Do you fancy a mini meadow garden?
There has been a recent surge of interest in people letting part of their lawns grow wild because it is aesthetically pleasing and can assist local wildlife. This shift in thinking began around 10 years ago when people were first captivated by the meadow gardens at the 2012 London Olympics. Now, as we approach 2022, more and more people are asking themselves “should we let part of the lawn grow longer?”
A mini meadow can work in a smaller space, such as a middle-sized garden. You won’t be able to fit as many flowers and grasses, but you can still create a beautiful space.
Amanda and Julian Mannering have a garden behind their terraced house that is open to the public every June. The garden is about 50ft x 60ft and has borders all around it. They had a standard square lawn in the middle of the garden, but they were not happy with it.
One day, a friend of mine was standing in the middle of a lawn and asked me what it was for.
A meadow garden breaks up the space
So Julian and Amanda decided to turn the middle of the lawn into an area with wildflowers.
They created a space by mowing around a 30ft x 30ft square and leaving a path in the middle.
They were told by friends that it would never work, and that they would have to remove the turf.
Or you can just let the grass grow…
I have several friends with mini meadow gardens. None of them took the time to properly plan it out. They all just let the grass grow. It’s beneficial to know that these meadows are all perennial. If it were annual, the soil would need to be cleared.
Kirwan is a conceptual artist who allowed her lawn to grow long. She never added seeds or plug plants, yet ox-eye daisies began to appear. Kirwan says the daisies came from nowhere.
Although Amanda and Julian didn’t do a lot of meadow planting, they did add some wildflower seeds from Emorsgate Seeds. Emorsgate Seeds sell different meadow seeds that are suitable for various types of soil.
Every year, Amanda and Julian saw different wildflowers emerge in their meadow. The first year they saw cowslips and wild carrots, but the wild carrot seems to have almost disappeared.
You still have to weed a mini meadow garden
Some weeds spread very easily and can takeover a garden, such as medick, docks, thistles, and dandelions.
You will have to remove them from your meadow garden regularly or they will take over.
Sow yellow rattle to weaken the grass
As advised, Amanda and Julian sowed yellow rattle in the second year to weaken the grass, which has proven to be effective.
Sarah Raven believes that sowing yellow rattle is the key to creating a mini meadow. This is because yellow rattle is a parasitic plant that will reduce the amount of lawn grass present. This, in turn, will create more opportunities for wildflowers to establish themselves.
A friend recently asked me why her mini-meadow seemed to be flopping over with flattened grass. She had simply allowed lawn turf to grow long. It was too thick and rich. I advised her to add a yellow rattle to thin it out.
Joel Ashton is an expert in creating gardens that are friendly to wildlife and good for the environment. He says that typical lawns are often too rich and vibrant, like my friend’s lawn. The meadow flowers will have a hard time getting established in the dense grass. He recommends planting 9cm plug plants instead of sowing seeds or planting seedlings.
Add flowers as well as letting them grow
Amanda’s sister-in-law gave her half a dozen ox-eye daisies from her own meadow lawn. These have since multiplied into thousands.
Amanda and Julian also planted wild grass seeds to make the original grass more diverse.
So is a meadow garden less work?
It takes Julian and Amanda about twenty minutes to mow the lawn once a week, which is much less time than they would spend mowing if the whole garden was traditional lawn.
Weeding and planting seeds or appropriate meadow plants is necessary in the early days.
The text is discussing scything, which is the practice of cutting grass with a scythe. It usually occurs once a year, sometime between mid-July and mid-August. The speaker took a scything course and learned that it only takes about half an hour to complete. They advise that anyone who wants to learn how to scythe should take a course so they know how to do it properly. After the grass is cut, the speaker says that it’s important to remove the cut grass so it doesn’t add nutrients back into the soil.
“It’s generally a bit less work raking in the winter,” Amanda said. “But it’s a different sort of work that’s done at different times.”
U.K. residents are encouraged not to mow their lawns during the month of May in order to provide food for pollinators.
If you cut your grass less often, you can create a partial mini meadow, which is called a ‘nectar lawn.’ This is when clover, daisies, and other low flowers emerge for pollinators before the next mowing. I first heard about this from Jane Moore, who is the head gardener of the Bath Priory Hotel and the author of Planting for Butterflies.
She has two types of lawn – a meadow lawn and a traditional lawn. She’s observed that the meadow lawn, with its longer grass, is more resistant to drought than the traditional lawn.
Preparing for a Wildflower Garden
Although it may seem like a “wild look” doesn’t require much effort, there is actually a good amount of planning and effort that goes into achieving it. The majority of the effort is in getting it started.
- Chose an ideal site. You should find one with full to partial sun. If you want the plants to sustain themselves, they need agreeable conditions.
- Weed control is paramount. Weeds are a successful wildflower garden’s biggest threat. Of course, only you can determine what a weed or wildflower is, but for the sake of simplicity, you should start your garden with a clean palette and remove all existing vegetation. There are two proven methods of doing this.
- Weed or remove sod by hand. If you are starting with a small area or if you are planting where the healthy grass is growing, this may be your best option.
- Solarization is a good way to kill all vegetation, including most seeds. Mow the area to be planted as low as your lawnmower will allow. Water the area well, and cover securely with clear plastic sheeting, leaving it there to bake in the sun for six to eight weeks. This method relies on cooperation from the weather, and you will probably still want to remove the dead vegetation before reseeding.
- Till the soil shallowly. Aim for a depth of about three inches once the existing vegetation is removed. You don’t want to uncover and encourage more weeds.
- Rake and level the soil. Leave the grooves left from raking to help hold the seeds and give them contact with the soil.
Which meadow plants to choose – perennial meadow or annual meadow?
You will need to decide if you want to grow a perennial meadow, like Amanda and Julian, or an annual meadow, like my friends who sow seeds every year.
A perennial meadow does not need rich soil to grow, so there is no need to fertilize the lawn. Amanda and Julian’s lawn was well drained, in full sun, and met these other requirements, making it ideal for a perennial meadow.
Perennial meadow plants include ox-eye daisies and cowslips.
Annual meadows do best in soil that is richer, soChoose annual meadows If you are looking to replace an existing border in your yard. Plants that do well in annual meadows include cornflowers, corn poppy, corn marigold, and corncockle.
In a video posted by Lucy Chamberlain of the Cottage Garden School, she shows the meadow garden she created and explains how easy it is to do. All she did was rotavate the land on March 20th, let it sit for two weeks, sow the seeds, and rake them in. The seed blend she used consisted of annual poppy, cornflower, corn marigold, and corn chamomile. No watering was necessary.
Amanda has tried to grow cornflowers on her meadow lawn, but they have not thrived. She suspects that slugs have eaten them, but it is also possible that the soil is not rich enough, as it is a perennial meadow.
A meadow that is replanted every year is annual, while a meadow that doesn’t need to be replanted and sorts itself out is perennial.
A wildflower garden can become established and continue to self-sow without becoming too invasive. Perennials won’t bloom the first year, but an occasional overseeding will help to maintain the balance of plants. This can be done every couple of years or whenever you notice an imbalance.
If you’re trying to create a meadow-like area with a lot of plants, you should include some turf grasses in your mixture. This will help to fill in thin spots and discourage weeds. In areas with colder climates, Hardy fescues are a good choice. In warmer climates, Kentucky 31 or tall fescue are preferred. Ryegrass and bluegrass are not good choices because they are too competitive with flowers. You should use about 25 pounds of grass seed per acre.
After the plants are established, they will not need much attention.
- Watering during dry spells will keep things looking their best and won’t spoil the plants, making them dependent on your care.
- Weeds will try and invade, but wildflowers grow densely and initial weeding should be very minimal, becoming less and less as the garden fills in.
- “Mowing” is the major maintenance chore. In the late fall, after the annuals have gone to seed and the perennials are dormant, the whole area should be mowed down to a height of about four to six inches. If your area is too large to even consider chopping by hand, mow at the highest setting your lawnmower has. What you are doing is ensuring the seed heads drop while tidying the appearance of the garden and discouraging the growth of any woody perennials that might take over.
Can you plant a mini meadow anywhere?
For a mini wildflower meadow to grow well, it needs to be in full sun and have well-drained soil. Shady areas are not good for this type of meadow.
If you want to grow a meadow in an area with dappled shade, you will need to specifically select meadow turf mats and wildflower seed mixes that are designed to grow in that type of environment. For example, The Grass People have a shaded area meadow mix. However, it is not possible to grow a meadow of any size in a very shady patch.
The Meadowmat has a pre-grown mat of wildflowers and grasses that cost £42 a square meter. The wildflowers and grasses are happy to grow in partial or dappled shade.
Other options for your yard exist if you do not want a traditional lawn.
The Abbey Physic Garden will be open to the public on Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day. Recently, the garden has added a section of chamomile lawn by a new bench, as well as a small patch of ‘grass-free lawn.’ Gardeners can find plenty of wildflower or eco-friendly gardening ideas at the Abbey Physic, which is also a lovely place to visit.
What about meadow gardens instead of flowers in borders?
The best way to grow annual meadow plants is in raised beds that used to be borders or in other raised beds because the soil is richer. You need to start with clear, weeded soil and an open, sunny bed.
If you sow a wildflower seed mix, you can expect stunning results of different colors over a 3-4 month period.
The kit comes with everything you need to sow your own 3m2 wildflower meadow. The most popular and best-reviewed wildflower and meadow seed mix on Amazon is Plantworks 3 m Mini-meadow Easy Sow Wildflower Seed by Empathy. All of the seeds in the mix are RHS approved ‘Perfect for Pollinators.’ The kit comes with all of the necessary materials to sow your own 3m2 wildflower meadow.
Rootgrow is a powder that is endorsed by the RHS that helps roots get established and improves take-up of nutrients and water. I have used Rootgrow on all my plantings this year, and everything so far looks super healthy.
- Build your beds the fall before you intend to plant. You won’t have to fight all the annual weeds sprouting in the spring, and you won’t get impatient and be tempted to skip steps in your preparation.
- The best time to plant wildflowers is in the spring, to give them a good long season to get established and set seed. If you are starting later in the summer, be sure you have at least eight to 10 weeks before frost if you want them to self-sow.
- “Frost seeding” is possible in Zones 6 and up. Wait until the ground begins to freeze, and then broadcast the seeds. Or you can put it off until very early spring when the ground is just starting to thaw. The seeds will get adequate moisture from the snow and good contact with the soil through heaving (periods of thawing and refreezing). Of course, this also requires that you prepare the bed the preceding fall.
- Consider building walkways in your meadow, so that you can get out there and enjoy the view.
- A bonus of a wildflower garden is the wildlife it attracts, including butterflies, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects.