Wildflower lawns are fantastic for creating texture, character and charm in a garden. Although, they have a bit of a reputation for being tricky to grow, with the right advice, tools and approach, you can transform all or part of your lawn into something really special. The appeal of wildflower lawns is easy to see and it’s no surprise that they’re growing in popularity with experienced and novice gardeners alike.
Why create a wildflower lawn
First of all, a wildflower lawn is extremely wildlife-friendly! The richness of the species, grass and wildflower, means that the lawn is an ideal pollinator & food source and shelter for an array of insects and small mammals.
As well, as being wildlife-friendly, wildflower lawns are a great way for all of us to help towards reducing the biodiversity crisis in the UK. Since WWII, 97% of our natural wildflower meadows have been lost, meaning some wildflowers are becoming endangered. By growing a wildflower lawn, meadow or area where you can, you will be contributing to the perseveration of these extremely important species.
On the more practical side of things, wildflower lawns are usually lower maintenance than cultivated, grass-only lawns. This means there are particularly appealing for those of us with busy lives, trying to juggle friends, family, careers and taking care of ourselves!
After the initial prep, if you prefer you can leave the area so that it only requires a cut at the end of the summer season. Although, to maximise the number of wildflowers, I would always encourage a cut every 6 weeks in the first year. This acts a bit like de-heading and therefore the plants will flower again. Even with more regularly cuts, in the first year, this is much less than mowing grass every week!
- Great for nature
- Looks amazing
- Restores habitats
- Low maintenance
Some of the challenges of wildflower lawns
As I mentioned earlier, wildflower lawns are not always thought of as the easiest areas to establish and, if you’re a beginner there are a few things which you will need to take into consideration before giving it a go, which will make all the difference!
Grass can overtake
It has to be said that, as a rule, we like to encourage growing wildflower lawns after all the grass and any weeds have been removed. This is mainly because grass is seriously competitive, particularly compared to wildflowers. The fertility of the soil also can contribute to how much the grass overtakes – with more fertile soils encouraging more grass growth than wildflower growth.
However, I know there may be some of you out there who are either don’t want to remove the grass or physically can’t. If this is you, head to the ‘Sowing wildflowers into existing grass’ section further down the blog for top tops for how to get the best results in this situation.
Winter wildflowers can look unattractive
One of the potential downsides of a wildflower lawn, depending on your view of the subject, is how the wildflower lawn looks in the winter months. Once the wildflowers have flowered for the last time and the cooler weather hits, they will then die back. This, in comparison, to green grass is an issue for some, as it can look harsher and less vibrant.
Now, for me, this isn’t a problem at all as pretty much all gardens look a bit ragged in the winter, it’s part of the charm. However, it’s definitely something to flag for those of you who are new to wildflower lawns.
How to manage your wildflower lawn in the winter
With the above being said, I thought it was worth sharing the best ways for you to manage your wildflowers in the autumn/winter to get the best look for you and your garden.
The first option, is to leave the flowers to die back and then naturally topple over or fall. This creates a wildflower canopy and can be a fantastic spot for insects and small mammals during the colder months. However, this can look a little untidy. Alternatively, you can cut back the wildflowers to around 10cm, once they begin to die back, usually in the autumn. This will look tidier during the winter period. Just remember though that the wildflowers will likely become a brown colour, so the area will be a mix of the green and brown during this time.
Sowing wildflowers into existing grass
Right, so now we’re on the more technical part of the blog where I’ll be sharing our top tips for sowing your wildflowers into an existing grass lawn or area.
Preparing your area for sowing
- The first step is to open up the grass so that there are clear bare patches of soil across the area. This is where the wildflower seed can make contact with the ground. You can use a harrow for large areas or a lawn rake is fine for small areas. For areas with young grass, this will be a lot easier.
- Rake over the grassed area quite hard. This should mean that the grass is ripped out – make sure to remove any grass which is pulled out after.
- Aim for a minimum of 50% bare soil. This amount of bare soil will give the wildflower seeds a good chance of making contact with ground and a better chance of germination.
- Choose a wildflower mix to suit your needs. It’s really important to choose a wildflower seed mix which from a reputable seed supplier. This means that the seed is likely to be the quality you need to achieve your wildflower lawn look. Ideally, for sowing into an existing lawn you will need a 100% wildflower mix and this can be annuals, perennials or a combination of two. If you’re unsure about which mix to choose, it’s always best to get in touch with a wildflower seed expert for some advice before you start.
Sowing a wildflower lawn
- By now you should have your wildflower seed mix but you need to know how much to use. I would suggest sowing a 100% wildflower mix sow at 2g/m², when sowing into existing grass.
- Sow your mix in sections over the area. Most of the time it’s best just to spread by hand. The seed can be pretty small and delicate so it could be useful to mix the seed with sand or soil to make spreading a bit better. If not, do not worry at all, it’s more of a handy tip than a necessity.
- Straight after sowing think; – tread, traffic. You don’t want the seed too deep so rake some soil over the seed but only a small amount, ideally a depth 0.5cm. If you can, walk over or roll the area to get seed to soil contact. After sowing reduce traffic over the area as we want the plants to get the best start!
- Keep an eye on the water & weeds situation. After sowing, it’s always worth keeping an eye on the weather. Ideally, you’ll want to see some rain in the week before and the week after sowing. If it’s extremely dry either do not sow or water the area yourself, if this is possible. When it comes to weeds, it’s best to remove any which come through by hand. This may take a little time but it will really help to get the results you're after in the long run.
When to cut your wildflower lawn
There are a couple of options when it comes to cutting your wildflower lawn, especially in the first year. One option and the one I often advise, is to cut the area about 6-8 weeks after sowing and then every couple of months after that. So, in your first year, you would probably cut the area three times. This helps to increase the number of wildflower species.
- Cutting it regularly for first season may create more species
- If you don’t want to cut a much in first year, more of a meadow vibe