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Replace gravel area with wildflower meadow

I would like to turn our front garden, which is currently all gravel, into a perennial wildflower meadow.
I've read the best time to do this is Autumn, so would like to do it in the next couple of months. I live in Edinburgh.
I am planning to grow the meadow from seed, but am open to using meadowmat turf too.

My plan is:
- Remove all the gravel and sell it/give it away
- Remove the tarpaulin underneath the gravel
- Rake the mud underneath the tarpaulin to loosen
- Cover with low fertility topsoil
- Sow a native wildflower mix (80% perennail flowers, 20% grasses)

Does this sound right? There are lots of guides online about turning existing lawns/flowerbeds into meadows, but not gravel, so I just want some reassurance that this plan is solid!

I'm not sure whether getting rid of the gravel is necessary - I'm thinking about just mixing the gravel we currently have with the low quality soil, but I'm not convinced this will work, mainly because of the tarpaulin sheet underneath the gravel.

Thank you


  • Yes getting rid of the gravel is important.
    You will also need as you say to remove the tarpaulin sheet.
    Many people say that getting wildflower plugs is a better way forward to establish a wildflower area but we haven't done this.
    We have used seeds and have had good and bad success.
    Low fertility is what most wildflowers need to establish.
    Maybe sowing some in trays to plant out in the area in the Spring to give you another angle.
    Don't give up it is a wonderful idea and the flowers and pollinators will love it even though it may take a little while to show the rewards.
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,238
    edited August 2021
    You can establish wildflowers directly into gravel, it's actually a good way of doing it, but think about how you are going to maintain it, because gravel might make mowing difficult with a mechanical lawnmower. If you were intending just to strim it and let it stay a bit rough, I think that would work. You will have to remove the tarpaulin though. Can you just whip it out like the magician's trick where he pulls the tablecloth and leaves all the plates and glasses in place?
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,238
    As an example, this guy actually imported crushed concrete, sand and all sorts of unpromising material and created a meadow-like garden of native and non native species that grow well in a 'stressed environment'. It's not a meadow as such, it isn't mown at all, I think he leaves everything standing until late winter when he strims it down and takes it away.

  • FireFire Posts: 17,116
    Gravel is fine for planting in, if you choose the right plants. Neighbours have had great success with Meadowmats and it seems a great way in. As ever, gardening isn't planting stuff - it's in the long haul and maintenance. It is good to work out a realistic plan of managing the space - what it will look like over winter, how you will manage grass insurgence, how many months of flowering you would have in Edin'gh, if and how you will cut it back, what mix you will go for - flowers or a flower/grass mix, if you will stick to native wild flowers or go wider. With very worth figuring out the details ahead of time.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,165
    I'd agree - many plants actively seed into gravel.
    You need to pick something suitable for the conditions and climate though, and bear in mind it won't be pretty over winter. For that reason alone, the gravel is best left on place, but after prepping the ground below, so it's a bit of work involved    :)

    I like @Loxley's idea out whipping out the tarpaulin  :D
    If only it was that easy.... ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • FireFire Posts: 17,116
    edited August 2021
    If you wanted to plant into the gravel (depending on the depth of the gravel) you might not have to take out the tarpaulin. You could (possibly) add some earth on the gravel. Over time the earth / wood chip will work its way through the gravel and plants will seed into it. I have done it this way over a small area. But maybe taking out the membrane is not a big job for you and you can just rake the gravel to one side. I too think gravel might look better over winter (half the year) and may prove easier to manage, if you know how you would cut back plants. It's also a good use of the resources you already have. If you try growing into gravel and don't like it and want to use Meadowmat etc, you can always try that out later. If you get rid of all the gravel and want it back, you will have to buy and transport it all over again.

    A lot of people comment on the forum that they have tried to start wildflower meadows and have found it a lot more work and faff than they thought - harder to get and fix the mix they wanted. Perennial weeds start to take over, like docks. Grasses dominate too much over time or one type of plant that thrives and becomes a thug.

    There is also in the mix an idea that wild flower meadows / Meadowmat don't have to be 'gardened' or tended and can be left to their own devices. It really isn't the case - you have to stay on it and look after it and curate it, like any other garden area. People often get disappointed when the find they couldn't just walk away and leave it.

  • B3B3 Posts: 25,252
    Many of the seeds I sowed in my front garden appeared in next door's gravel. I never saw a thing in mine.
    In London. Keen but lazy.
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