Prime meadow garden errors – and how one can keep away from them – The Center-Sized Backyard


January twenty ninth, 2022 Posted In: Wildlife & eco

We’ve made a number of meadow garden errors.

We tried to create two mini meadow garden patches. Final 12 months, we stopped mowing two squares of meadow garden in our entrance backyard.

However we haven’t been pleased with the outcomes. I wished a continually altering sward of untamed flowers, not an unkempt inexperienced space with inexperienced, floppy grass filled with weeds.

Mini meadow lawn mistakes

Mini meadow garden errors? Or do I simply want to provide it time? I requested wildlife backyard landscaper and knowledgeable, Joel Ashton.

So I requested recommendation from award-winning backyard landscaper Joel Ashton, creator of Wild Your Backyard, whose firm Hazelwood Landscapes designs and installs wildlife pleasant gardens and bigger landscapes.

Talking to Joel Ashton about installing a meadow lawn

In addition to being the creator of Wild Your Backyard, Joel Ashton has appeared steadily on TV (Gardeners World, Springwatch, The Steph Present and extra), advising on wildlife pleasant gardening.

Joel additionally has a YouTube channel referred to as Wild Your Backyard with Joel Ashton. His most well-known video is a captivating time lapse of digging a backyard pond – a superb useful resource if you happen to’re planning to make a small backyard pond. He additionally covers how one can make meadow lawns, together with each different side of wildlife in gardens and has interviewed specialists resembling David Attenborough, Chris Packham and Alan Titchmarsh.

Widespread meadow garden errors – not excited about the soil

Joel explains how one can create a meadow garden in Wild About Your Backyard. To create a perennial meadow that may return yearly, you want poor soil. However backyard lawns are sometimes on comparatively wealthy, fertile soil.

So you’ll have to scrape off or strip out essentially the most fertile soil. Then you’ll be able to replant with meadow grasses and flowers. You possibly can sow seed, use plug crops or purchase a specialist meadow garden turf. You’ll get a lovely meadow garden or mini meadow.

However there are totally different points if you happen to simply cease mowing. We didn’t need to destroy a big colony of ground-nesting bees in our entrance garden. So we simply stopped mowing and added numerous wildflower seed. To this point, none of it has come up.

Conventional garden grasses are too vigorous

For those who simply cease mowing your patch of grass, it could not flip right into a wildflower meadow instantly as a result of garden grasses are sometimes too sturdy and properly established, Joel explains.

That doesn’t imply you can’t flip it right into a meadow garden patch. However it can take time and also you’ll have to assist it. Maybe one of many greatest meadow garden errors is to anticipate that it’ll appear like a meadow in its first or second 12 months.

But these wildflowers are sometimes nonetheless there, he says. ‘For those who haven’t used fertiliser or weedkiller in your garden for years, and in case you have mown it recurrently, eradicating the cuttings, you have got ‘a meadow garden determined to develop.’

On this first 12 months, our garden grasses overwhelmed the seeds we’d sown. They usually additionally suppressed the expansion of any lengthy dormant seeds which may be there.

Nonetheless, I’ve acquired quite a few buddies who created perennial mini meadows by not mowing, so I do know it may be achieved. I simply wanted to know what meadow garden errors I used to be making.

Use 9cm crops for an on the spot impact

Joel suggests shopping for 9cm plug crops that are sufficiently big to compete with the grasses, even within the first 12 months of the meadow garden. In his video on Easy methods to Make a Wildflower Meadow – Prime Vegetation to Embody, he recommends perennials resembling Ox-eye daisies, Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) and Black knapweed (Centaurea nigra).

His ebook, Wild Your Backyard, has a helpful part on the again with lists of crops for numerous forms of meadows, soils and conditions. I picked out cowslip, darkish mullein (Verbascum nigrum) and Area scabious (Knautia arvensis) as crops that may go well with our typically dry-ish climate.

Joel additionally recommends primroses, pink clover, self heal and wild strawberry nearly as good for planting right into a meadow as 9cm potted crops.

In fact, crops in 9cm pots are dearer than seeds or plug crops, so which will prohibit what number of you should purchase. As soon as the meadow is established, they need to unfold naturally.

However you possibly can additionally develop them from seed till the 9cm pot stage after which plant them out.

Wildflower meadow by Joel Ashton

A backyard wildflower meadow designed and put in by Joel Ashton and Hazelwood Landscapes. Photograph copyright Joel Ashton.

Easy methods to do away with floppy, inexperienced grass and have extra wildflowers

Joel suggests two methods of weakening the garden grasses in a longtime garden if you happen to don’t need to take away the turf.

The seasonal meadow

You can deal with your meadow garden as seasonal. ‘Garden grasses develop most vigorously in spring and early summer time,’ he says. ‘So you’ll be able to mow them till early summer time, then let the grass develop.

The garden doesn’t develop so quick after mid-summer. It can give the late season wildflowers, resembling oxeye daisies, an opportunity. However you’ll lose your spring meadow flowers – the bulbs, cowslips and primroses.’

Late season meadow lawn

These are two meadow lawns, each photographed in July with later flowering meadow flowers.

Add yellow rattle

The opposite choice is to mow actually brief in early autumn after which scarify the garden completely. Scarifying is utilizing a rake to clear the garden of useless grass, creeping roots and moss. It’ll skinny the garden grass out and provides seeds the prospect to develop.

You must then sow yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) to weaken the garden grasses additional.  You possibly can sow seed straight the next autumn. Or you should purchase plug crops to plant between March and Could.

After a 12 months of rising yellow rattle in your meadow patch, the grasses shall be much less vigorous. You must then have the ability to sow wildflower seeds or plug crops within the years after that.

Relying on how a lot yellow rattle you plant, it could take a number of years for it to work its method by means of your garden and weaken all of the grasses.

Yellow rattle

When you’ve sown yellow rattle into your meadow garden, it ought to unfold, rising somewhere else annually. It’s an annual, which grows, flowers and dies in a single 12 months, dropping its seeds for subsequent 12 months’s crops.

Meadow garden errors with weeding

We’ve got an infestation of floor elder that I’ve battled to include. Common mowing stored it out of the garden, however once we stopped mowing, the bottom elder moved into the grass.

Joel suggested me that I ought to proceed weeding it out by hand. ‘I don’t suggest chemical options,’ he says.

However if you happen to go away pervasive weeds within the garden, they are going to take over. The wildflowers shall be crowded out.

That are wildflowers and that are weeds?

Lots of the crops really helpful for a perennial wildflower meadow are thought-about weeds in a backyard context.

So you’ll have to re-think your strategy to weeds and gardening on the whole. Some weeds will invade the meadow garden, taking it over. Others have a spot in it.

However our tolerance of weeds is altering. I’ve all the time had numerous self-seeded crops, which additionally means numerous weeds. See Self-seeded crops vs weeds!

Books resembling Jack Wallington’s Wild About Weeds -Backyard Design with Insurgent Vegetation present how one can work with weeds moderately than battle in opposition to them. See our interview with Jack right here.

Keep away from planting ‘invasive’ weeds

And a few crops are properly behaved wildflowers after they’re at dwelling. Exported to a different nation, they’ll change into noxious, invasive weeds and may even be banned.

For instance, Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) is taken into account native to the UK and components of Europe. However within the US, Australia and several other different nations, it’s thought-about a dangerously invasive weed.

That is one motive why shopping for wildflower seed mixes might be one of many extra harmful meadow garden errors. You must learn the checklist of contents fastidiously in an effort to guarantee that not one of the crops included are invasive in your a part of the world.

Must you plant native wildflowers in a meadow garden?

The definition of ‘native crops’ varies, however they’re actually crops which have grown in an space for hundreds of years. Native wildlife has advanced to depend upon them for meals and shelter.

If a brand new plant is launched to a wild space, it could out-compete the native crops. And the wildlife that relied on them loses a supply of meals and shelter. Typically they’ll’t adapt shortly sufficient to the brand new crops.

So Joel says that it is best to concentrate on native wildflowers for meadow lawns or different wild areas.

But additionally think about ‘nectar borders’

Nonetheless, Hazelwood Landscapes additionally designs and installs ‘nectar borders’ in gardens. These are borders, resembling herbaceous borders, which provide most nectar for pollinating bugs.

Nectar border by Hazelwood Landscapes

Joel additionally designs and installs extra conventional borders, like this beautiful ‘nectar border’, filled with wildlife pleasant crops. He believes that many non-native crops have big advantages for pollinators when grown in a border. However he advises planting native wildflowers in meadow patches. Photograph copyright Joel Ashton.

Some crops which have been launched to the UK, resembling salvias and verbena bonariensis, are vastly in style with our bees, butterflies, moths and different wildlife.

Some individuals really feel that it is best to solely develop native crops in any a part of your backyard. However within the UK, after in depth analysis, the RHS recommends all kinds of each native and non-native crops in an effort to present most assets for pollinators.

Does weeding and mowing a meadow garden hurt wildlife?

We didn’t need to dig our entrance garden or take away turf as a result of we didn’t need to hurt the bottom nesting bees. However that’s made me nervous of doing something to it.

Ground nesting bee photographed by Molly Hollman

Photographer Molly Hollman took this superb photograph of one of many ground-nesting bees in our entrance backyard. I like his little face.

There’s little doubt, nevertheless, that one of many greatest meadow garden errors is to assume you can simply go away the garden to take care of itself. I do have to each weed it and minimize it, though the slicing is just yearly.

Joel says that each one human actions and occupation affect wildlife. So once we dig a wildlife pond or create a meadow garden, we could be disturbing or disrupting wildlife. ‘You possibly can’t make an omelette with out breaking eggs.’

In the long run, nevertheless, extra wildlife will profit from the disruption, so that you ‘have to simply accept some casualties.’

Be aware that scything a garden or slicing it with shears takes longer than utilizing a mower. That provides tiny mammals and frogs an opportunity to get out of the best way. And Joel advocates leaving a number of inches of grass, the place the tiny ones, resembling caterpillar larvae, can wait till spring.

Extra about Joel Ashton

You possibly can contact Joel Ashton about designing and putting in wildlife-friendly gardens and landscapes at Hazelwood Landscapes. They cowl all points of gardening, together with tree surgical procedure, chicken habitat creation and wildlife ponds. In addition they run wildlife gardening workshops and you’ll fee a bespoke workshop from them, too.

You may also observe Joel on Twitter or Instagram. He has appeared on Springwatch, Gardener’s World, Wild Animal Rescue, The Steph Present and different TV programmes. (For TV and writing, see

And do take a look at his YouTube channel Wild Your Backyard with Joel Ashton. It has wonderful movies on how one can make your backyard extra wildlife-friendly.

And if you happen to’d wish to see our full dialog about making a profitable meadow garden, see the video right here.

Youtube video on wildflower meadow lawns

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How to avoid wildflower meadow mistakes