Updated: May 24
Wildflower meadows are still largely missing from gardens and countryside but they are getting more and more popular, especially amongst those who want to support wildlife and biodiversity. Wildflower meadow not only looks beautiful, attract myriad of beneficial insect, pollinators, birds and wildlife but also lower maintenance and mowing of grass.
But every time someone share photos of beautiful meadow full of wildflowers, or give advice to sow wildflower meadow on social media, there are many comments on how people tried and failed. So how to best establish wildflower meadow and what mistakes to avoid?
There are 3 common mistakes people usually make that set them for failure:
1. Cheap imported seeds: cheap supermarket mixes are often imported from different country and climate. They also contain high proportion of grass so what you really pay for is grass mix with few wildflowers. Sometimes they even contain invasive species like blackgrass (Alopecurus myosuroides) so the best is to buy locally grown wildflowers. By buying native mix you will also support local producers. At Gardens for Wildlife we sell only 100% Irish Native wildflowers without any added grass. It is also important to bare in mind position (full sun, partial shade) and soil type (dry, wetland) that will affect the results. So make sure you have the right mix, specialized mix will be the best bet for specific situations.
2. Sowing in dry season: Many people sow wildflowers in spring which is fine, but with dry springs more common you will need to water the area daily for about 2-3 weeks until you see successful germination. Even better is to sow in autumn which is natural life cycle of meadow flowers and some seeds need period of cold weather to germinate. By sowing in autumn you are also getting fresh seeds from autumn harvest.
3. Area preparation: throwing seeds into grass will rarely work even that one unnamed maker of pollinator bombs claims. The grass and weeds will quickly out compete the wildflowers. It is important to remember that most wildflowers thrive in poor soil, weeds and grass like rich soil. You can follow no-mow may and stop moving lawn which is great way to start on no budget, but depending on your location and grass vigor the success rate will vary greatly. It will be better for wildlife than short grass but it wont be the kind of wildflower meadow what most people envisage.
There are 2 different ways to prepare area:
- mow the grass on shortest setting and rake out as much vegetation as possible, exposing bare soil. In this case it is important to add yellow rattle to mix. Yellow rattle is a semi-parasitic flower that suppress grass and allow wildflowers to grow. Even if your seed mix already contain Yellow rattle it is beneficial to add extra seeds as you are sowing into vigorous grass.
- for best result you need to remove all grass and weeds ideally with the layer of rich topsoil, exposing poor subsoil. This is more labor intensive but will ensure best success rate.
Hope this help you to establish the wildflower meadow that will bring you joy for years to come.
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