Prime meadow garden errors – and tips on how to keep away from them – The Center-Sized Backyard

January twenty ninth, 2022
Posted In: Wildlife & eco

We’ve made just a few 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 needed a always 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 offer it time? I requested wildlife backyard landscaper and skilled, Joel Ashton.

So I requested recommendation from award-winning backyard landscaper Joel Ashton, writer 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 writer of Wild Your Backyard, Joel Ashton has appeared often 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 for those who’re planning to make a small backyard pond. He additionally covers tips on how to make meadow lawns, together with each different facet of wildlife in gardens and has interviewed specialists similar to David Attenborough, Chris Packham and Alan Titchmarsh.

Frequent meadow garden errors – not fascinated about the soil

Joel explains tips on how to 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 might have to scrape off or strip out essentially the most fertile soil. Then you possibly can replant with meadow grasses and flowers. You may sow seed, use plug vegetation or purchase a specialist meadow garden turf. You’ll get a ravishing meadow garden or mini meadow.

However there are completely different points for those who simply cease mowing. We didn’t wish to destroy a big colony of ground-nesting bees in our entrance garden. So we simply stopped mowing and added a number of wildflower seed. Thus far, none of it has come up.

Conventional garden grasses are too vigorous

When you 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 effectively established, Joel explains.

That doesn’t imply you can’t flip it right into a meadow garden patch. However it is going to take time and also you’ll have to assist it. Maybe one of many largest 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. ‘When you haven’t used fertiliser or weedkiller in your garden for years, and when you’ve got mown it repeatedly, eradicating the cuttings, you will have ‘a meadow garden determined to develop.’

On this first 12 months, our garden grasses overwhelmed the seeds we’d sown. And so they additionally suppressed the expansion of any lengthy dormant seeds that could be there.

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

Use 9cm vegetation for an on the spot impact

Joel suggests shopping for 9cm plug vegetation 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 Crops to Embrace, he recommends perennials similar to Ox-eye daisies, Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) and Black knapweed (Centaurea nigra).

His e book, Wild Your Backyard, has a helpful part on the again with lists of vegetation for numerous varieties of meadows, soils and conditions. I picked out cowslip, darkish mullein (Verbascum nigrum) and Area scabious (Knautia arvensis) as vegetation that might go well with our usually 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 vegetation.

After all, vegetation in 9cm pots are costlier than seeds or plug vegetation, so that will limit what number of you should purchase. As soon as the meadow is established, they need to unfold naturally.

However you could possibly 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. Picture copyright Joel Ashton.

Easy methods to eliminate floppy, inexperienced grass and have extra wildflowers

Joel suggests two methods of weakening the garden grasses in a longtime garden for those who don’t wish to take away the turf.

The seasonal meadow

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

The garden doesn’t develop so quick after mid-summer. It would give the late season wildflowers, similar to 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 possibility is to mow actually brief in early autumn after which scarify the garden totally. Scarifying is utilizing a rake to clear the garden of lifeless grass, creeping roots and moss. It’ll skinny the garden grass out and provides seeds the possibility to develop.

It is best to then sow yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) to weaken the garden grasses additional.  You may sow seed immediately the next autumn. Or you should purchase plug vegetation 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. It is best to then be capable to sow wildflower seeds or plug vegetation within the years after that.

Relying on how a lot yellow rattle you plant, it could take just a few years for it to work its means by way 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 in other places annually. It’s an annual, which grows, flowers and dies in a single 12 months, dropping its seeds for subsequent 12 months’s vegetation.

Meadow garden errors with weeding

We now have an infestation of floor elder that I’ve battled to comprise. Common mowing saved it out of the garden, however after 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 advocate chemical options,’ he says.

However for those who depart pervasive weeds within the garden, they may take over. The wildflowers shall be crowded out.

That are wildflowers and that are weeds?

Most of the vegetation advisable for a perennial wildflower meadow are thought-about weeds in a backyard context.

So you might have to re-think your strategy to weeds and gardening usually. 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 lots of self-seeded vegetation, which additionally means lots of weeds. See Self-seeded vegetation vs weeds!

Books similar to Jack Wallington’s Wild About Weeds -Backyard Design with Insurgent Crops present tips on how to work with weeds somewhat than battle towards them. See our interview with Jack right here.

Keep away from planting ‘invasive’ weeds

And a few vegetation are effectively behaved wildflowers after they’re at residence. Exported to a different nation, they’ll change into noxious, invasive weeds and might 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 international locations, it’s thought-about a dangerously invasive weed.

That is one motive why shopping for wildflower seed mixes could be one of many extra harmful meadow garden errors. It is best to learn the listing of contents fastidiously with the intention to make it possible for not one of the vegetation included are invasive in your a part of the world.

Do you have to plant native wildflowers in a meadow garden?

The definition of ‘native vegetation’ varies, however they’re actually vegetation which have grown in an space for 1000’s of years. Native wildlife has developed to rely on them for meals and shelter.

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

So Joel says that you must concentrate on native wildflowers for meadow lawns or different wild areas.

But in addition take into account ‘nectar borders’

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

Nectar border by Hazelwood Landscapes

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

Some vegetation which were launched to the UK, similar to salvias and verbena bonariensis, are vastly well-liked with our bees, butterflies, moths and different wildlife.

Some individuals really feel that you must solely develop native vegetation 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 vegetation with the intention to present most sources for pollinators.

Does weeding and mowing a meadow garden hurt wildlife?

We didn’t wish to dig our entrance garden or take away turf as a result of we didn’t wish 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 picture of one of many ground-nesting bees in our entrance backyard. I really like his little face.

There’s little doubt, nevertheless, that one of many largest meadow garden errors is to assume that you could simply depart the garden to take care of itself. I do must each weed it and lower it, though the chopping is simply yearly.

Joel says that every one human actions and occupation influence wildlife. So after we dig a wildlife pond or create a meadow garden, we might be disturbing or disrupting wildlife. ‘You may’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.’

Word that scything a garden or chopping 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 just a few inches of grass, the place the tiny ones, similar to caterpillar larvae, can wait till spring.

Extra about Joel Ashton

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

You can too comply with 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 try his YouTube channel Wild Your Backyard with Joel Ashton. It has wonderful movies on tips on how to make your backyard extra wildlife-friendly.

And for those who’d prefer to see our full dialog about making a profitable meadow garden, see the video right here.

Youtube video on wildflower meadow lawns

And for those who’d like a standard garden however not an excessive amount of work….

When you’ve determined you’d somewhat stick to a standard garden, there are methods of constructing it much less effort. Garden grass, whether or not it’s a meadow or a standard garden, supplies habitat for wildlife and lawns take up warmth and carbon dioxide.

They’re an enormous asset to gardens and could be very environmentally pleasant, supplied you don’t use too many chemical substances or water them in a drought. For extra about selecting the best garden on your life-style, see this interview with David Hedges Gower of the Garden Affiliation on Do You Actually Want a Good Garden?

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How to avoid wildflower meadow mistakes

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