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How to make a Wildflower Meadow or Wildflower Patch

Wildflowers and Wildflower Meadows

We sell both wildflower meadow mixes - with grasses - and wildflowers only. We've written a helpful blog about how to start and manage a wildflower area in a garden; here we're concentrating on wildflower meadow areas - i.e. with grasses.

First, Do No Harm

It's worth taking a moment to assess what you're currently looking at before you start prepping your site for seeding. Sometimes you can make a nice meadow area by working with the existing flora - there might be nice flowers in your lawn just bursting to get out! A few tweaks to management - typically cutting the grass very short in late winter and scarifying it - might reveal the unexpected.

Is My Site Suitable?

If you do want to start a meadow from scratch you'll need a sunny site with relatively poor soil. Why poor soil? It's not so much that wildflowers don't like fertility, just that weeds like it more! You will have a constant battle on your hands with weeds like Dock and Nettle. Nitrogen deposition has made more and more soils unsuitable for wildflowers. If soil fertility has been improved artificially you can reduce it before starting; some people grow a crop of potatoes in the season before they start, others invert the soil so that relatively low nutrient subsoil is on top and the topsoil is buried. You could also try adding sand, or buying in low fertility soil. 

When Do I Seed?

You can seed in spring or autumn - whenever it's wet and warm. If you seed in the spring make sure your seedlings don't conk out in a dry spell in summer, so keep them watered. If you have heavy ground don't seed too late in the autumn, as the seed will just sit on the ground and rot. If you sow in autumn you'll get some germination that season and some in the spring aftrerwards from species which need a prolonged period of cold to trigger it. These include Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor. Apart from the Rattle please remember that the species in most of our mixes are all perennials and won't flower in their first year of establishment - some won't have even germinated!

What Preparation Do I Need to Do?

There's no short cut here - you really need a seedbed which is clear of weeds and existing grass. Don't cheat! Firstly, your new seed needs to have light and contact with the bare ground. Second, it is much, MUCH more difficult to deal with unwelcome plants once the plants you do want are established. It's best to physically remove all existing vegetation and then hoe any seedlings that come up. Then wait for a month and do it again! Rake the seedbed over to get rid of any lumps, detritus and stones. You can under some circumstances try oversowing existing grass with a wildflower only mix, but please follow our advice carefully! 

More Wildflower Seed Advice & Guides

Which wildflower seeds do I buy?
A simple guide explaining the different kinds of wildflower seed mixes available

How to make a wildflower meadow
An easy to follow introduction to wildflower meadowmaking

How and When to Cut Your Wildflower Meadow
A practical introduction to mowing your meadow!

Wildflowers in your garden
A how to guide to establishing a wildflower patch in your garden

Oversowing grass areas
How to sow wildflower seed onto grass

Starting a wildflower meadow (Video)
Our video guide on how to start your own wildflower meadow

Starting a wildflower meadow (Video)
PFLA webinar 

 

FAQs

Interesting Websites

  • Postcode plants database
  • The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland
  • Plantlife
  • The Wildflower Society
  • Further Reading

  • Mabey, Richard - Flora Britannica, Chatto and Windus, 1996
  • Royal Horticultural Society - Gardeners' Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers, Dorling Kindersley, 1989
  • Rose, Francis - The Wildflower Key, Warne, 2006
  • Kirk and Howes - Plants for Bees, IBRA, 2012
  • Peterken, George - Meadows, BWP, 2013
  • Stroh et al, Grassland plants of the British and Irish Lowlands, BSBI, 2019
  • Goulson, Dave - The Garden Jungle, Jonathan Cape, 2019
  • Flower, Charles - Where Have All The Flowers Gone?, Papadakis, 2008