Wild Flower Meadows; Establishment

Establishing Wild Flower Meadows

When giving advice about establishing Wild Flower Meadows we need to look at three areas;

  1. What kind of Wild Flower Meadow are you trying to create?
  2. How do you need to prepare the ground before sowing?
  3. How do you maintain and manage the Wild Flower Meadow once it is established?

 

What Type of Meadow

There are three different approaches that you could take

  • The first type is a Cornfield Annual meadow. Sow in either the Spring or Autumn and you should create a very colourful show. They include species such as Cornflowers, Poppies and Corn Marigold. They are relatively easy to grow, they like fertile conditions and will give you a colourful show over the summer. The main downside to them is that you would need to re-cultivate the ground every autumn and sow new seed if you want them to come back each year.
  • The next approach might be to sow just a 100% Wild Flower Seed Mix. You would sow one of these mixes at about 1.5 to 2 grams to the square metre. You choose a mixture that matches the soil type, such as a mixture designed for clay soils on heavy for clay soils! These are perennial wild flowers they take longer than the annuals to establish. But once they have grown they will grow back each year. Simply cut the meadow area down and leave it through the winter at the height of about 10 cm. The downside of planting just wild flowers on their own is that if no grass grows the area may look like a patch of weeds when not in flower.
  • The most common approach then is to clear an area and sow a Wild Flower Meadow mixture. This is a mixture of grass and perennial wild flower species. Sow this at 4 grams to the square metre. You can sow them either in the Spring or Autumn.  The grass species are fine grasses which are not too aggressive but which provide an attractive backdrop for the wild flowers when established.  You will be sowing the equivalent of about 3 grams to the square metre of grass compared to sowing 40 grams to the square metre when you sow a lawn.  You have to cut the meadow area down in early autumn and then it grows back the following year. This sort of Meadow generally takes a couple of years to establish. What some people do is to sow a Cornfield Annual mixture (at 1 gram to the sq metre) along with a Meadow mixture (at 4 grams to the sq metre). What this achieves is that you get a show of annuals in the first year then the perennials come to fore from the second year onwards. Like the 100% Wild Flower seed mixes the key here is to match the mixture to your soil type or condition.

The whole philosophy with regard to Wild Flower Meadows to match the flowers to the soil rather than change the soil for the flowers

Preparation

Once you’ve decided on the mixture and the effect you want to create you have to focus on preparing the ground correctly. Once the Meadow is established there is a lot less work that needs to be done. You will need to cut it down once or twice a year. But it is not worth taking shortcuts before you plant the seed.

Wild Flowers do not like too much competition where they are planted. The key then is to remove from the ground what is growing there now and ideally also reduce the existing seed bank as well. A classic problem with wild flowers is where the existing grass is cleared, the ground dug over and wild flowers planted straight away. Any area of soil will have thousands of dormant seedlings in it waiting for the chance to germinate.

When the ground is rotovated or dug over those weed seeds often will grow quicker than the wild flowers. If at all possible our advice is to remove what is growing there, then leave the ground fallow for a few weeks or a month. The kill of the regrowth of weeds with a glysophate based product such as roundup. Leave that to fully work for 8 to 10 days. Then rake over the soil, broadcast the seed and finally roll it in. Because you are sowing at such a low seed rate it may pay to bulk up the seed with some sand so that you can spread it thinly. Sowing the seed to thickly may result in the grass or one flower species dominating.

Our advice about Wild Flower Meadows is once planted they are best left alone, germination generally is slow and patchy. This is because of the nature of the species and also because you have sown at very low seed rates. We normally would recommend not watering but waiting for nature to take its course The ideal times to sow are March/April in the spring or Mid August through to early October in the Autumn. The key then is to plan so that you have time to do the best preparation

Maintenance

Having chosen the mixture and having put all the time and work into clearing the ground and planting the seed. This then should be the more straightforward part and an enjoyable one as well. If you have sown a perennial meadow mixture you can enjoy it year after year, see how it changes and develops. You need to plan to be able to cut it down in early Autumn say the end of August. In the first year you would cut it down to a height of about 10 cm, in following years you can cut it down to 3 to 4cm in height. It is important that you remove what you’ve cut. Ideally cut it down when there are few dry days, leave it on the ground to dry out and then remove what you’ve cut. You may need to cut it back at the end of March if the grass has been growing too vigorously, just to hold it back so the grass doesn't smother the wild flowers.

You can change the nature of Wild Flower Meadows by when you cut them down. If you were to cut it in July rather the end of August and then cut it later in the year, then you would encourage more of the earlier flowering species.

The steps then to successful establishing Wild Flower Meadows are as follows

Sow a mixture with the outcome that you want

Plan when you’re going to aim to plant it and work backward so that you have the time to clear the ground sufficiently

When you have planted it remain patient and cut back as needed, stand back and enjoy

If you’re not sure all the about anything that I’ve written want more advice or information, then we’re very happy if you contact us by Phone 0800 0854399 or e-mail meadowmania@gmail.com

Tim Evans