There is a wide variety of wildflower seeds and meadow mixtures on the market. It may seem quite easy, just buy the desired species and sow the seeds onto your meadow and let them grow. However, there is a problem...

A tiny seedling canít survive under a thick jungle of grass leaves in a nutrient-enriched lawn. The seedling above is a cowslip growing in a pot and the 'jungle' is my meadow. Both pictures above were taken on 22 May 2006. If you sow seeds directly onto your meadow, most will fail.

This picture shows cowslip seedlings on 28 5 06. These grew from seeds sown in pots the previous autumn. Notice how small they are even though it is almost June.

At the beginning of the project, I purchased wildflower seeds and some plant plugs in 2005. These I grew in pots. I also had a few plants from my previous garden including oxeye daisies, a single cowslip, wild carrot and meadow cranesbill and a few common birds-foot trefoil. I ran out of room for pots so I planted 15 cowslip plantlets directly into the meadow where the grass was relatively short. With a little bit of gardening to prevent them being swamped by surrounding vegetation they survived well and all flowered the next spring. The majority of plants were introduced to the meadow in October 2005. My method was to cut vertical slots into the ground with a spade then slide the plants into the slots before treading the turf back down. This was quick and easy to do. I did put a few plants out earlier, mainly due to a lack of space for pots in our small back garden. The cowslip, birds-foot trefoils and wild carrot flowered that year.

I spread seeds of yellow rattle onto the ground surface immediately after the July cut. July is the month that the species sheds its seeds in the wild, so it seemed the right thing to do. The very close cut had left the ground quite bare in places, which may have helped the delicate seedlings establish themselves the following spring after a period of winter frosts had broken their dormancy. Yellow rattle can be difficult to introduce into an established and dense grass sward as the young seedlings are easily out-shaded by tall vegetation. I was very keen to have yellow rattle in the sward, as it is a hemi-parasite that gleans part of its nutrients from the plants around if the seedlings can survive for the first few weeks after germination. It could contribute to reducing the dominance of the grasses in my meadow allowing more wild flowers to thrive. It is also looks pretty and is an excellent source of nectar for bumblebees.

In two instances, I was less than ruthless in my management strategy. The single cowslip in 2005 had not yet shed its seed when it was time for the July cut so I mowed round it. I eventually harvested the seeds in late August, which I sowed straight into pots. The seeds germinated the following spring and I grew them on to be planted out in the meadow in autumn 2006. I also mowed round the wild carrot and an oxeye daisy and a birds-foot trefoil. I sowed the seeds from these directly into the meadow as I was running out of space for pots.

The same pot on 16 August. The plants had grown well in the absence of any competition.

By 2009 the colonisation by flowers had progressed well. It had become apparent that several species had spread quite well under the annual mowing regime without any additional help from me. These species include common cat's-ear, wild carrot, oxeye daisy, yellow rattle and black knapweed. To a lesser degree corncockle, birdsfoot trefoil and cowslips had also spread. Therefore, it should be possible to create a reasonable meadow without having to pot up then dig in any plants at all. I am considering experimenting on a small piece of lawn between the house and the road to see what comes up if I just sow and mow.

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