3 easy steps to create a wildflower meadow

3 easy steps to create a bee-friendly wildflower meadow

Whatever your budget or meadow size, discover some easy steps to create a bee-friendly wildflower meadow and then keep it coming back year after year.

Do you love wildlife, want an easier life, and have a patch of garden in an open, sunny place? Then turn it into a wildflower meadow, it provides cover and food for wildlife, interest and colour from spring to the end of summer with all the wildflowers, and requires far less maintenance than a traditional lawn – yes you can put away that mower for most of the year and never apply lawn feed again!

You don’t need to convert a whole area, a wildflower meadow can exist next to a traditional law so the kids can still kick a ball about. Whatever the space you have, opening your garden to butterflies, dragonflies, bees, grasshoppers, and hedgehogs (just to name a few) helps your local biodiversity and gives you a wonderful space to spend time in – just imagine the soft grass under your feet and the peaceful sound of buzzing bees with the backdrop of butterflies flitting from flower to flower; doesn’t that sound idyllic?

Wildflower meadows like it rough

A little surprisingly, wildflowers require poor soil to thrive. If the soil is too nutritious then they are going to be swamped by other plants, especially vigorous grasses. A way to control the grasses and give your wildflowers a chance is by planting some Yellow Rattle. This is an essential meadow flower as its beauty hides a sinister (but useful) character. The Yellow Rattle’s roots tap into grasses and steal their nutrients, suppressing the grasses and therefore give more room for the bee-friendly wildflowers. It does such a good job that it is sometimes called “the meadow maker”. If it’s not already in your meadow mix then it can be added by sowing fresh seeds in the autumn (it requires temperatures below 5°C to germinate).

Step 1 – Choose the patch for your wildflower meadow

Before you get to work on your wildflower meadow and start welcoming all those lovely pollinators, like the bees, you need to decide where to make it. One of the first things to consider is the light and soil type. All meadow plants prefer open sunny spots with dry soil – damp soils will be ok but avoid extremely wet sites – so pick the positioning wisely. As well as the dampness of the soil it is worth considering whether your soil is Limey, Neutral, or Acidic as this will determine which flowers will grow best.

Step 2 – Choose the way to add the wildflowers

There are 4 main ways to establish wildflowers and rather nicely, 2 of them are best for lawns and 2 are best for bare soil.

Best for adding to existing lawns

  • Say no to the mow – the “No Mow May” project was started to help bees and other insects, but leaving your lawn unmown for even longer and cutting it in the autumn can be the easiest way to establish a meadow. It will take several years but you’ll be suprised what can come up. You can always combine this with some of the options below to speed up the process.
  • Plug plants – wildflower plugs can be added straight to an existing lawn and although they can again be planted almost anytime of the year it is best to plant them in spring of autumn. They are prone to slug and snail grazing so use some form of control such as egg shells. Here is how to plan the plugs:
    • Cut the lawn nice and short and remove all the clippings to prevent nutrients being returned to the soil.
    • Make holes about 15cm deep and 5cm wide. For a natural look, arrange the plugs in groups of 3-5 across the lawn.
    • Water immediately. In the first six weeks they may require additional watering if there is a dry weather spell.
    • For the first year keep the vegetation immediately surrounding the plugs short.

Best for adding to bare soil

Technically this can still be done within an existing lawn, you just need to take out sections of the lawn.

  • Wildflower turf – if you want to cover a small area and want a low hassle solution this is a good option. The turf has the right mix of grass and wildflowers, all you have to do is clear the space as you would for any turf and then lay your new wildflower meadow. This method of meadow making can be done almost any time of the year but due to complications with moving the turf when in flower it is still recommended to do during spring or autumn.
  • From seed – Seeds can be sown indoors to make your own plug plants (which can be added to an existing lawn) or driectly outdoor. You’ll need 4g-15g of seeds per square metre and check your seeds come from suppliers that source native British plants.
    • Sowing outdoors: The best time to sow outdoors is August and September but it can go into October or the spring provided the ground is unlikely to freeze in the following weeks. It is best to sow seeds on bare ground (so not straight to a lawn) and if the ground is likely to be nutrient rich you might consider removing the top layer of soil. If you want to have a bit of fun while sowing the seeds try seed bombs.
      Wildlife Watch have a nice info graphic to help:
      how to make a wildflower meadow

Step 3 – Maintain your wildflower meadow

Once you’ve established your meadow with some wildflowers and grass, the maintenance is really easy. The basic pattern is to cut the meadow at the end of summer after most of the wildflowers have had a chance to seed, then again in the spring – that’s it, just two mowings!

As the grass will be tall you’ll need to use a strimmer or a scythe for the more adventurous. Remove all the cuttings to prevent the nutrients from returning to the soil and add them to your compost. If you add it to your main compost you might find wildflowers appearing all over your garden!

Advanced option

Not really that advanced. When you do the end of summer cut put the grass in rows and turn daily for around a week. This allows the seeds trapped in pods to escape. You can also move the cuttings to different areas of your meadow to spread the flowers.

I hope you enjoy your meadow, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

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