Can anyone advise on what plants to leave when sowing wildflower meadow perennials?

pjwizonpjwizon Posts: 17
edited 18 August in Wildlife gardening
I'm planning to sow wildflower meadow perennials in some of my 'lawn'. The grass is rough and very patchy - the soil is poor, full of stones etc, sandy and well drained. Grass struggles to grow in it. I'm hoping it will be suitable for wildflower meadow perennials. 

I've not cut the grass for about a month to see what comes up, and lots of small yellow flowers have grown. I assume they're some sort of dandelion (consulting the Collins guide to wild flowers is not very helpful as there are hundreds of plants that look similar). Can anyone confirm from this picture what they are? Should I weed out these flowers before sowing meadow seed, or leave them? A lot of them will be removed when I rake up the grass to expose the soil, but a number will be left. 

Thanks for any advice.




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  • Stephanie29Stephanie29 HampshirePosts: 17
    You are right, the lawn isn't doing well. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's poor soil, dandelions like rich clay soil. You can look up your soil type here:

    You can order wildflower seeds for specific conditions from Emorsgate. I got a bag of ox-eye-daisies three years ago and they are excellent.
    I wonder whether it's better to dig over the area, in which you want to establish perennial wildflowers. In my experience, the rye grass in lawns tend to take over and deprive the wildflowers of light, before they are strong enough to stand up to the bully.

  • ElothirElothir Posts: 24
    edited 18 August
    Can't really help identifying it myself as the most I know is that there are dozens and dozens of 'Dandelion-like' flowers. 

    However this site ( https://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Menu2/Family/FamilyInfo/Info_Asteraceae.htm#HIERACIUM ) does have some useful pictures/tips for identifying them and the differences between them so maybe have a look and compare with the different Hawkbit's, Hawkweeds, Hawksbeards etc 

    For instance does it look particularly like this: https://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Flowers/C/Catsear/Catsear.htm or https://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Flowers/H/Hawkbit(Rough)/Hawkbit(Rough).htm


  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 3,166
    It looks like a Hawkbit, but difficult to know which. Could be the Lesser Hawkbit, Leontodon Taraxacoides or Scorzoneroides Autumnalis.
  • Stephanie29Stephanie29 HampshirePosts: 17
    Elothir said:
    Can't really help identifying it myself as the most I know is that there are dozens and dozens of 'Dandelion-like' flowers. 

    However this site ( https://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Menu2/Family/FamilyInfo/Info_Asteraceae.htm#HIERACIUM ) does have some useful pictures/tips for identifying them and the differences between them so maybe have a look and compare with the different Hawkbit's, Hawkweeds, Hawksbeards etc 

    For instance does it look particularly like this: https://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Flowers/C/Catsear/Catsear.htm or https://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Flowers/H/Hawkbit(Rough)/Hawkbit(Rough).htm


    Thanks for the links Elothir! I've been looking for such a website to identify wildflowers!
    And yes, I think it looks like Hypochaeris radicata, cats ears
  • pjwizonpjwizon Posts: 17
    You are right, the lawn isn't doing well. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's poor soil, dandelions like rich clay soil. You can look up your soil type here:

    You can order wildflower seeds for specific conditions from Emorsgate. I got a bag of ox-eye-daisies three years ago and they are excellent.
    I wonder whether it's better to dig over the area, in which you want to establish perennial wildflowers. In my experience, the rye grass in lawns tend to take over and deprive the wildflowers of light, before they are strong enough to stand up to the bully.

    Thanks for the tip about Emorsgate. The soil is definitely sandy and the pH is neutral to slightly acidic. You're right about digging over the area, but the ground is so full of rubble that I would be digging far more stones than soil. I suspect the house - a 1930s build was built on an older building site that had not been properly cleared. 

    The easier option is to rake it over aggresively and remove about 50% of the grass and plant a mix that includes Yellow Rattle as a means of controlling grasses. Is there any type of compost/organic matter that is low in nutrients that can be raked in to improve soil texture befor sowing?



  • pjwizonpjwizon Posts: 17
    edited 18 August
    Elothir said:
    Can't really help identifying it myself as the most I know is that there are dozens and dozens of 'Dandelion-like' flowers. 

    However this site ( https://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Menu2/Family/FamilyInfo/Info_Asteraceae.htm#HIERACIUM ) does have some useful pictures/tips for identifying them and the differences between them so maybe have a look and compare with the different Hawkbit's, Hawkweeds, Hawksbeards etc 

    For instance does it look particularly like this: https://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Flowers/C/Catsear/Catsear.htm or https://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Flowers/H/Hawkbit(Rough)/Hawkbit(Rough).htm


    Thanks for the links.   It does look like a Hawkbit. The plants are about 6 inches tall. Would you recommend removing them before sowing any wildflower seed?
  • Stephanie29Stephanie29 HampshirePosts: 17
    pjwizon said:
    You are right, the lawn isn't doing well. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's poor soil, dandelions like rich clay soil. You can look up your soil type here:

    You can order wildflower seeds for specific conditions from Emorsgate. I got a bag of ox-eye-daisies three years ago and they are excellent.
    I wonder whether it's better to dig over the area, in which you want to establish perennial wildflowers. In my experience, the rye grass in lawns tend to take over and deprive the wildflowers of light, before they are strong enough to stand up to the bully.

    Thanks for the tip about Emorsgate. The soil is definitely sandy and the pH is neutral to slightly acidic. You're right about digging over the area, but the ground is so full of rubble that I would be digging far more stones than soil. I suspect the house - a 1930s build was built on an older building site that had not been properly cleared. 

    The easier option is to rake it over aggresively and remove about 50% of the grass and plant a mix that includes Yellow Rattle as a means of controlling grasses. Is there any type of compost/organic matter that is low in nutrients that can be raked in to improve soil texture befor sowing?



    Organic matter, that is low in nutrients, is probably leaf mould. But if you want to improve the soil, any well rotted compost or manure will do. -Well. Maybe it doesn't need improving, as you are sowing wildflowers. If there aren't too many hawkbits or cats ears I would dig them up with this long tool for dandelions (basicly an elongated daisy grubber).
    I can see, what you mean with too much rubble and stones. I have lots of them in my garden plus clay soil. The first garden tool I bought, after moving in, was a pick axe. :D No joke!
  • ElothirElothir Posts: 24
    edited 19 August
    As far as whether you should pull them all out or not, it really depends on what you want.

    Bearing in mind they are wildflowers themselves, if you're truly going for a 'wild' look then you could just consider them some helpful volunteers, and I believe dandelions and it's relatives/look-a-likes are actually considered to be very important as a steady, reliable flower for insects.

    However, as anyone knows, a lot of them are also extremely prolific, so it's entirely possible you could sow the wildflowers you actually intended to grow and find them squeezed out in future years by these.

    Personally depending on the surroundings, and whether you have other areas you want to keep 'tidy', any neighbours (e.g if you have a neighbour with a pristine rose garden, maybe not.) etc I would be tempted to leave them and then if they do persist then just be a bit more attentive in terms of controlling them specifically, and try and catch the seed heads/clocks as much as possible. It also depends on exactly what plants you were intending to grow there, since some will be better able to compete than others most likely as a lot of 'meadow wildflowers' are actually just as, if not more rampant than dandelions.

    If you want to be on the safe side, I would dig them out, and you could always wait til a few of those flowers are spent and try and snatch up the seed heads in a jar to save if you decide you want them back later (Though bearing in mind they had to come from somewhere, it's possible you'll be seeing them again next year regardless of what you do).

    However 1) I don't have mountains of experience myself so who knows, and 2) I think Dandelions and their look-a-likes are quite pretty so I'm already favourably disposed towards them, which not everyone does. 
  • pjwizonpjwizon Posts: 17
    Thanks for the great advice that's been given. I've ordered a job lot of wild flower seeds from Emorsgate, both  various perennial mixes and some annual mixes. With these situations too much research stops me doing anything. The conditions required for this or that mix of seed seem so exacting that I can't supply the conditions, especially for perennial mixes. Either way, I'll decide over the coming weeks as this is an autumn job. The current preferred option is to weed the area, clear the grass as best I can, rotavate  some compost into it and go for a quick hit annual mix (not one that is just a blaze of poppies - something more subtle is better).  Given that we're hoping to move in the next year - tricky in the current climate - it's not worth persevering with a sandy soil perennial mix that is visually uninspiring and that I won't see. 
  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,020
    forget the compost, it encourages good grass which then overpowers the other plants. This is where the 'wild plants like poor soil' myth started I think. It's not true, there are wildflowers that like all soils, but they compete better with grass if poor soil restricts the grass
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