In the days before improving grassland became the norm our meadows were a haven where wild flowers, herbs, insects and birds might be found. During the 20th century much of this was lost but the good news is that it is possible to restore things back to how they were, both on a large farm scale down to a corner of a small garden.
So how do you go about recreating one of these natural grassy miracles?
Start by assessing your site, what kind of soil are you on, is it sunny or shady, dry or wet and what is covering it at the moment and how fertile it is are all questions to ask.
The site must then be cleaned up and cleared, simply neglecting a patch of ground and leaving it to nature may not lead to the floriferous bounty that you are seeking, with just a few of the more vigorous species such as ragwort, dock, nettle and bramble along with cultivated ryegrasses becoming dominant instead.
Clearing may involve cutting down whatever vegetation is present, treatments with herbicides and in the case over fertile ground clearing off the top few inches of soil to reveal the less fertile ground underneath.
Once the ground is free of vigorous regrowth of unwanted species it is time to move on to establishing the new plants. The soil may be cultivated to form a seed bed and a number of options to reinstate with wildflowers are available.
The quickest and perhaps most successful way of doing this is by laying wildflower turf, although excellent value for money it is also the most expensive method. The turf may be laid all year round and will contain mixed varieties of flowers and non-competitive grass species.
Individual wildflower plugs are also available during the cooler months September – April . These are less expensive than wildflower turf and have the advantage that species selection may be tailored to individual areas within a plot. They may also be planted into existing areas of grass if the growth is weak*
For larger areas seeding presents the most affordable option, after the ground has been prepared the seed may broadcast onto it and ideally lightly rolled, late August and September are the best times to be doing this.
*Whether planting into existing grass or starting from scratch it is advisable to include some yellow rattle within those species to be planted, it has a beneficial parasitic action on grasses making them less vigorous allowing other wildflowers too thrive.
Once established take a hay cut around mid-late July, it is important to remove as much cut material away as possible to avoid increasing soil fertility but allowing some seed to set and fall to earth is beneficial, essential with the yellow rattle.