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Meadow garden

(26 Posts)
notarehearsal Sun 19-Jun-16 09:10:36

Just moved into a cottage with huge area of lawn. I'm wanting to start a meadow wild flower garden and have read conflicting advise about whether I need to dig up the whole lawn. My lazy idea is to cut lawn really short at end of summer and rake through it leaving lots of bald patches and then seed the whole area. Does anyone know if this will be enough to get rid of most of the strong grass? If the lawn needs taking up what is the easiest way to do this please? I'm short on time and tbh don't fancy the idea of digging it all up myself.

Cathpot Sun 19-Jun-16 14:38:39

While you wait for someone with actual first hand experience- When I was thinking about a wildflower area a while ago-which I still haven't got round to - it seemed more difficult than I expected for various reasons. I'm vaguely remembering advice about needing quite poor soil and wildflower plugs being a better bet than seeds. Anyway I ended up looking at wildflower turf- which is like normal turf but of wild flowers. This does involve stripping off the turf that you have and then laying the wildflower stuff. If you get the right tool turf stripping doesn't actually take that long, although it is quite physical work. Obviously it's going to be more expensive than putting down seeds - maybe a possibility for a smaller area?

notarehearsal Mon 20-Jun-16 06:20:46

Well thanks so much for your time Cathpot. I spent the day clearing the garden and had so hoped there would be a few more responses. I'm going too have a look for a turf stripping tool

whifflesqueak Mon 20-Jun-16 06:26:26

I'm in the process of doing this with a quarter acre patch of lawn and it's a total pain in the arse.

we have a small tractor, so rotavated the soil, allowed two weeks for the weeds to germinate, sprayed them off, then sowed our wildflower seed mix.

unfortunately what we seem to have (though granted it's hard to tell as everything has been late coming up this year) is a huge patch of weeds.

I think the problem is that unless your soil is quite poor, the dominant weeds and grasses out compete the windflowers.

we will keep trying as the lawn is too huge for a conventional lawn! good luck too you!

Cathpot Mon 20-Jun-16 06:30:41

Hang in there- people who know stuff usually turn up in the end! People are constantly casually starting wildflower meadows on Grand Designs but I don't know if that's because they are seeding bare earth. Is there a reason you have to rush to get it all done? Is it an established garden? Could you try a wildflower corner and see how it goes?

notarehearsal Mon 20-Jun-16 07:18:37

Cathpot it's a huge area of lawn going up a hill. The main area I'll leave for now but there is an area I can see from my kitchen and patio. It's about 24ft X 24ft at the widest .Ive removed an old fence and manky old veg boxes and the lawn is mostly weeds with big patches of bare soil. I'm not in a huge rush however it's now such an eye sore that I want to plan ahead as I either need to make good the lawn ( which I don't really fancy) and then dig borders etc for some colour or plan this little meadow. At the top of the first incline is a large area of what was a veg patch but now filled with old wood etc. I'm thoroughly excited about meadow mat turf! but unsure if it would be more financially viable to put the seed down myself as it looks like the work for putting down the turf is similar.

Lighteningirll Mon 20-Jun-16 07:40:24

You will need to dig up the lawn and remove it otherwise the grass will dominant for years perhaps try this on a small scale by digging up, motivating and planting a set area this year and seeing how it works. My local council is doing this in our larger green areas and it looks fantastic. Also I read recently that commercial wildflower seed mixes are causing problems for local native flora. A natural wildflower meadow in West Sussex will have very different flowers from one in East Anglia, so make sure you pick a mix native to your area or you run the risk of introducing species that may spoil your areas wider plant population.

Cathpot Mon 20-Jun-16 07:42:23

It sounds like you will have a really lovely garden in the end! I ended up leaning towards the meadow mat as it seemed more likely to work for a similar amount of digging but I am currently at an impasse with husband who likes a neat lawn and myself who likes a more wild / unkempt cottage garden look. Also we are on old cattle field so the soil is very fertile and I wasn't sure it would work. If you have bare patches already that might be encouraging? Are you going to resurrect the veggie patch? Could you use the old wood to put together some raised bed sections and fill them this year full of nasturtiums or something fast growing and colourful? Might be a bit late- I'm not in UK at the moment so I'm a bit out of synch. Maybe put lots of colour in pots on the patio to draw the eye away from the bare bits?

DoreenLethal Mon 20-Jun-16 07:45:15

I think for now - I'd just leave the grass to grow and pop some wildflower plugs in for now. Then in the winter - cover it to kill it off, then dig in a fair amount of sand and sow a fresh wildflower mix. You can mow a path through the grass and the effect will look fantastic for this summer. It really is a bit too late to sow any wildflowers this year.

JT05 Mon 20-Jun-16 08:57:22

I have been trying to do this at our H/H in the West of Scoltand. Lots of lovely rain and warm Gulf Stream. It's not a large area, just at the bottom of a slope. The grass just grows and grows! Some wild flowers are there (2 or 3!) This year I have put in a couple of nasturtiums! Just to get a bit of colour, they are struggling as well.
I'm now thinking of just planting different grasses and making it a prarie garden. But I'll strim and take as much grass out, in the Autumn.

Cathpot Mon 20-Jun-16 09:05:54

I love that effect when the meadow grass grows up and you mow a path through it. It's interesting what lighteningirll says about getting the mix seed right for your area, I had never considered that - it would need a bit of looking into. Years ago I ended up on a BTCV afternoon planting wildflower plugs on communal ground- they might have some advice if you have a branch near you?

Tummyrumbled Mon 20-Jun-16 09:56:30

You could sow some Yellow Rattle to kill off some of the grass. It's an annual plant and I read that it can be sown in August.

Also, (heard from Radio 4), cut only 10% at a time with scythe as this will minimise killing some of the species living in the meadow land.

Tummyrumbled Mon 20-Jun-16 09:58:24

oh what Cathpot said , wildflower plug plants over seeds is better based on experience.

shovetheholly Mon 20-Jun-16 10:25:29

I think you could achieve a lot with wildflower plugs and lots of yellow rattle. The latter is parasitic on grass and will knock it back, helping other plants to establish. I think it's important to realise that meadows can actually be quite hard work to maintain in the long run because it's difficult to keep everything in balance. It's not really the low maintenance gardening option some people think! But the effect when done well is absolutely lovely and well worth all the effort.

TinklyLittleLaugh Mon 20-Jun-16 20:17:26

I recently went to the National Wildflower Centre in Liverpool and it was, frankly, rather poor. I think creating a meadow is probably pretty tricky. Having said that, I have seen quite a few lovely meadow gardens in France, though they were maybe slightly fakey ones, with cosmos and the like.

notarehearsal Tue 21-Jun-16 06:44:06

Thanks so so much for all your wonderful advise and observations. I've successfully grown in my tiny little City patio garden in the past. But for the first time in my life I have this huge garden in the country and so want to make the most of it. My neighbours have been working so hard digging borders etc but it all looks, I don't know, boring and samey...I have ideas in my head but little time on my hands.
Anyway I've decided that I'll start digging up the turf, in fact started last night and it wasn't so hard. I'll then take off the top layer of fertile soil and will try with a good seed mix, a few plugs and lots of yellow rattle. Another question I have is what would anyone recommend for a weedkiller once I've dug the turf up please? Again can't say how appreciative I am to have so many answers

bookbook Tue 21-Jun-16 09:18:21

Good luck. An acquaintance of mine has been trying for the last few years, but is somewhat disadvantaged by being down slope from a farm using fertiliser. They have done various things to reduce the fertility of the soil , and the last I heard they were investigating using sugar ( dont know the ins and outs of that though, or whether they tried it in the end)

whifflesqueak Tue 21-Jun-16 09:27:29

roundup is a good all round weed killer for non woody stems. it's easy to spray even quite large areas with a backpack sprayer.

just sit back and wait a couple of weeks for it to take affect.

CruCru Tue 21-Jun-16 10:22:28


I have a wildflower patch. Honestly? You need to get rid of the grass - it gets everywhere and completely overtakes the wildflowers. I have sown seeds and planted a few wildflowers myself. I've also grown foxgloves from seed and planted those - so not completely a wildflower garden.

Do you want a perennial wildflower garden or an annual one? If the first then you need to make sure that the soil quality is poor, to stop grass from getting in. This means digging up the grass and the top layer of soil. I know it's a total nuisance.

It's worth bearing in mind that wildflowers are weeds. Stuff like teasel is what I pull out everywhere else. But here I love it and keep it.

Realistically, you are rather late for it this year. I think that if you are sowing seeds, you can do so in the autumn for a spring germination - not if you are on heavy clay though as the seeds will rot.

At the end of August, I get my sickle out and cut everything down to 30cm and let it lie for a few days. Then I transfer it to the waste compost bin. This allows the seeds to fall but taking the stuff away means the ground doesn't get fertilised with the cut flowers.

I buy seeds from these people. They have different mixes, depending on where you are / what sort of soil you have.

Having said all that, I only know what works for my wildflower patch. Other people may do it differently / have different conditions etc.

CruCru Tue 21-Jun-16 10:27:55

Here's a picture of my wildflower patch.

MrsWooster Tue 21-Jun-16 10:30:28

Our is a big lawn rather than a field but, being rather idle, I just now three feet all round the edge and a path across and let the rest go. It's not, by any stretch, a wildflower meadow but the long wheat-y grasses, buttercups, selfseeding wild geraniums are pretty lovely and the hens like it!

MrsWooster Tue 21-Jun-16 10:30:56


TinklyLittleLaugh Tue 21-Jun-16 10:37:55

Imagine how gorgeous proper, old fashioned, pre world war1, hay meadows would have been. I always love going to France or Italy where they seem to be much more lax about wild flowers in the verges. I'd love to go to Switzerland too and see a summer Alpine meadow.

Mind you, there were dome pretty fields in the Peak District last weekend.

BaboonBottom Tue 21-Jun-16 11:00:41

These are the people you need
They do turf as well as all sorts of different plants depending on your soil type.

shovetheholly Tue 21-Jun-16 11:15:24

Something to consider regarding weedkiller!

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