Growing A Wild Flower Meadow
Wild flower meadows are a hot landscaping topic these days. Why should this be so ? Should you attempt one?
Wild flower meadows are fashionable for many reasons.
Firstly a wild flower meadow fits our ideas of conservation. To re-establish them is to revive the past. This applies equally to prairie landscapes in the US as it does to English flower meadows.
Next, these meadows fit the facts of conservation. They consume fewer resources, needing less mowing, and positively no fertilizers. They encourage – in a small way – a greater diversity of fauna as well as flora. Small mammals, amphibians, insects – including butterflies – are given a new habitat.
They also look marvelous. A wild flower meadow pleases the eye, with its color varied texture, and with its changeability during the seasons.
Added to these factors they are lower maintenance than traditional lawns. They save our time and also that of municipalities and local authorities who are adopting wild flower meadows on roadside verges as a way of reducing mowing costs.
How to establish a wild flower meadow.
The site must be free of existing grass and weed species. It must also be nutrient poor. If rich in nutrients it will be well to scalp the topsoil from the site. You do this in the autumn, for sowing the following spring. If you don’t need to scalp the top then you must apply weedkiller and rake away any organic remains.
You will sow in the spring with the wild flower meadow seed mixes of your choice. We have found it best to buy two or three mixes because some are better than others and its difficult to tell which will be best for you. This is really, really important. As in life you reinforce success, and in subsequent years you simply resow the best wild flower mix for you. You can of course read the packets to see what they contain. Avoid mixes that are bulked out with vermiculite, and if your botanic knowledge is strong you might be able to make an informed decision. Most of us do not.
The other source of seeds for your meadow is to gather hay from meadows that exist round and about. This will definitely result in a meadow that is adapted to the local environment, but impossible for most of us to follow.
You will find many invasive weeds will try their luck amongst the seeds you bought. Patience will really pay off. Remove the offending weeds (with us it was sow thistle, plantain, and a rhizomatous grass we couldn’t identify). Hard work but you’ve got the whole summer to do it in.
Our meadow was a great success. It contained many flowers you wouldn’t see locally, but there were clovers and daisies as well as marigolds and phacelia (from California). A part of it was disappointing because of poor seed, but the rest flowered most of the summer and we didn’t mow it until late September. Next year we’ll re-sow the patches that didn’t work, and remove some of those pesky perennial weeds.