Creating a Small Wildflower Area

Summary of project

To increase the floristic diversity of a small sunny area of the garden by introducing native wildflower seed gathered from local sites. To manage this in the following years in much the same way a traditional meadow would be managed.

This is what we did and how we did it

Creating a wildflower meadow need not be expensive and is certainly not difficult or time consuming to do. However its success can often depend on factors beyond your control.

In this case we decided to create a wildflower meadow (a very small one) at the very end of the garden. This location was chosen simple as being at the end of the garden we could leave it undisturbed during the flowering season as there was nowhere beyond this point we need to get to at this time of the year.

First of all we had to gather the wildflower seed. The following species were collected on the following dates:

  • Bush Vetch – Mendip Site – 26th July
  • Goat’s beard – South Gloucestershire Farm – 2nd July
  • Cowslips – Mendip Site – 26th July
  • Red Campion – South Gloucestershire Estate – 20th August
  • Common Knapweed – Local Nature reserve – 16th August
  • Meadow Vetchling – South Gloucestershire Estate – 20th August
  • Yellow Rattle – South Gloucestershire Farm – 2nd July

Collected seed was stored in paper envelopes until needed.

All species were spread evenly with the exception of Red Campion, which seems to thrive in semi shade, so this was spread around the bottom of the hazel tree. None of these species currently grow in our garden so fingers crossed they will establish.

Yellow Rattle (or Hay Rattle) is often sown into new wildflower meadows as it suppresses grass growth, it is a hemiparasite, and this in turn favours the establishment of wildflowers. I won’t go too much into the properties of this species as there is a wealth of information available online.

However there are two other important things to note about Yellow Rattle, both meaning its seed should be sown in late summer rather than spring. Firstly its seed needs a cold period prior to being able to germinate and secondly its seed doesn’t survive long in the seed bank. So a spring sowing will have little success in the first year and not much better in the second year following sowing. Best to get it down between August and September, when it would naturally be shed by the parent plant.

So that’s the seed sorted. Now timing. As stated above August- September is usually the best time. Later than this and seedlings may not survive any early frosts. This is obviously towards the end of the growing season so we need to ensure the area to be sown is free of as much vegetation as possible, simply because the seed needs to make soil contact (but shouldn’t be buried) and we want to give it the best competitive start possible next spring.

It’s the 1st September, the ground is reasonable dry but light rain is forecast within the next few days. Conditions are perfect. We prepare the existing grass area by rough raking it in different directions, to thin the grass and remove dead leaves and vegetable matter (litter). The objective is to create as much bare ground as possible, aiming for 50-75%. Well this is more difficult than it sounds and I think I only got to 40%, although the photograph below suggests not even this much.

I marked out a small lawn mowers width where I decided not to to spread too much seed in case next year I want to lumber in and take some photographs of the flowers or animals visiting them. I did this simply with a rake and a broom handle, lined up with a fence post so I can always remember where it was later on without needing to refer back to this photograph.

Then it was simply a case of spreading the seed around and walking over the area several times to ensure seed / soil contact.

Further Information / Thoughts

There really isn’t too much to say. Potential threats now are weeds dominating the bare ground, slugs munching on the seeds or anything that germinates. Frosts could be an issue but are unlikely.

One threat we face that most people will not have to worry about is flooding. We’ve recently had an issue with flooding following a small housing development opposite the end of our garden. We will write an article about this once we know its at least being investigated.