Ami Walker – Conservation Land Management Adviser
How to create a wildflower mini-meadow in or around the North York Moors
1. Where to position your mini-meadow
- Your wildflowers will thrive best in a relatively poor soil and a sunny spot.
- Please be mindful that wildflowers should only be planted on land belonging to you or with the land owner’s full permission.
- Make sure the area you decide on is well-drained and as weed free as possible.
2. Preparing the ground for your mini-meadow
Dig out any weeds such as ragwort, thistles and docks by hand.
Remove any large tussocks of vigorous grasses such as Cock’s foot.
Close-cut any remaining vegetation and remove the cut material from the site.
Don’t incorporate manure or fertiliser as high fertility encourages excessive vigour in unwanted weeds and grasses that then crowd out the wildflowers.
Scarify or rake the area to make bare patches of earth for the seeds to germinate on, between 30-50% is ideal. This can also be achieved by removing small squares of turf (try to only remove grass not flowering plants already established in the mini-meadow area).
3. Sowing your mini-meadow (late Aug/early Sept)
Native locally sourced wild flower seed is always best.
- Large areas can be sown by hand quite easily, but it is important to get an even distribution and ensure that it falls on to bare earth.
- Some seeds such as Yellow rattle need light to germinate therefore there is no need to bury it, just ensure that it is not loose on the surface. This can be done by lightly walking over the entire site; a roller could be used if the site is big.
- There should be no need to water, provided the ground was damp prior to sowing and it stays damp until the seed germinates. If the surface of the soil dries before the seeds germinate, water the area with a sprinkler or a watering can.
4. Maintaining your mini-meadow
- Do not cut the grass on the mini-meadow again after the seeds have been sown.
- Keep an eye out for weeds; try to weed them out by hand as soon as possible.
- Do an early cut in February and remove all the cut material – this is to reduce the vigour of the grasses allowing the flowering plants to thrive.
- Leave un-mown from February to September.
- Introduce any plug plants that you have grown, into the mini-meadow during the spring.
Year 2 (and in subsequent years)
- In September when all the flowers have gone to seed cut the mini-meadow. This may need to be done with a strimmer as the vegetation could be too thick for a mower.
- Mowing or strimming is best done in dry weather. The cut material should be left for a few days for seeds to be shed for next year before removing the ‘hay’.
- Do an early cut in February as in Year 1 and then leave un-mown from February to September.
- If there are still other individual flower species that you wish to establish do this by incorporating seed or planting plug plants into the established meadow.
- Once established a mini-meadow doesn’t require any additional watering or feeding.
What to expect
The annual wild flowers such as the Yellow rattle should flower in the first year but the biennials and perennials such as Ox-eye daisy will flower in the following years.
Expect the unexpected! It’s tricky working with nature – bad weather conditions could result in your seed not germinating but on the other hand an area of amenity grassland which has been subjected to regular cuts could be full of flowering plants just waiting for a chance to thrive.
Make the most of your new mini-meadow
Create a bug hotel nearby to provide homes for overwintering insects.
Collect seed from your mini-meadow. If you are gathering seed from areas other than your own mini-meadow make sure you have the landowner’s permission first. Don’t take seed from the same place every year and never take more than a third.
Extend the mini-meadow, start a new one, create one in your garden!
Flowers you might find in your mini-meadow
Your mini-meadow will also be full of bees, hoverflies and butterflies.