How to get the best from your wildflower area
Looking after a wildflower area is completely different to conventional gardening. There are 5 golden rules to meadow management. Follow these and you'll enjoy a fascinating outdoor feature with all year round interest.
1. Reduce soil fertility so that wildflowers can thrive
For once, you don't have to worry about your soil being in good condition. Most of our beautiful native wild flowers are happiest when growing on poor soil. With too much nutrient, the grasses will thrive but only the strongest species of flowers will be able to compete. Any soil maintenance you do will be to stop it from becoming too fertile. Mostly be removing all clippings, dead vegetation and fallen leaves from nearby trees.
2. Suppress the grasses
Even with poor soil the grasses tend to be the most competitive members of your meadow. Grasses are a vital component of wildflower meadows and they fulfill many functions, however you need to keep them under control so that wildflowers can thrive too. Some types of Meadowmat include grass suppressing plants like yellow rattel, but you can also use carefully timed mowing to help maintain the ideal balance of plants in your meadow.
3. Maintain ideal flowering conditions
As well as reducing soil fertility, you need to create the best all-round environment for you wildflowers. This includes maintaining suitable light, shade and moisture levels as well as mowing correctly to allow the wildflowers to set seeds ready for the next growing season.
4. Discourage unwanted species
Weeds are the eternal chancers! create some new growing space and they'll do their best to colonise it. If you use a pre-grown mat to create your wildflower mat, you'll prevent annual weed seeds in the soil from germinating. However, inevitably, seeds from other plants will be carried in on the wind and delivered by birds. If your meadow is in good condition, they'll not pose any serious threat but be vigilant and weed out any vigorous imposters.
5. Encourage a good range of wildflower species
Although each of our five types of Meadowmat are carefully designed to provide a rich balance of plants, you may want to add some of your own too. You can sow seeds, add plants or plant bulbs for extra interest or variety.
Year round wildflower meadow management at a glance
Winter: November - February
If the winter is mild and the grasses keep growing, it's OK to give your meadow a light trim in winter. Don't mow in frosty weather. Avoid cutting lower than 15cm and be sure to remove all of the clippings so that they don't add fertility to the soil.
If you have Meadwomat for Birds and Bees it will need it's big annual trim in late winter or early spring.
You won't see much growth during the winter. Some plants may even disappear from view as they hide from the cold weather. Don't worry, there'll be plenty going on underground as the roots and then shoots get ready for the spring burst.
This is the wrong time of year to try to sow wildflower seeds. However, you can lay new Meadowmat provided the ground isnt' frozen.
Spring: March - May
If you feel that your Meadowmat was too grassy last season, or if you are still working to reduce soil fertility then you can mow your meadow in early-mid march. (see how to mow your meadow). Do NOT cut any shorter than 15cm or you risk damaging the crowns of growing plants.
This is in addition to the regular autumn cut. If you have Meadowmat for Birds and Bees it should have had it's winter cut by now.
Remember to remove all clippings to prevent unwanted soil fertility and allow sunlight to reach small seedlings. At this time of year the clippings will be short and seedless so no need to leave them to dry before removing them. Simply use a rake to gently tease them them away being careful not to damage any plants or seedlings.
Allow your meadow to grow freely from March/April onwards and DO NOT add fertiliser, compost or feed of any kind.
If you want to add some extra seed to your meadow, spring is a good time to do so. Sow brightly coloured annuals such as cornflowers, corn marigolds, poppies and corn chamomile. Clear vegetation from the area you want to seed (perhaps by uprooting unwanted grass plants), then rake to scuff up the surface of the soil. Sprinkle the seeds sparingly onto the soil and press them in lightly.