photo of child lying on a lawn

How to make a wildflower meadow

25 Jul 2017
Wildflower meadows make an eye-catching habitat for bees and other wildlife. Here are 8 easy tips to get you going.

If you’ve got a patch of grass in the garden, the chances are it will make a beautiful mini wildflower meadow. Just let the grass grow for most of the year. With the occasional horticultural tweak, you'll discover which wildflowers make an appearance. 

Wildflowers are a great, and beautiful, way to encourage our precious bees and other insects to your garden.

Follow these easy tips to create a habitat that offers food and shelter to wildlife. 

1. Cut in winter 

Cutting the grass short over winter helps weaken the grasses that compete with wildflowers. Stop cutting around the end of February to allow other meadow plants to germinate or re-emerge after winter.

2. Grow native wildflowers

You might start to spot these bee-friendly wildflowers making an appearance in your garden. To add more species to your garden, try Plantlife's wildflower selector to discover the right plant for your garden. Alternatively get our Bee Saver Kit which includes some wildflower seeds to get you started.

photo of poppies and other wildflowers  

3. Sow yellow rattle

Many meadow enthusiasts recommend sowing yellow rattle (Rhinanthus major). This is a pretty parasitic plant which weakens the grasses that compete with meadow flowers.

Top tip: lift up a section of your meadow turf and sow the seeds underneath; this is supposed to be more effective than sowing them on the surface. For a directory of native wildflower seed suppliers, go to Flora Locale

4. Create a walkway

Cut a path through the middle of your meadow or around the sides. This shows that your meadow is a deliberate feature you’re proud of – and not a patch of ground you can’t be bothered to maintain.

photo of honey bee on a wildflower meadow

 

5. Cut in late August

Traditionally, hay meadows can be cut as early as June or July, but in the garden leave your cut for as long as you can over the summer – late August is perfect. This will allow flowers to set seed and contribute to next year’s meadow display.

6. Rake off the cuttings

This is very important. After cutting your meadow in late summer – with a scythe or strimmer – rake off the cut material.

This ensures you’re not fertilising the ground underneath with decaying plants, as wild flowers prefer low-nutrient soils.

photo of child watching bee on a buttercup

 

7. Remove unwanted plants

If there is anything you don’t like the look of growing in your meadow, such as dock, simply pull it up or chop it down.

Even if unwanted plants return, constant harassment by cutting them back regularly will weaken them. They will then provide less competition for more interesting meadow species.

8. Avoid pesticides

Lawn improvers and weedkillers create conditions in which wild flowers are unlikely to prosper.

This is firstly because they might enrich your soil. Secondly it's because many wild plants are the “weeds” targeted by such products. And that’s not to mention the potential harm to other wildlife, such as bees and butterflies.

Find out more about bees, pesticides and neonicotinoids.

Friends of the Earth's Bee Saver Kit is a great way to get started with wildflowers.

Get your Bee Saver Kit