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How to create a wildflower meadow in your garden
Why create a meadow area in my garden?
By creating areas of wildflower meadow you can help increase the variety of wildlife in your garden. Meadow flowers will attract many different kinds of insect and these, together with plant seeds, will be food for birds and small mammals such as voles, shrews and hedgehogs.
How do I create a wildflower meadow?
Choose an area in the garden that has an open, sunny aspect and is not shaded by trees, shrubs or walls. Avoid areas that will be disturbed too often by people and pets – few meadow plants will survive frequent trampling. Also, if possible, find an area in the garden that has not been recently treated with fertilisers. This is important because many typical meadow flowers and grasses do best on poor soils with low fertility. Fertile conditions will favour taller, coarser plants that will outcompete your meadow plants. For the same reason, avoid areas that have large numbers of established perennial weeds, such as nettles, docks and thistles.
Starting from bare soil
To create a suitable seedbed, break up the soil with a fork then rake the site to produce a reasonably fine, firm tilth. You should remove the larger stones and any root fragments. If you think the soil might have been fertilised, try to reduce its fertility by scraping off the top 15 to 20 cm of topsoil to reveal the nutrient-poor subsoil.
Choosing your plants
There are no hard and fast rules regarding how many different plants to sow – this will depend largely on your personal choice. However, you should select a mixture of grasses and wildflowers as this blend is a characteristic of meadows. If you know your wild plants, you can collect seed from nearby wildflower grasslands and roadside verges. You can legally collect small quantities of wildflower seed for your own use, but you must get permission from the land’s owner, tenant or other authority, as necessary. Although seed collecting is allowed, you should not dig up native plants – many rare species are protected by law. Alternatively, you can buy seeds, seed mixtures and plants from specialist wildflower suppliers. They can supply ready-made seed mixtures for particular soil types and some companies can prepare specified mixtures on request.
Sowing your seed
Prepare the ground about three weeks before you sow. This will encourage weed seeds in the soil to germinate and they can then be removed. The best time to sow your seed mix is either early autumn (late August/ September) or spring (April/early May). To help ensure the seed is evenly distributed, mix the seed with damp sand or sawdust in a ratio of one-to-three. Scatter the seed by hand on a calm day. Afterwards it is best to lightly roll the ground, or tread it, to settle the seeds in the soil. You can rake the soil but you risk burying some seed too deep or allowing lighter seeds to blow away. If the weather is very dry at sowing time, lightly water the ground with a fine spray.
During the first year, remove any annual and perennial weeds that
appear. The year after the first sowing, the young meadow should be mown every time the vegetation height reaches 10 to 15 cm. Do not cut the meadow shorter than 5 cm. Remove the cuttings and compost them. From the second year onwards, cut your meadow to a height of around 5 cm after flowering (between late June and the end of August). To help your meadow’s insect population, leave part of the meadow margin uncut. Insects will use dried stems and seedheads as shelters to overwinter in. This uncut area can be cut when the weather warms up in the spring.
For full details view our : Wildlflower meadow in your garden overview