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Creating a wild (ish) meadow from part of a lawn

I am planning to transform part of my lawn into a wild-flower filled meadow (I have seen it done very effectively at Preston Park in Brighton and in some of the neighbouring gardens). To start, I will scarify (rake) the area to create open patches within the lawn over which I will scatter yellow rattle seeds. Rattle is a wild annual, semi-parasitic in grassland, that weakens growth and enabling wild flowers to become established. I will have to plant the seeds asap as to germinate they need to go through winter. Does anyone have any ideas, tips etc?

Comments (7)

  1. Grower

    Gareth Jones

    Your ideal of using the rattle is very interesting there is an article here:
    https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2012/sep/27/yellow-rattle-meadow-grassland
    maybe you've read this.
    Years ago I created a few meadows, these were large-ish (up to 20 acres), I started with rough ground, poor soil which we cleared and harrowed. The mix we used was, I think 85% grass, 15% wild flower- many people try to go with too high a % of flower, it does'nt work, also we did not have that many varieties of wild flower seed in the mix- again many people want every variety on the planet. The meadows worked really well, within year they looked like 'proper' meadows- was'nt expecting that!.
    Management of the meadow is important (and easy!) don't fertilize and when you do the mow, rake up and remove the cuttings. One meadow I managed by cutting different areas at different times of year, which increased the botanical diversity.
    Another option is a pasture, another thing entirely.

    Good luck with your meadow!

  2. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Hi Peta, I generally aim to be positive about all aspects of gardening, but I have to say that creating a "small" wildflower area is not trivial. You'll have noticed that Gareth, above, had 20 acres: you need a significant density of the flowers to get a good effect, and every "garden" attempt I've seen so far has not really worked: mostly because any area that has been lawn for any length of time has been treated, fertilised, watered, nurtured etc until it is far too rich for wildflowers - the grass will always out-compete them.

    If you really want to give it a go, you could try the scarify-and-yellow-rattle route, then grow on numbers of selected wildflowers in modules (from seed), and plant them out as plugs. And be prepared to do it every year!

    Good luck with the project!

  3. Grower

    Peta Brown

    Hi Rachel, thank you for the very sound advice! A neighbour has simply stopped mowing half of his lawn (he isn't interested in pretty flowers, just in providing a decent habitat for wildlife). I think it looks fine, so if that is all I end up with I will be reasonably happy. I think you are probably right about planting plugs of wildflowers rather than just scattering seed and hoping it will grow. I will let you know how I get on!

  4. Grower

    Amanda CW

    We are also thinking of growing a wildflower meadow and your advice sounds very sensible Gareth. The area for it is an acre or so of field which has been grazed for years by sheep and more recently by horses. We're on heavy clay and quite a large area is without grass (over-grazed by the horses). Does that sound like a decent prospect? The horse dung has been largely cleared - though I expect an amount will have got worked into the soil during the winter. We were not managing the field at the time.

  5. Grower

    Peta Brown

    Yes, Gareth clearly has a lot of experience in meadow creation! I found his advice invaluable - thanks Gareth! I wish I had a few acres to play with, but for the moment I have to try and establish a mini version! I hope you are successful Amanda, I will be interested in your progress.

  6. Grower

    Tony Dixon

    There are two approaches (I have done both in different parts of my garden):
    1) Clear the ground and sow a wildflower meadow seed mix. The soil needs to be poor or the grasses will swamp the flowers. (My soil is really poor and the flowers nearly swamp the grasses!)
    2) Just stop mowing your lawn and let the grass grow. Just sprinkling wildflower seeds on it will not work - they will get swamped by the grass. Plant plugs or seedlings you have grown from seed you gathered yourself. Poke sticks in to mark the position of the plugs. Keep your eye on them and cut the grass back around them to make sure they don't get smothered. Even if you don't mow it, you will still need to cut the grass to stop it getting too tall - use shears or a hedge trimmer.

  7. Grower

    Peta Brown

    That's so helpful Tony! I know what you mean about just letting the grass grow as my neighbour tried that last year and was disappointed with the result. I have already stopped mowing that part of the garden, and planted rattle seeds in a few bare patches to weaken the grass growth.

    I will grow seedlings as you suggest, but hadn't thought of strimming the surrounding grass; that's a very good idea, and reminds me that trying to establish a meadow isn't a lazy way out of mowing the lawn, I still have to get out there and manage it! Your garden sounds lovely - if you have any photos it would be great to see them! Many thanks for the advice.


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