blog post - wildflower meadow
Increasingly, we are becoming more aware of the need to create space for wildlife in our garden. Choosing plants for the border that are attractive to wildlife is a good start but if you have the space a wildflower meadow is a great option to attract bees, butterflies, insects and birds. Since the second world war the UK has seen a drastic decline in wildflower meadows. In fact the decline is almost 100%. Saddening isn't it? However with a little elbow grease and know how, you can create a little wildflower meadow of your own.
A major part of good horticulture is planning. Depending on your soil, wildflower meadows are best sown in autumn (for light soils) or spring (on heavy clay soils). Annual wildflower meadows need rich soils to thrive and are a good option if you're converting a border where the soil fertility will be higher. Perennial meadows thrive on unproductive soil where they won’t be outcompeted by vigorous grasses. So if you have a wasted area in your garden thats a good start but if not, you can convert an area by removing the existing lawn, planting or weeds along with the top few inches of topsoil to reduce fertility. Cultivate the soil by hand or with a rotavator to create a fine tilth (soil texture similar to breadcrumbs). Choosing your wildflowers is the fun part. There are many online seed merchants that offer different seed mixes for different soils and growing conditions but some of the popular plants are ox eye daisies, birds foot trefoil, sorrel, cowslip, buttercups, field scabious, yarrow and yellow rattle. On average, you need about 5g seed per square metre of soil but thats too small an amount to work with alone so its best to mix the seed with silver sand. This also has the added advantage of making it easy to see where you've sown. Split the sand/seed mix into two batches and start in one corner and broadcast the seed evenly as you walk across the area in one direction. Then broadcast the other batch in another direction at right angles to the first. This will ensure even coverage. Don't worry about giving the seed a covering of topsoil or rake in - lightly walking over the area is sufficient to ensure the seed makes contact with the soil for germination. Net the area to protect the seed from hungry birds and keep the area well watered until the meadow establishes.
If you'd rather spend money than time, you can plant wildflower plug plants into existing turf areas. The main downside is it can take a few years for the wildflowers to get a strong foothold among the existing grass but in time, and with proper management, the meadow will find a balance and you will start seeing the local wildlife population move in.