the soil is too rich, you will get strong leaf growth but fewer flowers, so it’s best to grow a wildflower meadow in an area that hasn’t been heavily cultivated. If you are in a new-build garden, you will probably find that your soil is very poor quality and, surprisingly, this could be ideal!
If you want to convert part of your existing lawn into a wildflower meadow, pull a fixed-tine rake firmly over the areas to scrape off some of the grass, making shallow bare patches where you can sow the seeds. It’s important not to feed the meadow or let cut grass lie and enrich it. Wildflowers do not like competition from weeds, so remove them before sowing anything. Dig over the soil and firm it back down before raking it smooth, ready for the seeds. Scatter your chosen mix of seeds by hand. Rake in lightly and water thoroughly. If birds are a problem, put some netting over the soil until the seeds germinate. Make sure the soil remains moist and warm; it’s vital the seedlings don’t dry out and amazing just how quickly that can happen after a hot day.
Once you stop mowing the lawn as part of a regular routine, a surprising range of flowers can appear. Many plants traditionally treated as weeds in the lawn – daisies, clover, speedwell and self-heal – have pretty little flowers and can be left to flourish. Things that are more invasive, such as dandelions and thistles, should be deadheaded after flowering, so they don’t spread everywhere.
If you don’t want to convert your whole lawn into a wildlife meadow, how about leaving a fringe of long grass to grow round the edge? Plant a selection of primroses, cowslips, meadow cranesbill, columbine, campion and oxeye daisies to grow in it. They are all easy to cultivate from seed or can be bought as established plants.