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Wildflower meadows

Summer grass with a wild side.

If the demands of a perfect lawn are too time consuming, why not think about an area of meadow instead? A rich contrast to the manicured green of a cut lawn, a meadow can provide an alternate wildflower-rich grassland which is superbly attractive to wildlife.

The first step is to look carefully at the neighbouring landscape of grass verges alongside roads and even roundabouts, where native wildflowers have been allowed to seed themselves. This will give you a good clue as to what your own soil will be likely to support.

If you’re planning a meadow, the golden rule is to never feed the soil as most wildflowers thrive on poor soil. If soil has been supplemented over the years with fertiliser, remove the topsoil to expose the subsoil and then import new sterilised topsoil. All such work should be carried out on dry spring days when the soil will be easier to work and less compaction will occur. Sections can of course be removed from an existing lawn to make way for the new meadow.

Seeding should then be carried out over the new topsoil. A good seed manufacturer will often advise on the mix and quantities and the best method of sowing. As the seed germinates, keep a check on unwanted weeds like nettles, which may compete with the new seedlings.

The first cut can be carried out in July and its best to leave the cuttings for a few days to allow the ripened seeds to shed back into the soil and to allow wildlife to migrate away from the debris before its removed completely. Leave a few meandering paths through the meadow to provide access for weeding out unwanted newcomers. Mow again in autumn to reduce its height over winter.

Meadows don’t have to be large and are a beautiful sight that attracts not only the eye but also a rich culture of wildlife, beneficial for the garden and the landscape as a whole.