We’ve made just a few meadow garden errors.
We tried to create two mini meadow garden patches. Final 12 months, we stopped mowing two squares of meadow garden in our entrance backyard.
However we haven’t been pleased with the outcomes. I needed a always altering sward of untamed flowers, not an unkempt inexperienced space with inexperienced, floppy grass filled with weeds.
So I requested recommendation from award-winning backyard landscaper Joel Ashton, writer of Wild Your Backyard, whose firm Hazelwood Landscapes designs and installs wildlife pleasant gardens and bigger landscapes.
Joel additionally has a YouTube channel referred to as Wild Your Backyard with Joel Ashton. His most well-known video is an interesting time lapse of digging a backyard pond – a superb useful resource if you happen to’re planning to make a small backyard pond. He additionally covers methods to make meadow lawns, together with each different side of wildlife in gardens and has interviewed specialists comparable to David Attenborough, Chris Packham and Alan Titchmarsh.
Widespread meadow garden errors – not eager about the soil
Joel explains methods to create a meadow garden in Wild About Your Backyard. To create a perennial meadow that can return yearly, you want poor soil. However backyard lawns are sometimes on comparatively wealthy, fertile soil.
So you’ll have to scrape off or strip out probably the most fertile soil. Then you possibly can replant with meadow grasses and flowers. You’ll be able to sow seed, use plug vegetation or purchase a specialist meadow garden turf. You’ll get a phenomenal meadow garden or mini meadow.
However there are completely different points if you happen to simply cease mowing. We didn’t wish to destroy a big colony of ground-nesting bees in our entrance garden. So we simply stopped mowing and added numerous wildflower seed. To date, none of it has come up.
Conventional garden grasses are too vigorous
If you happen to simply cease mowing your patch of grass, it could not flip right into a wildflower meadow instantly as a result of garden grasses are sometimes too sturdy and effectively established, Joel explains.
That doesn’t imply you can’t flip it right into a meadow garden patch. However it can take time and also you’ll have to assist it. Maybe one of many greatest meadow garden errors is to count on that it’s going to appear like a meadow in its first or second 12 months.
But these wildflowers are sometimes nonetheless there, he says. ‘If you happen to haven’t used fertiliser or weedkiller in your garden for years, and you probably have mown it recurrently, eradicating the cuttings, you may have ‘a meadow garden determined to develop.’
On this first 12 months, our garden grasses overwhelmed the seeds we’d sown. They usually additionally suppressed the expansion of any lengthy dormant seeds that could be there.
Nevertheless, I’ve received a lot of pals who created perennial mini meadows by not mowing, so I do know it may be finished. I simply wanted to know what meadow garden errors I used to be making.
Use 9cm vegetation for an instantaneous impact
Joel suggests shopping for 9cm plug vegetation that are large enough to compete with the grasses, even within the first 12 months of the meadow garden. In his video on Easy methods to Make a Wildflower Meadow – High Crops to Embody, he recommends perennials comparable to Ox-eye daisies, Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) and Black knapweed (Centaurea nigra).
His e-book, Wild Your Backyard, has a helpful part on the again with lists of vegetation for numerous varieties of meadows, soils and conditions. I picked out cowslip, darkish mullein (Verbascum nigrum) and Subject scabious (Knautia arvensis) as vegetation that will swimsuit our usually dry-ish climate.
Joel additionally recommends primroses, purple clover, self heal and wild strawberry nearly as good for planting right into a meadow as 9cm potted vegetation.
In fact, vegetation in 9cm pots are dearer than seeds or plug vegetation, so which will limit what number of you should buy. As soon as the meadow is established, they need to unfold naturally.
However you can additionally develop them from seed till the 9cm pot stage after which plant them out.
Easy methods to do away with floppy, inexperienced grass and have extra wildflowers
Joel suggests two methods of weakening the garden grasses in a longtime garden if you happen to don’t wish to take away the turf.
The seasonal meadow
You might deal with your meadow garden as seasonal. ‘Garden grasses develop most vigorously in spring and early summer season,’ he says. ‘So you possibly can mow them till early summer season, then let the grass develop.
The garden doesn’t develop so quick after mid-summer. It is going to give the late season wildflowers, comparable to oxeye daisies, an opportunity. However you’ll lose your spring meadow flowers – the bulbs, cowslips and primroses.’
Add yellow rattle
The opposite possibility is to mow actually quick in early autumn after which scarify the garden completely. Scarifying is utilizing a rake to clear the garden of useless grass, creeping roots and moss. It’ll skinny the garden grass out and provides seeds the possibility to develop.
You need to then sow yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) to weaken the garden grasses additional. You’ll be able to sow seed instantly the next autumn. Or you should buy plug vegetation to plant between March and Might.
After a 12 months of rising yellow rattle in your meadow patch, the grasses can be much less vigorous. You need to then be capable of sow wildflower seeds or plug vegetation within the years after that.
Relying on how a lot yellow rattle you plant, it could take just a few years for it to work its approach by your garden and weaken all of the grasses.
Meadow garden errors with weeding
We’ve got an infestation of floor elder that I’ve battled to include. Common mowing saved it out of the garden, however once we stopped mowing, the bottom elder moved into the grass.
Joel suggested me that I ought to proceed weeding it out by hand. ‘I don’t suggest chemical options,’ he says.
However if you happen to go away pervasive weeds within the garden, they may take over. The wildflowers can be crowded out.
That are wildflowers and that are weeds?
Lots of the vegetation really useful for a perennial wildflower meadow are thought of weeds in a backyard context.
So you’ll have to re-think your strategy to weeds and gardening generally. Some weeds will invade the meadow garden, taking it over. Others have a spot in it.
However our tolerance of weeds is altering. I’ve all the time had plenty of self-seeded vegetation, which additionally means plenty of weeds. See Self-seeded vegetation vs weeds!
Books comparable to Jack Wallington’s Wild About Weeds -Backyard Design with Insurgent Crops present methods to work with weeds fairly than battle towards them. See our interview with Jack right here.
Keep away from planting ‘invasive’ weeds
And a few vegetation are effectively behaved wildflowers after they’re at house. Exported to a different nation, they will turn out to be noxious, invasive weeds and may even be banned.
For instance, Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) is taken into account native to the UK and components of Europe. However within the US, Australia and several other different international locations, it’s thought of a dangerously invasive weed.
That is one purpose why shopping for wildflower seed mixes will be one of many extra harmful meadow garden errors. You need to learn the listing of contents rigorously with a purpose to be sure that not one of the vegetation included are invasive in your a part of the world.
Do you have to plant native wildflowers in a meadow garden?
The definition of ‘native vegetation’ varies, however they’re actually vegetation which have grown in an space for 1000’s of years. Native wildlife has developed to depend upon them for meals and shelter.
If a brand new plant is launched to a wild space, it could out-compete the native vegetation. And the wildlife that relied on them loses a supply of meals and shelter. Usually they will’t adapt shortly sufficient to the brand new vegetation.
So Joel says that you must concentrate on native wildflowers for meadow lawns or different wild areas.
But additionally take into account ‘nectar borders’
Nevertheless, Hazelwood Landscapes additionally designs and installs ‘nectar borders’ in gardens. These are borders, comparable to herbaceous borders, which provide most nectar for pollinating bugs.
Some vegetation which have been launched to the UK, comparable to salvias and verbena bonariensis, are massively standard with our bees, butterflies, moths and different wildlife.
Some individuals really feel that you must solely develop native vegetation in any a part of your backyard. However within the UK, after in depth analysis, the RHS recommends all kinds of each native and non-native vegetation with a purpose to present most assets for pollinators.
Does weeding and mowing a meadow garden hurt wildlife?
We didn’t wish to dig our entrance garden or take away turf as a result of we didn’t wish to hurt the bottom nesting bees. However that’s made me nervous of doing something to it.
There’s little question, nonetheless, that one of many greatest meadow garden errors is to suppose that you may simply go away the garden to take care of itself. I do have to each weed it and lower it, though the slicing is barely every year.
Joel says that every one human actions and occupation affect wildlife. So once we dig a wildlife pond or create a meadow garden, we might be disturbing or disrupting wildlife. ‘You’ll be able to’t make an omelette with out breaking eggs.’
In the long run, nonetheless, extra wildlife will profit from the disruption, so that you ‘have to simply accept some casualties.’
Observe that scything a garden or slicing it with shears takes longer than utilizing a mower. That offers tiny mammals and frogs an opportunity to get out of the way in which. And Joel advocates leaving just a few inches of grass, the place the tiny ones, comparable to caterpillar larvae, can wait till spring.
Extra about Joel Ashton
You’ll be able to contact Joel Ashton about designing and putting in wildlife-friendly gardens and landscapes at Hazelwood Landscapes. They cowl all facets of gardening, together with tree surgical procedure, fowl habitat creation and wildlife ponds. Additionally they run wildlife gardening workshops and you’ll fee a bespoke workshop from them, too.
You can too observe Joel on Twitter or Instagram. He has appeared on Springwatch, Gardener’s World, Wild Animal Rescue, The Steph Present and different TV programmes. (For TV and writing, see joelashton.com)
And do try his YouTube channel Wild Your Backyard with Joel Ashton. It has wonderful movies on methods to make your backyard extra wildlife-friendly.
And if you happen to’d wish to see our full dialog about making a profitable meadow garden, see the video right here.
And if you happen to’d like a standard garden however not an excessive amount of work….
If you happen to’ve determined you’d fairly persist with a standard garden, there are methods of constructing it much less effort. Garden grass, whether or not it’s a meadow or a standard garden, offers habitat for wildlife and lawns take up warmth and carbon dioxide.
They’re an enormous asset to gardens and will be very environmentally pleasant, supplied you don’t use too many chemical substances or water them in a drought. For extra about selecting the best garden in your life-style, see this interview with David Hedges Gower of the Garden Affiliation on Do You Actually Want a Excellent Garden?
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