Perennial meadows thrive on nutrient poor soil so the first step is to assess the fertility of the area you wish to start a meadow. If dock leaves, dandelions and thistles are thriving, this indicates the site is pretty fertile and more suitable for annual flowers.
However, if the grass is short and there is bare soil, then this is an indication that a seed mix for a perennial meadows is needed. The mix contains approximately four times more dwarf grasses than wild flowers, so if the ground is too fertile, the grasses will grow tall, obscuring the wild flowers.
If you wish to have a perennial meadow and your garden is over fertile, there are two solutions, both involve reducing the vigour of wild grasses. The first is to starve the grasses of nutrients by stripping the site of top soil to reveal the poorer sub-soil beneath. The other, which involves less cost and effort, is to grow yellow rattle, a pretty wildflower, and a practice that wild flower specialist Charles Flower has spent many years refining.
Want to grow a perennial meadow? Take a look at our 5 simple steps…
5 simple steps for starting a perennial meadow
1. If the ground is fertile, remove the top 5cm (2in) layer and lightly break up the sub-soil. Eradicate persistent weeds such as dock, nettle, dandelion and thistle – on neglected plots, this could take a year or longer
2. Sow wild flower seed between March and September (depending on soil type), to flower the following year. Sow yellow rattle in autumn to control grasses
3. During the first year whilst the seedlings establish, the ground must be regularly cut to suppress competing plants
4. Once established, maintain the meadow by cutting in late July using a strimmer or scythe, leaving cut plant matter to sit for a week on the surface to allow seed to drop
5. Cut regularly through autumn, raking up the cut growth to mimic the traditional pattern of hay making. Many of the flowers are self-seeding, so will shed their seed onto the soil for next year
Make a wildflower lawn
Wildflowers can be added to an average lawn possessing a few weeds, as long as the turf is made up of fine grasses with no ryegrass. Over a small area, add more types of flowers by planting plug plants in autumn, raise your own from seed in pots or sow in bare patches. Try naturalising crocuses, violets, snowdrops, cowslips, primroses, snakes head fritillary and camassias, but remember to suspend cutting from late winter to early summer.