How to grow a nice meadow

I scattered wild flower seeds in a small area of cut meadow grass and let it grow. But it was horrible. No wild flowers, but dock, thistle, nettles etc...

Is that a meadow? It didn't look very nice. Am I doing this wrong or have I got the wrong idea about what a meadow should be?

Last edited: 20 January 2018 16:10:23

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  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 14,570

    THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF MEADOW, WITH GRASS AND WITHOUT. WITHOUT GRASS,THE FLOWERS ARE USUALLY ANNUAL. WITH GRASS, THE FLOWERS ARE OFTEN PERENNIAL WITH SOME ANNUALS MIXED IN.

    THE ONE WITH GRASS NEEDS QUITE A LOT OF CARE OVER QUITE A LOT OF TIME. FIRSTLY, THE FLOWERING PLANTS NEED POOR SOIL IF THEY ARE TO PERFORM WELL.

    OFTEN, GARDEN GRASS HAS BEEN FERTILISED OVER A NUMBER OF YEARS. IN ORDER TO MAKE THE SOIL POORER, YOU HAVE TO CUT THE GRASS AND REMOVE IT, CUT IT AND REMOVE IT, FOR SEVERAL YEARS. AS THE SOIL,BECOMES POORER, THE FLOWERS HAVE LESS COMPETITION FROM THE GRASS.

    YOU CAN HELP THIS PROCESS ALONG BY PLANTING A PLANT CALLED YELLOW RATTLE. IT IS A PARASITIC PLANT WHICH CAUSES GRASS TO GROW VERY MUCH LESS STRONGLY. 

    AFTER THE FLOWERS ARE DONE AND THEIR SEEDS ARE SET, CUT THE WHOLE MEADOW DOWN AND LEAVE THE CUT MATERIAL FOR AVOUT A WEEK TO ALLOW THE SEEDS TO FALL OUT. THEN REMOVE THE CUT GRASS AND STEMS AND COMPOST THEM.

    POOR SOIL IS THE KEY TO A HAPPY GRASS MEADOW.

    I HOPE THIS HELPS.image

    image

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 3,446

    If you have nettles growing you probably have too much nitrogen in the soil - as Pansyface says - it's too rich.

    It's actually quite a difficult thing to do from scratch. Growing perennials as plug plants and planting them in amongst grass may be easier and you'll probably get a longer flowering time than if you just have native annuals.

    Lovely corncockles PF image

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  • Thank you both for your help in this. It's much clearer now. The plot was once a small holding for growing vegetables so yes you're right; the soil is too rich. I will consider this some more even though it takes a bit of effort because it will look very nice and natural whilst restoring an environment to increase our much depleted insects.

  • Dock, thistle and nettles are greedy plants and thrive where there are high levels of nitrogen in the soil. They will over power any more desirable wild flowers which generally prefer poor soils.

    Meadow strictly refers to fields that were cut for hay, so the grasses and flowers were left to grow tall before being cleared. The hay was removed, so the nutrients did not go back into the soil.  People often think cornfield weeds such as poppies and cornflowers grow in meadows but their requirements are different.

    So first you have to decide what kind of meadow you want. You also have to think about your conditions - a damp shady place will suit different plants from a dry sunny one, and how acid or alkaline your soil is also makes a difference.

    I have 3 different 'meadow' areas in my garden.My soil is acid.

    The first is only meadowy in spring, when I leave the grass to grow longer and it has daisies, buttercups, celandine, cuckoo flowers, selfheal, violets and forget-me-nots, with red campiom and ferns at the edges. When the spring flowers finish, I mow it as normal for the rest of the summer. It is partially shaded, never fed and always green as we get plenty of rain. I weed out docks, dandelion and large plantains by hand, otherwise pretty much anything can grow as it likes.

    The second area is a summer meadow, but has loads of daffodils in spring. The grasses are left to grow long and there are some plants that grow naturally here - pignut, knapweed, hogweed, wound wort, alchemilla, buttercups and clovers and others that I grew from seed and then planted out - meadow cranesbill, betony, agrimony. It is cut to the ground in September/October and raked and all the grass removed and I mow it again if it keeps growing so that the grass is short in spring to enjoy the daffs. This patch is drier and quite sunny, again never fed and I weed out thistles, docks, nettles (it is next to the sheep field, so the edge gets too much nitrogen) rosebaywillow herb and some of the hogweeds if they get too large.

    The third patch is shaded and has a little stream running through it and it can be very wet in winter. It gets strimmed occasionally in autumn/winter if it is dry enough and I have time. Often it isn't or I don't, so it is left. This has different grasses, like tussocky deschampsia, pignut, buttercups, marsh marigolds and  cuckoo flowers. It also has a few shrub roses, camassia bulbs and a martagon lily and  bistort (Persicaria bistorta superba) and sanguisorba (burnet) which I have added. I don't feed or weed this area except to remove large rushes which would otherwise take over. I call it my exotic meadow as it has non-native plants. It always looks lovely in late spring and into summer, then No 2 takes over.

    Though I would like a mini cornfield 'meadow', I don't have one as there is nowhere  really suitable. That would need an area of freshly turned soil, not too rich, and a sunny spot, to sow seeds in. The plants would die off in autumn (they are annuals) and the stems would be removed, leaving the seeds behind to germinate for the following year.

    Sowing seeds into grass is seldom successful as the grass always has a head start. You can buy plug plants , grow them on and then plant out, choosing ones suitable for your site, or sow seeds and do the same.

    Alternatively you can strip off all the topsoil and remove it, dig the area over and buy seeds of a suitable meadow mix to sow in spring. It will take a couple of years at least for the plants to reach a balance and some may do better than others.

    You could choose mainly spring flowers and treat it like my first meadow, butt don't cut too early if you want the plants to self seed. You could choose mainly summer flowers and treat it like my second meadow. This one is the hardest work.

    Last edited: 20 January 2018 17:49:09

  • OOps - I obviously hit the word limit and got cut shortimage
    Just wanted to say the choice is yours and wish you good luckimage

  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 875

    Excellent post from Buttercup above!! Take note. Wildflower meadows are difficult. I’ve tried with varying amounts of success, mostly not success and have settled on a spring flowering meadow and mow down everything in mid to late June, which is kind of working. You need to decide whether you want a spring or a summer flowering meadow, that’s the first thing.

    Last edited: 20 January 2018 19:04:35

  • Buttercupdays, that was a truly remarkable reply to my dim question. I wish I could see ALL your meadows. Something to behold I am sure. I'm gobsmacked! Thank you very much.

    The area I can try is sloping down a bit to the north with little shade and I think it would be great to look out of the front of the house where there are views to the north, and out over a new meadow.

    It is a windy spot on a hill and I would like to hear the sound of tall grass near the house which would make it for me. So I guess I will be tending a meadow and grassy areas.

    Important advice that Redwing based on your experience and I will consider all of the valuable points and advice raised in this posting. Thank you.

    You take care everyone. If I manage something worth showing I'll upload the pics in the coming years.

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