Growing a wildflower lawn or mini meadow

Growing Wildflowers in your lawn will attract butterflies, birds, bees and wildlife of all kinds into your garden...... Human visitors to your garden especially older folk who can still remember wildflower meadows, poppy fields, cornflowers and chewing on a stem of wild grass, will love it and reminisce about those days.

 

Even kids who have never rolled around in wild grass will love it too.

 

A wildflower lawn is easy to grow, beautiful when in full flower and low maintenance ......requiring cutting only about twice a year, more about that later.

Wildflowers for a lawn
Wildflower seed Mat

Can I turn my lawn at home into a wildflower meadow?

Yes you can convert a lawn, a border even, into a mini wildflower meadow, here's how to do it..... 

 

First 4 things to consider; 

  • Size of the meadow area can be as large or as small as you want it to be.
  • Existing grass lawns can be over-sown with a mix of wildflower and grass seeds, wildflower seed mats or planted with plugs, see below.
  • Bare ground. Wildflower meadow can be created from scratch by preparing the ground for sowing seeds, or laying turf impregnated with wildflower seed. All explained on this page............ 
  • A must do....is to work out the type of soil in your garden. Some wildflowers and grass grow best in certain types of soil.

 

 

 

 

Also worth reading. A little bit of the history of wildflower meadows, what is a wildflower meadow, what they were used for and how they were maintained covered in my article further down on this page.

Where have all the butterflies gone Mum? They have gone hunting for food and homes son.  

 

Why is it Brexit? No worse than that. The wildflower meadows that were their homes, and the wildflower nectar that was their food have all gone. 

 

What can Theresa May do?   Nothing she has got her hands full with Brexit and monsieur Jean-Claude Drunker's Puppet, monsieur Michel-even Barmier.

 

What can we do mum?   Nothing son. 

 

Could we grow a meadow in our lawn please mum, flowerpotman says it is easy to grow wildflowers.


Changing an existing lawn into a wildflower meadow

A wild lawn is not as neat and tidy as a chemical lawn and it's not immediately obvious that you are creating something beautiful, so if you are worried about your neighbours or family thinking you have lost the plot or neglecting your lawn. You might want to fence off the area you are going to let go wild to make it obvious just what you're doing. The best and cheapest way is to erect a simple rustic fence of half posts set on round posts, it will also fit in nicely with the finished mini meadow.

Traditional wildflower meadows can contain up to 100 species of flowering plants. Some competing with the grass and this is why the chemical dependant farmer 
have destroyed traditional hay meadows.
The grass and wildflowers you can sow, or encourage naturally over a longer period, depending on which method you choose, will depend on the type of soil in your garden some prefer clay, some sandy, some saturated and some dry, but all prefer poor soil.

Further down this page I have listed wildflowers and the types of soil they grow best in, including acid soil, sandy soil, loam, clay sole and saturated soil and the silty soil found on the banks of wildlife ponds and streams.

 
As I have pointed out wildflowers generally prefer and grow best in poor soil, so if you are planning to create a wildflower meadow in your garden or convert an existing lawn the most important thing you need to do, is to stop using fertilisers NOW to reduce the fertility of the soil........
 
Types of Soil and species of wildflowers that grow in them.
The wild flowers you choose, whether you are  transplanting  container grown wild meadow flowers, or sowing wildflower seeds must suit your type of soil. Acid clay, Chalk or Sandy soil.
I have listed a few species of wild flowers and the soil they thrive in, on this page , soil wildflowers grow in.

The best position in a garden to grow a wildflower lawn

Like most flowers and grass you're meadow plants will grow best in an open, sunny, non shaded position in your garden. However, it is not a problem if your garden is mostly shaded you can purchase and sow hedgerow and woodland plants or seeds that will tolerate shady areas. In fact, if the wildflower lawn extends into trees or a wildlife hedge, grass banks and stony areas, etc. the greater the diversity of the grass and wildflowers you will be able to grow.

How to Prepare the ground for sowing wildflower seeds in an existing lawn.

Unless the soil has been saturated with fertiliser or the lawn contains Rye grass you won't need to remove the existing turf. Most domestic lawn grass is not that vigorous to be a problem, but it is helpful to reduce competition by existing grass anyway by sowing "Yellow Rattle" seed into the lawn. It is parasitic on the roots of grass, and once established will reduce the growth of the grass by about 50%. Yellow Rattle grows naturally in all established wildflower meadows and is sown between August and December as it needs a period of cold to germinate.

 

How to remove Ryegrass from a lawn. When converting an existing lawn you will need to remove all trace of rye-grass as it is vigorous and will compete with your wild flowers. You can't use weed killers because they are not selective and will kill the other grass. 

The only option is to meticulously dig the ryegrass out by hand, making sure none is left to spread its way back into your wildflower lawn. Or, and here's the rub...... remove the complete lawn to resow with a hay meadow mix of seeds 

Weedy lawn. If the lawn is full of weeds they will compete with wildflowers so will have to be dug out or treated with weed-killer..... Probably easier kill of the complete lawn and seed with a wild grass and flower mix. 

 

Mow the existing grass. The wild lawn/wild flower meadow area needs to be cut short before planting, making sure to remove the cut grass to your compost heap.

 

Grass preparation is fairly easy. You will need to cut the grass very short and remove the clippings from the lawn. Then firmly rake the area removing as much of the thatch as possible to create open areas where seeds can get to the soil and germinate.

 

Planting and sowing wildflowers in a lawn

I have described the four main methods to introduce wild meadow flowers into your lawn;

  1. Transplanting wildflowers.
  2. Sowing seeds directly into your lawn. 
  3. Use meadow lawn turf or a seed mat.
  4. Let the lawn go wild and seed naturally.

 

Method 1; Transplanting wildflowers into a lawn.

The transplanting method will be time-consuming and more expensive than seeding, but will speed up the appearance of wildflowers growing in your lawn.

Transplanting meadow wildflowers from pots or plugs directly into your wild lawn is the quickest way to establish wildflowers into your wild lawn and can be bought online as pot plants or as plugs and planted directly into an existing grass lawn. 

Do not take plants from the wild.

 

Try to mix the species and plant the wildflower plants informally, as if seed had blown in on the breeze. Depending on your budget, plant as many as you can for a quick effect, but remember they will reseed in the Autumn after flowering, eventually covering the whole wild flower lawn. 

 

Container-grown wild flowers can be planted out in autumn to establish over winter or planted in early spring before the grass has grown to tall. 

 

Important. The wildflower plants you choose will need to be suited to the type of soil in your garden. Work out the type of soil in your garden.

 

 

Method 2;Sowing wildflower seeds into an existing lawn.

This way is a bit slower than transplanting ready-grown plants, but achieves the best results in the long run and is relatively cheap.  
Select a mix of Wildflowers and Grasses that will thrive in the type of soil in your garden. Follow the sowing instructions on the packet.

Sow in autumn using a wildflower mix that suits your type of soil, at 1.5g per square metre. Then rake the area over after sowing to help the seed into the soil. 

As the seedlings start to show in the late autumn or spring, you will need to give your new wild flower lawn a mow, setting the blade fairly high to about 3in, this allows light to reach the emerging seedlings........

 

 

 

 

 

In the following seasons your wild flower lawn should be left to grow to its natural height, to allow the flowers to naturally spread their seeds. More about this later.

 

Method 3;insert a pre-seeded mat or lay wildflower meadow turf.

Wildflower Seed mats are suitable for small areas of lawn and borders they are biodegradable mats  already sown with a mix of flower seeds, so all the hard work is done for you. Instructions vary depending on the supplier and type of mat, but couldn't be easier, Prepare and rake the planting area or border, roll out the seed mat, cover it with soil and keep it watered.

 

For larger areas you can purchase special wildflower meadow turf. I have explained how to prepare the soil for turfing toward the bottom of this page.

 

Method 4;Stop mowing the grass and let the lawn go wild and seed naturally.

This should appeal to folk like me who don't particularly like spending Sunday afternoon mowing the lawn.

Turn away now "green lawn man".

Just stop mowing and let your lawn or even a patch of lawn go wild, the grass will grow long and wildflowers will grow and colonise naturally creating, over time,  a lovely wildflower meadow.

 

This method could however, take a while, but if you are lucky enough to have a wildflower meadow fairly near to you, wind and birds seed distribution will speed the transformation up. If you choose this natural way,  to turn your lawn into a wildflower lawn or mini-meadow naturally,  the first wildflowers to appear will be the low rosette type lawn weeds, including daisies,  plantains and cat's ear and the creeping plants such as selfheal  and speedwells.

 

As you're wild lawn or meadow establishes, the height of the grass will increase and the taller plants and wild meadow flowers will appear and the daisies and other low growing wild flowers will gradually disappear in some areas of the wild lawn.

 

Over the seasons airborne seeds and seeds delivered by birds will slowly begin to build up turning your lawn into a beautiful wildflower meadow.  A bonus of this method is you won't need to be concerned with the type of soil you have. Natural selection will be at work in your lawn.

For maintenance of a wildflower lawn or mini meadow scroll down

Preparing the ground for laying meadow lawn turf

  • Completely remove the old lawn digging out and removing all existing plants and weeds, including the roots, especially deep rooting weed like dandelions. Wildflowers cannot compete over the long term with lush weed growth, so it's best to start with a completely weed-free site. Dig or rotovate the soil to a depth of at least 15cm and then follow the instructions on my lawn turfing page
  • Very fertile soil, If the area contains very fertile soil you will need to remove the top 2 or 3 inches, wild grasses and wild meadow flowers grow in poor soil, for a large area, hiring a digger will save you a lot of time and sweat.
  • Important this; Work out the type of soil you have in your garden, Acid clay, Chalk, Loam, Saturated or Sandy soil. Type of soil test
  • Select a turf with mix of wildflowers and grasses that will thrive in the type of soil in your garden.

This is the really easy way to grow wildflowers in a lawn, simply insert a Wildflower seed mat into the existing grass 

    • Place the seed mat where you want it to grow cover with a little soil or compost, and water - and you will get flowers in a few Months, create a perfect wildflower meadow in your garden with minimum fuss and digging
    • Makes the ideal habitat for bees and butterflies when in  flower - makes your garden a home for them
    • Contains over 40 varieites of annual and perennial widlflower seeds, all pre-spaced in a biodegrable seed mat
    • Can be cut to shape or size for growing in pots, or use the full 2M x 48cm mat as an insert to lawns

maintenance of a wildflower lawn or mini meadow

When to mow a wildflower lawn or mini-meadow

Cut the wildflower lawn in late July/early August, try to leave a strip around the edge to provide nectar for the butterflies.

 Leave the Grass and wild flowers on the ground for about a week, this will allow the seeds that haven't yet dropped to dry out fall into the soil. When you rake up and remove the meadow grass and wild flowers from your lawn to the compost heap, try not to carry it over a lawn or area of garden you want to keep clear off weeds. The hay will still be full of wild flower and weed seeds.
 
One more thing, remember I told you the cows are let back into the meadow to graze once the hay had been harvested, well unless you can borrow a cow you will need to mow your wild flower lawn now and then through winter if the weather allows, not forgetting to collect the clipping the cows would have chewed on.

If the wildflower lawn extends into trees or a wildlife hedge, grass banks and  stony areas etc. the greater the diversity of the grasses and wildflowers you will be able to grow. I have included a guide to the types of Soil and the wild meadow flowers that will grow in them on this page.
How to Maintain a wildflower lawn
In the second and following seasons allow your wildflower lawn or meadow to grow to its full height and go to seed. Think about the cycle a wildflower meadow goes through !!  Spring germination, late spring and summer flowering. late summer  producing  seed inAutumn spreading those seeds, dying off in Winter and then in Springtime starting all over again.
 
What a treat you are in for.  A wild flower meadow would be cut for hay in July or August.  A wild flower lawn is best cut in August in warm dry weather, after flowering and when the wild flowers have gone to seed.
 
Hope these tips help you to grow a wildflower meadow lawn.
The tips in this article should help grow and maintain your wildflower mini meadow, but If you want the hard work done for you contact Mike

What is an English wildflower hay meadow.

English wildflower hay meadow.
 
Over the years we have lost many of our British traditional wildflower and hay meadows, remember the poppies and cornflowers and the butterflies and birds they attracted.
Planting up motorway verges and banks with grass and wildflowers is helping, also making motorway driving more interesting and enjoyable, but its no longer easy to find flowering hay meadows to enjoy in the countryside.

A hay meadow was an area of grassland that was grown for hay to feed the farm livestock over winter. The grass was cut for hay in July and August, by then the wildflowers and grasses would have shed there seeds to reproduce the following seasons display of wild flowers, the cows were then allowed back into the freshly cut meadow to graze through until early spring. In severe winters most farmers housed the herd and fed them with the hay.