What should you plant?
If you are planting your meadow in a small area, you will need wildflower seed without any grass seed. You can either buy mixtures of seeds or select specific species. Make sure that the species include perennial wildflowers like oxeye daisy, common knapweed, selfheal and red clover. Poppies, cornflower, corncockle and corn marigold are annual cornfield flowers and will not appear after the first year without turning over the soil again.
Where and when should you plant your meadow?
It is important that you can access the patch where you are creating your meadow so that you can mow it later in the year and remove the mown cuttings. It is also important that no compost, manure or fertilizer is added to the soil as wildflowers prefer soil with low nutrients.
You can sow your mini wildflower meadow in spring or in early autumn. September and October are the optimum months. Many seeds need to go through the process of vernilisation (freeze and thaw whilst the seed is damp) which triggers the seed to germinate. Sowing in the autumn allows the natural freeze and thaw processes to take place in the winter. Seed can also be sown in the spring, preferably March and April, but artificial vernilisation may be needed to trigger germination. This is called stratification and the seeds should be dampened and put into a freezer before being taken out in the spring and sown straight away.
How to plant your meadow
Over 50% of the area and ideally 75-90% should be bare ground as wildflower seed needs to touch earth to germinate. Fork over the area you want to make into a meadow. Remove weeds and big stones and rake the site level. If you are using a flower bed or raised bed, remove all the other plants and turn over the soil.
Blend the seed mix with dry sand to make it easier to apply evenly and show which areas have been sown.
Using canes, mark out a grid to help you sow evenly and according to the supplier's recommended rate. Broadcast the seed and sand mixture onto the soil using a wrist flicking motion.
Firm the bed down with the back of your rake. This ensures the seeds are in contact with the soil but aren't buried too deeply. The seed should not be buried like vegetable seed. Wildflowers naturally shed seed on the soil surface and the small packet of energy that each seed carries to provide food for the first few weeks will not be able to sustain seedlings if they have to push their way up through the soil.
Your meadow should be growing vigorously within a few weeks. Some plants can flower within six weeks; others will take a little longer.
How to look after your meadow
Meadows need looking after and there is an annual management cycle that you will need to undertake. Cut down the vegetation between July-September each year after flowering. Put the cut grass into rows and turn them each day for around a week. This allows any seeds trapped in pods to fall onto the ground. Afterwards, remove and compost the cut vegetation.
If you already have a mini meadow in your garden, we would love to see it. Why not send us a photo and we’ll share it on our social media.