Making a garden meadow

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Making a garden meadow

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I've got a bit of an experiment going at the moment in my garden - I'm making meadows, in different ways, and seeing how well they do and what wildlife they attract.

Just to ensure clarity, we're talking perennial wildflower meadows, full of native wild grasses - the hay meadows from days of yore. These aren't beds of annual 'cornfield' flowers such as poppies. The distinction is critical because it drastically affects how you manage them.

What I am doing is

  • growing one area of autumn-sown wildflower meadow, starting with a bare seed bed
  • growing one area in the same way with the same seed mix but sown in spring
  • and seeing if I can turn an area of lawn into meadow without digging it up.

So today I thought I'd show you progress on the autumn-sown meadow.

It's 30 September 2017, and I've prepared the bed over a two month period. I took off 4 inches of topsoil from the entire area (which is going to form one of my Butterfly Mounds), and then dug, let any weeds germinate, dug again, and now raking to get a fine tilth before sowing later that day at 4 grams seed per square metre .

You can see I've dug a gully along one side - that's because I want Ringlet butterflies, and they do like a damp feature like that. At the very least, it will be interesting to see if different plants thrive there rather than in the main meadow, despite using the same mix across it all.

By January, there had been some germination, but what a muddy mess, and that's without even walking on it all. The thought did cross my mind, "What have I done!?"

The meadow also had to cope with winter snows.

But by February it was greening up some more.

And here is it yesterday...

Germination has been patchy in the gully, but good across the flatter areas. Looking down into the meadow, there is still plenty of bare soil, which is a good thing in a new meadow, plus plenty of the wild grasses I am after, such as Crested Dog's-tail and Sweet Vernal Grass. Plus you can probably make out Yellow Rattle and you can certainly see the pink of Corncockle, an annual that was in the mix and won't last for too many years.

Already germinated are Common Sorrel, Bird'sfoot Trefoil, Field Madder and Meadow Vetchling, currently just tiny plants among the grasses.

I'm going to stick my neck out and predict that I will see Meadow Brown, Common Blue and Small Copper butterflies in the mix in July. We'll see. But so far, so good in the autumn sown meadow.

Comments
  • I'll let you know what the summer brings...

  • be fascinated to know how you get on, Russ. Hope you're seeing encouraging signs

  • Very interesting Adrian.

    Trouble is, on a smaller area, how to remove the top 4", without it looking like a rectangular hole?

    Last year, on a 2m square patch, I inverted the top 12" with the bottom 12" and sowed fine meadow grasses and one or two wildflowers, and I'm now waiting for the results.)

    I should have just swapped the top 4" over with the 4" underneath!

  • Hi MParry

    It's a good question, and there is always the chance that removing the topsoil may expose long-buried seeds. I've run this area as an annual cornfield mix previously for three years, which has given me a good chance to see what was in the seedbank - primarily Nettle, Canadian Fleabane, Swinecress, Rough Meadow-grass and docks. Prior to that it had been a chicken pen for perhaps 20 years. But you never know, something may well come up. I never use herbicides, and I've sown thinly enough that 'blasts from the past' now have their chance!

  • Did you leave a patch unsown to see what would come up on it's own?