Wildflower meadow

How to plant a wildflower meadow

Let’s be real, wildflower meadows are the ultimate natural haven. Wild and wonderful places for us to enjoy. Planting a wildflower meadow is not only an amazing way to connect with nature but it can also become an integral space for keeping our eco-system balanced, our pollinators happy and our insects, birds and mammals fed and housed!

Growing a wildflower meadow can seem a little bit intimidating at first, I totally get it! But I’m here to help. In this blog I’ll break down the sowing & growing process into simple steps, which will guarantee success and help you to create a wildflower meadow to be proud of.

Why plant a wildflower meadow?

Before we jump right into how we’re going to get you a wildflower meadow Monty would be proud of! Let’s take a quick look at how you can really get the most from your meadow by understanding a bit more about why planting wildflowers is so important for us as individuals, humanity as a whole and the natural world!

“If I’m honest, the thing I am proudest of is my varieties of wildflowers in the hay meadow.”
Monty Don

Wildflower help us to connect with nature

  • Wildflowers improve both physical & mental health
  • Plants create a sensory experience
  • Gardening brings people together
  • Wildflowers create a positive atmosphere

Wildflower meadows support the environment

  • Wildflower meadows create amazing habitats for wildlife
  • Meadows help to capture carbon and offset our footprint
  • Wildflower meadows are perfect for pollinators
  • Wildflower seeds are a fantastic food source
  • Growing wildflowers can improve soil structure and nutrient content

Now, let’s move on to the exciting part…shopping for your seed mix!

What seed do I need to plant a wildflower meadow?

It can feel a little overwhelming with the number of seed mixtures available to you and choosing the right species to grow is an important part of the planting process. That’s why I have broken this part down to help make the choice quick, easy and enjoyable!

Grass & wildflower meadow

The first question to ask yourself is whether you would like your meadow to be a mix of grass and wildflowers or 100% wildflower species. A grass and wildflower seed mix can reduce the seed cost, with grass being slightly less expensive than wildflowers. This means that if you have a particularly large area, it can be a cost-effective way to establish a wildflower meadow.

A popular wildflower seed mix choice is a mix which has 60% grass species and 40% wildflower species to create a perfect balance! All wildflower species in Meadow Maker are native and therefore create a natural meadow and perfect habitat.

Annual wildflower meadow

For an annual wildflower meadow, the main thing to think about is whether you would like all native flowers such as cornflower, corn poppy and corncockle or whether you would like to add some non-native species. These may include flowers like cosmos, oriental poppies and zinnias. This is down to personal preference as both types of flowers support pollination and look great in many different spaces.

Wildflower meadow for pollinators

When it comes to choosing a wildflower mix for pollinators, try to focus on species which are pinks, purples and reds. These are the colours which pollinators seem most attracted to. Flowers to look out for are species like cornflower, poppies, scabious, red campion, phacelia, purple coneflower and foxglove.

Shaded Areas & Wetland

For areas where it may be difficult to grow different flowers such as shaded areas or wetlands, I would definitely advice growing a mix purposely designed for these spaces. This is because the designer will consider which species thrive best in these tougher conditions.

Blue cornflower with bee

Where should I plant my wildflower meadow?

Traditionally wildflowers meadows are grown in larger areas such as fields or paddocks. However, with the increasing popularity of rewilding in urban areas and sites across the UK, there is now many options for where you can grow your meadow.

Unused areas & green spaces

Sounds a bit vague, I know but any bare, unused or monotone spaces can be transformed into a wildflower meadow haven. Think disused wasteland next to railways, areas around business parks, on commons and village greens…. there’s plenty of areas across the UK to rewild and transform!

Fields and paddocks

These are the more traditional areas to grow wildflower meadows. If you have a farm, smallholding or land of your own, a wildflower meadow can truly add that something special – supporting wildlife and the local community.

Soil type suitable for growing wildflower meadows

Wildflowers, although a tad unpredictable, can grow in all different soil types. They are a pretty robust plant and as Dolly Parton once said “wildflowers don’t care where they grow”. If your soil type is especially heavy, acidic or light, then please get in touch and I can help create a bespoke wildflower mix for your meadow. However, most soils will be just fine.

Growing wildflowers in smaller areas

If you’re short on space, do not worry! It’s time to get creative! Wildflowers can be grown in all sorts of spaces such as garden beds, borders, pots and planters. Our latest YouTube video is perfect for those of you who need help planting wildflower seeds in containers.

When should I plant a wildflower meadow?

Growing times

Planting your wildflowers meadow seeds in the winter is a big no-no, with the soil, temperature and conditions not exactly ideal for establishing a thriving meadow!  However, wildflowers are pretty robust and can be sown from March right through to autumn – providing a pretty large sowing window for you.

Spring

Spring is the most popular time of year to plant wildflower seeds. Depending on temperatures in March is and how warm the soil gets, you can sow from this month onwards. However, to be safe from frost, I’d always recommend April and May as the best months to sow in spring.

Summer

It’s absolutely no problem to sow wildflower meadows in the summer. The only thing to watch out for is persistent dry spells. Ideally the seedbed and young wildflower plants need to have moisture, so it’s best to avoid any long periods without rain, unless you can water your meadow with a sprinkler system or by hand.

Autumn

September or even mild October’s is also an ideal time to sow your wildflower meadow. At this time of year, moisture in the soil shouldn’t be an issue but just watch out for any early frosts. If you do sow your wildflowers in the autumn, it is also pretty likely the annuals will establish earlier than spring-sown seed the following growing season – so that’s an extra bonus!

How do I plant a wildflower meadow?

Okay so we’ve covered the why, where and when, so let’s take a look at the how. This is the part of the process which I’m going to make super simple to follow, so you can tick off each step and be confident in the prep, sow and grow stages.

To help you get extra organised, I’ve created a helpful list of all the equipment you may need to prep, sow and grow your wildflower meadow:

Necessary equipment:

Optional equipment:

  • Sprinkler (smaller meadows)
  • Petrol tiller
  • Rotavator
  • Turf remover/weedkiller

Hands in soil

Preparing the meadow

1) Spray off any weeds, grass or plants in the area

Tip one is the most important for making sure you get the most from your wildflower meadow. I wish someone had really hammered home this point to me when I started! You can use a weedkiller to spray the area or a turf cutter to remove the top layer. This will help your meadow to grow as other plants, weeds and grasses will take over the wildflowers if not controlled at this really important stage.

2) Rotavate/ break up soil for fine seedbed

Once you have removed the weeds or grasses, it’s important to break up the soil using a fork, petrol tiller (if you have one) or for large areas a plough is the quickest and easiest tool to use.

3) After 2-6 weeks, remove any weeds that appear…again!

Remember tip one? Well, it’s that important, we’re doing it again! This time it’s best to hoe or remove the weeds by hand.

4) Rake over and roll

Using a rake go over the ground and if possible, use a roller to compact the soil slightly to make the seedbed firm.

Sowing wildflowers

1) How much seed to sow

For a 100% wildflower mix sow at 2.5g/m2. For grass & wildflowers it’s 5g/m2.

2) Sow your mix

Most of the time it’s best just to spread by hand. If you are looking at a much bigger project you can use a contractor/spreader. You can also mix the seed with sand or soil to making spreading a bit better but don’t worry if not. To get the even coverage, we always suggest sowing half of pack from left to right and half from top to bottom of area.

3) Straight after sowing 

You don’t want the seed too deep so rake some soil over the seed but only a small amount (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! And remember tip one? Yep, remove any nasty weeds which appear – best to do this by hand.

4) Water your wildflower seeds

Water does wonders therefore if you can, keep the soil moist in the early stages – ideally watering a couple of times a week and more if the weather is nice (here’s hoping!).

Wildflower meadow care

1) Removing weeds from the wildflower meadow 

Removing weeds is always going to help keep your meadow in shape, but make sure you really keep an eye on this in the first year.

2) Check if the meadow needs watering

 If you have a large meadow you may struggle to irrigate when needed in dry spells. If this is something you are able to do, I highly recommend it to make sure that the meadow stays hydrated and well-watered to keep it nice and healthy. For small meadows, a sprinkler system or even hand-watering will both do the job.

3) Cutting your wildflower meadow

If you want your meadow to really pack a punch, cut every couple of months in the first year – up until autumn. Best to cut to about 5cm high. A helpful hint is to collect all the cuttings as this helps the wildflowers to thrive. After the first year, cut once in March or April to about 7 or 8cm high and then again in the autumn.

4) Growing annual wildflowers

Removing weeds is going to help keep your annual meadow looking great all summer, but make sure you really keep an eye on this. You can pull weeds out by hand and remove any that emerge, especially in the early stages. It’s also important to cut down your annual meadow in the autumn.