Managing Your Wildflower Meadow

By Jared Hutchings

First and foremost, before cutting long grass, make sure there is no sign of sheltering wildlife. For example, reptiles, amphibians and mammals may hide out of site, even in small areas.  Should you encounter any wildlife, walk through the area, making lots of noise and allow animals the opportunity to get away.

If you have been introducing a wildflower meadow to parts of your garden, you might be wondering what you need to do to manage it now that we have moved into autumn. Here are some simple things you can do to keep on top of it.

The creation of a wildflower meadow does not happen overnight. Patience is key but the impact created once the meadow is established will be worth the wait. The first year of leaving a lawn to go wild is always going to be the least thrilling. There has been little time for the more attractive wildflowers to seed, grow and flower, so the existing and most vigorous weeds, such as thistles, will have been thriving during this rainy summer.

When you complete the first cut, leave the box off your mower so that the grass and all the seed heads drop.  Leave the cuttings to dry for a few days to allow the seeds to filter through to the soil level. After that week, rake away the grass so that you take away the nutrients that rotting grass will have provided. Grass likes high nutrients whereas wildflowers compete better in low-nutrient conditions.

Following this, you could sprinkle some wildflower seeds, especially in bare patches, and leave it be. Avoid difficult-to-establish seeds though, opt for the easy-to-establish ones like Yarrow (Achillea) or Ox-eye Daisy. If you would like to encourage more wildflowers, consider adding some plug plants in spring. Select wildflowers that like your soil and germinate easily – for wet soil, try ragged robin. For dry soil, try knapweed and wild carrot. Seeds of wildflowers will also blow in and germinate in the autumn and early spring.

This routine, over many years, will gradually establish a wild meadow with some wildflowers. You can find further detail in my original blog, detailing how to start your wildflower meadow journey.