Be a Successful Meadow Maker!

Meadows epitomise the picturesque idyllic summer garden that so many of us dream of.  However, creating a successful meadow is often more of a challenging project than we anticipate.  Whether you’re creating a new meadow or fixing a failed meadow, August and September are the months that meadow gardeners must spring into action!

A Painted Lady Butterfly (also known by its scientific name Vanessa cardui) feasting upon Yellow Rattle flowers (also known by their botanical name, Rhinanthus minor).

Preparation is the key to success.  It’s easy to rush soil preparations, giddy with the excitement of sowing seeds – this is where most people fail.  Digging out brambles, nettles, bindweed, couch grass, docks, and unwanted plants takes a considerable effort and is rarely achieved at speed.  Be thorough when weeding; remove roots and seed-heads to prevent reintroducing more weeds.

When you’ve cleared the ground, re-examine the site each week, removing seedlings and unwanted plants that arise from leftover pieces of root.  A weed-free site is the base for a successful meadow.

A Painted Lady Butterfly (also known by its scientific name Vanessa cardui) feasting upon Clover (also known by its botanical name, Trifolium pratense) flowers in a gorgeous summer meadow.

Sadly, wildflower turf (like regular turf) is usually raised in peat soils or peat-based growing mediums.  We urgently need to protect and restore our peatlands; we should have stopped using peat decades ago.  The idea of ripping out a precious layer of peat to grow turf, then transporting this green-washed peat around the country is intensely damaging to the environment.  Gardeners who sow meadow seeds direct will be gardening in a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way; with the unmissable opportunity to select every wildflower species in their meadow.  This will allow you to include your favourite plants: choose species and cultivars that will thrive in your particular soil and situation.

Grasses can dominate a meadow.  Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) takes some of its nutrients from the roots of nearby grasses, thereby weakening the grass and letting in more light which enables flowering plants to establish.

Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) are an essential meadow plant as they are hemi-parasitic and naturally suppress the growth of grasses. These plants will only grow in a bright and sunny area – Yellow Rattle will not grow in shade.

September is the only month to sow Yellow Rattle seed.  Be certain to purchase fresh Yellow Rattle seed as these seeds lose their viability rapidly – last year’s seed won’t germinate.  A sunny site is essential, as Yellow Rattle won’t grow in shade.  Due to the plant’s hemi-parasitic nature, Yellow Rattle must grow amongst grasses.  Cut the grass, scarify the area with a rake and sow Yellow Rattle seeds directly in bare patches of soil.

Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) flowers attract bees, butterflies, moths, and other pollinating insects. These plants are a vital part of a meadow as they provide food for pollinators whilst suppressing the growth of grasses to let in more light and open up spaces for wildflowers to grow.
September is the time to sow Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) seeds. These seeds need to endure autumn and winter outdoors to trigger germination in early spring. It’s absolutely essential to purchase fresh seed collected this summer, as Rhinanthus minor seed loses its viability very rapidly. Seed collected last year won’t germinate now. Weed the area thoroughly, then cut the grass as short as you can. Use a rake to scarify the surface and sow Yellow Rattle in the bare patches of soil around grasses.

On free-draining soils, other meadow seeds can be sown in September, March, and April, but anyone gardening on heavier soil with a predisposition to water-logging will be better off waiting until March to sow seed.  To see my guide to creating meadows, please click here.

For more articles about meadow plants and creating meadows, please click here.

For more gardening advice for August, please click here.

Fore more gardening advice for September, please click here.

For more articles with information about plants for pollinating insects, please click here.

A Brimstone Butterfly (also known by its scientific name, Gonepteryx rhamni) feasting upon Yellow Rattle nectar (Rhinanthus minor) in a bright and sunny meadow.

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