Chelsie Phillips from Wild Landscapes tells us how to make our own wildflower meadow!

Natural wildflower meadows are one of the rarest habitats in the UK and we have lost 97% of our wild flower meadows since the 1930s. They are a hugely diverse habitat that supports hundreds of species of invertebrates, namely pollinators such as bees. Land development and farming have all contributed to this decline but our own gardens and green spaces can offer a small haven for wildlife.

There are a variety of wildflower seeds on offer and we would always suggest choosing native and local provenance where possible.

Photograph of Clattinger Farm meadowImage: Clattinger Farm meadow. Credit: Barney Wilczak.

Why plant a wildflower meadow?

A wildflower meadow helps wildlife diversity and the environment through carbon capture.  Even when cut for hay once a year, a hectare of wildflower meadow can capture and store 3 tonnes of carbon, or 11 tonnes of CO2 annually!

Wildflower meadows also support a wide range of invertebrates including butterflies, such as the Small Tortoiseshell, the day-flying Burnet Moth and Marbled White to name but a few. You may also see Bumblebees, Dragonflies, Damselflies, and Chiffchaff or Wren songbirds as well as reptiles such as the Grass Snake.

Where to start?

  • Start with ground preparation by choosing a sunny spot in your garden that is relatively free-draining
  • Wildflowers get easily out-competed by ‘garden’ grasses and perennial weeds so it is important that the area you’ve chosen for your wildflower meadow is cleared of any existing vegetation
  • To make life easier, and save your back, you could use a turf cutter and/or rotivator to prepare the soil

How to select seed and sow?

  • Ensure you select a wildflower seed mix that is suited to your soil profile; clay, loamy, chalk etc.
  • For an instant showy display, Cornfield Annuals are a good choice. They’re an annual seed meaning they flower in the first year and will need the soil to be turned over at the end of the season to encourage flowering again the following year. Cornfield Annual mixes include Cornflower, Corncockle, Corn Marigold and Poppy.

Photograph of a bee on a cornflowerImage: Bee on a cornflower

  • For a longer lasting perennial wildflower meadow, seed mixes will vary based on your soil profile but may include Knapweed, Yarrow, Musk Mallow, Wild Carrot, Field Scabious, Yellow Rattle etc.

Photograph of a meadow brown butterfly at Morgans HillImage: Meadow brown butterfly at Morgan's Hill nature reserve. Credit: Eleanor Dodson

  • Your mix may also include up to 80% native meadow grasses too, including Crested Dogs Tail, Common Bent and Red Fescue etc. These mixes can take longer to establish (up to 3 years) but provide a more natural and complete meadow habitat.
  • Seed mixes can be hand sown and the sowing rate is usually 4g/m2. It is a good idea to add sand to your seed mix to bulk it up and to make even distribution easier.
  • Sowing can be done either spring or autumn.

How to maintain your meadow?

  • The most important factor for maintaining your meadow is to take ‘hay cuts’ after the flowering period each summer (June-August).
  • A hay cut refers to the grasses and flowers being cut at their base, rather than being mulched up as with a normal lawn mower.
  • Always leave the cuttings for a few days to dry out and drop seed before removing the cuttings from the site.
  • Cornfield Annual meadows like to have the soil disturbed to encourage re-seeding whereas perennial meadows should be undisturbed.

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