making a wildflower lawn

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Piers Maddox
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making a wildflower lawn

Post by Piers Maddox »

I'm preparing a 200m2 lawn area...I'm learning as I go along, so this may be the first question of many and all advice is welcomed. I've stripped off the turf (prompted by ground elder) and am planning to dig over the clayish compacted battlefield removing weeds, then wait for the next flush, will probably decide to rotovate, also add some worms...getting to soil ready for seeding. My first question is...Is there anything I could beneficially add to the soil to improve drainage? I understand sand is a terrible idea, and the rhs says grit is impractical (would need 250kg per m2 to be beneficial). Some recommend organic matter, but I thought that wildflowers liked less nourished soil. So...what? Thanks in advance.
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Steve Pollard
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Re: making a wildflower lawn

Post by Steve Pollard »

Have you watched our video on How to make and maintain mini-meadows? www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a7NmMoYNmY
Piers Maddox
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Re: making a wildflower lawn

Post by Piers Maddox »

no...I'll look at that today. Thanks.
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Re: making a wildflower lawn

Post by Donna Cox »

Hi Piers, if you can bare it, I'd sow seeds this September, just to make sure the ground elder is under control. As your soil is clayish, you may want to consider sowing seeds suitable for clay soil. Emorsgate have a native meadow mix for clay and other soil types: https://wildseed.co.uk/product/mixtures ... lay-soils/

Sowing rates:
Sow wildflowers on bare ground areas at 4 grams per sq.m - far less seed than when sowing grass.
It will take about two years for the perennial wildflowers to establish and flower well.
However, you can also sow an annual mix at the same time (also at 4 grams per sq.m.) to give you colour in the garden for the first year. Annuals are brightly coloured - poppies, cornflowers, corn marigolds etc. These annuals won’t persist in the longterm and will usually disappear by year three as they need disturbed soil to germinate (ie annually rotavated/raked over) to continue; poppies and cornflowers are wildflowers that naturally grow in ploughed fields with crops (though being seen as weeds they get sprayed out - when did you last see a field of poppies?). By year two, the perennial wild flowers will have established.

Sowing in September (when the soil is still warm and seeds will readily germinate) means you could also easily put some spring flowering bulbs into the bare ground if you wanted, before sowing the seed. Crocus tommansinianus flowers in February and will naturally increase in grassland. Also, wild daffodil (narcissus pseudonarcissus) flowers from early March, if not before. This also naturalizes well in grassland. I buy bulbs from suppliers who don't sell bulbs treated with nasty systemic insecticides (neonicotinoids), such as from Peter Nyssen Bulbs.

Good luck with your project, it will bring you great joy :)
Piers Maddox
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Re: making a wildflower lawn

Post by Piers Maddox »

Hi Donna. Thanks. The video made me think I was overthinking the drainage...I'll just concentrate on making tilth and, as you suggest, weeding, and yes decide whether to delay depending on how the weeding goes. I might end up seeding in two goes. Thanks for the bulb suggestions too.

Regarding seed choice, the video ledme to the emorsgate EM4 clay mix...comparing that with the goren mix, the emorsgate has 40% crested dogstail and 20% red fescue whereas the goren mix seems to have a wider spread of grasses. And the emorsgate wildflowers comprise 40% of three species...common knapweed, oxeye daisy and ribwort plantain, whereas goren is more diverse. Then there's the issue of yellow rattle (in goren but not in EM4), which I've seen there are differing thoughts on. What are your thoughts on those differences? Maybe I need to assess just how clayey my soil is?
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Re: making a wildflower lawn

Post by Donna Cox »

Yes, good idea to do a soil test to check your soil type if you're investing in spending on seed.
Melanie
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Re: making a wildflower lawn

Post by Melanie »

Hello.
In June last year I started an experiment transplanting flowers for bees amongst the grass below three of the fruit trees in the orchard (white oregano, valerian and oxeye daisies). It has worked very well. This year I am going to try doing this in one of the fields where I want to create a flower meadow. The method is really simple - I pull the grass away for approx 12 inch diameter circle, pull up any easy grass roots that come with the grass, leave the rest, and put a barrier of wood chip around the flower plant and keep an eye on it in any dry times and put more wood chip down if necessary. It’s working so far- the transplants are holding their own against the grass and really well established in less than a year. The wood chip is 6 months rotted on site before I use it and disappears in about 4-6 months. This method may sound ridiculous to some, but I’m not losing seed or transplants, I get results quickly, I have not had to amend the soil or dig more than a tiny hole for the transplants, and I am wondering if the wood chip is making a mycorrhizal network between the woodchip barriers. I will try more sensitive flowers this year and see if they can establish themselves. I did have my soil tested and they said I needed to lime it and preferably remove the grass before seeding for wild flowers and then it might take a few years for the meadow to establish. With this method I get flowers very quickly with minimum disturbance and I only need a trowel. Perhaps you could try a similar method on your lawn (previous post). One thing I learnt not to do is plant in a random way. I was trying to make it look more natural - but it makes it difficult to cut the grass if you want to cut the grass and avoid the transplants! I am going to try a tartan grid this year in places where I want to have the option to mow the grass. After the plants are established I won’t bother to cut the grass, they can spread where they like - hopefully in a random pattern.
Has anyone else tried this method?
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Re: making a wildflower lawn

Post by Jane W »

I like the sound of this idea Melanie and it's interesting to hear that it seems to be working well.
My meadows run I to the garden and so there is a slight crossover...and I find that every year the veg beds are full of wildflowers which have self seeded. I can't bring myself to chuck them on the compost, especially red clovers and devils bit scabious and vetches. So I head off with them in a bucket, open a slit in the soil with a trowel and put them in. As there are so many, I have no 'aftercare' ...they just have to fight their own corner! I think at least some of them survive and thrive. I also planted a few fruit trees, and around them mulched and put in white deadnettle, (which is so beloved by the little orange bumble bees). This has survived very well against the tall grasses and other plants.
...oh by the way, I must just say Piers...about the feeling of our meadows/lawns etc being a 'battleground' ...honestly I don't think that ever stops! And so it shouldn't maybe. They ARE a battleground for each species to desperately try and find an advantage or a niche. For me, personally, its one of the things I love about it so much. There's no place for sissies out there!
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