Maybe it’s time to bring a touch of the wild to your garden.
Ornamental wildflower meadows create spectacular colour and make a diverse environment that will be loved my birds and insects. They are perfect for bringing new life to an unused part of the garden.
Flowering meadow patches and borders are also low maintenance and cheap to produce; the seeds germinate quickly and can fill an empty plot in just a few months.
It’s best to sow in spring, but you can sow in autumn if you have light, sandy soils that aren’t prone to waterlogging.
Choosing the spot
Surprisingly, perennial wildflowers like the hard life. They require impoverished soil, because if it is too rich you will get mostly leaves and few flowers. So it’s best to grow a wildflower meadow in a spot you don’t usually cultivate, or one you haven’t used for a while.
However, if you have richer soil you can grow an annual flower meadow using cornfield flowers. This is the best option if you want to convert an existing bed with good soil.
Choosing the seeds
You can buy ready-made wildflower meadow mixes for different soil types and situations. It’s worth looking for a mix of annual and perennial to prolong flowering time. Seed mixes also are available in different colour combinations.
Or you can also buy the seeds separately and mix them yourself. If you do, try adding some sand so you can see clearly where you are sowing as you go. The seeds can be quite small!
Seed mixes vary, so check the coverage on the packet. However as a rough guide, you need 1g per square metre of pure wildflower seeds and 5g per square metre of grass and wildflower meadow seeds.
Give your spare space a good weeding before sowing anything, as weeds will compete for light, space and food. Once you’ve removed everything, dig over the soil and firm it back down before raking it smooth.
Scatter your wildflower meadow seeds by hand. Rake in lightly and water thoroughly. If you’re particularly worried about birds eating them all, put some netting over the soil.
Make sure the soil remains moist and warm while they’re germinating. The key thing is to make sure they don’t dry out. A single blisteringly hot weekend will stop them in their tracks. And watch out for weeds coming back too.
Deadhead the flowers as they grow to prolong flowering. Leave the plants to self-seed at the end of the growing season – they should come back up next year.
Clear away the old plants in spring to let the new ones get light. Again, keep on top of weeds to stop them taking over.
You may need to sow more seeds for the first few years, but after that they should come back every year with no extra work from you.
Convert a lawn to a wildflower meadow
This takes patience but it can be done. A meadow is much easier to maintain than a traditional grass lawn.
Stop applying fertiliser and spend the first year mowing the grass every week to weaken it. Then sow wildflower seeds over the top of very short grass in autumn.
It may take some time for seeds to establish in the grass, so you can always introduce stronger plug plants too.
I’d also recommend using Yellow Rattle. It’s a striking-looking wildflower takes over grass plants and kills them off.
How to cheat
If you want a more instant effect, and you’re willing to spend a few bob, try laying wildflower turf. It is a pre-sown roll of grass and wildflowers that can be laid on any bare soil. It’s not cheap, but it is effective.