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Can I plant a mini wildflower meadow in the poorest of soil?

I'm new to the forum and would like to sow a wildflower meadow in my garden. I know these plants like poor soils, but much of my garden (a 1930s property) is full of builders' rubble, or the remians of a previous building's foundations that have never been properly removed. The grass grows patchily, or not at all, on land in which stones and rubble are packed a few inches - sometimes only 2 or so inches - beneath the surface. To treat this ground with a view to growing a decent lawn would require a digger and the application of new top soil.

Will wildflower meadow plants grow in these conditions? I watched Gardeners' World last night and saw Monty cutting and raking grass before sowing seeds. Will this technique work, or will I better off creating raised beds of spent compost/soil in which to sow seeds?

Thanks for any suggestions.


  • ForTheBeesForTheBees Posts: 168
    edited August 2019
    Yes. It'll take longer for everything to become established but long term you should have less issues with grass and other unwanted plants trying to take over.

    "If a client wants to create a new meadow from an area of good soil, Pam has found that the most effective way to create it (in areas under a quarter of an acre), is to isolate (rather than removing) the over-fertile topsoil. This she does by covering it with a layer of Terram, Mypex, old carpet (whatever suits the budget and size best) and then spreading a depth of 150-200mm of substrate: limestone chippings or other nutrient-poor material (sand, gravel, rubble, chalk) on top."
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,848
    When we moved into an old farmhouse in Northumberland, it had a concrete farmyard behind it.  The farmer who sold us the house came and broke up the concrete, taking it away to make a road in his field.  What was left behind was hard core, rubble, stones and a bit of compacted soil.  We left it for 6 months, concentrating on getting the house ship-shape, and a lot of plants germinated in the area; the seeds must have already been in the rubble and soil, and were almost all old-fashioned cornfield weeds - poppies, corn marigold, hearts-ease pansies, mayweed, ox-eye daisies etc.  It looked really pretty!

    So I think it might be worth your while to sow a trial area, with really tough wild flowers, such as a "cornfield mixture" - and see what happens.  They like disturbed soil so you'd need to rake it about a bit before sowing, and if you wanted the annual plants (poppies etc) to carry on from year to year, you'd need to rake it up again in the autumn to encourage the new seeds to germinate...
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 6,320
    So I think it might be worth your while to sow a trial area, with really tough wild flowers, 
    I'd start with ox-eye daisies. They are amazingly tough and they act as a 'pioneer' species, allowing other plants to germinate close to their roots. You'll get docks - you have to be pretty vigilant getting them out while they are small or they take over.

    But generally I think the answer is yes. Not all wildflowers will grow in those conditions, but there are a lot that will
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • We sowed and planted an area that had not been touched for over 30 years apart from mowing - it was formerly a grass/weed area that had been left for many years.  We raked part of the area and sowed wild flower and grass seed.  We only mow it once or twice a year now - late summer and around January time.  I wouldn't use raised beds only because I think they look too contrived and to me the idea of a wild flower area is to look natural and untouched by human hand. That's my opinion @pjwizon
  • Nick_MannNick_Mann SomersetPosts: 13
    It sounds ideal for wildflowers. Low fertility soils are great for them as they don't get out-competed by weeds like dock and nettle or grass. I would remove the worst of any rubble sticking out to make future management easier though! Maybe go for a mix of perennials with a few cornfield annuals to give you some colour as it develops.
  • I have wild flower in two areas in my garden, the first area was on exposed foundations for the conservatory - I just added a little well used compost and we've had the most spectacular show this year. The other area is on a mix of soil and gravel and again has done well. Wildflower are so special, good luck :)
  • IamweedyIamweedy Cheshire East. Posts: 1,364
    I have thought of trying to get some wild flowers in my garden but Mr Green Thumb is a bit too zealous. As a lone gardener with  a hubby who does not get plants it is hard work. 

    'You must have some bread with it me duck!'

  • I feel for you @lamweedy I have a constant battle here with the threat of the use of weed killer for instant results in the driveway, against me who would rather garden naturally.  So far I have managed to keep the weeds under control, but OH is all for a quick result.  However I seem to be winning the wild flower/weed battle - the results speak for themselves - so much more wildlife since we introduced a bit of untidiness in the garden. Good luck.

  • For areas with lots of grass use plug plants rather than seed. Seed really only works well where there is no grass to outcompete it. You could dig up or kill the grass before applying a seed mix. I'd buy a couple of general-purpose seed mixes and sprinkle them liberally. You will soon find out which flowers like the conditions of your garden and these will seed and multiple. The ones that find it tough growing will just not grow or not seed successfully. I would buy online from a specialist - don't just grab something cheap from B&Q. The quality is usually much higher and the prices are not that different. 
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