Garden Advice: Creating a wild flower meadow

Ms B, North Penine Dales is developing her own wild flower meadow.

"My partner and I and currently renovating a cottage in the North Pennine Dales, the property comes with a three acre field which I want to turn into a wildflower meadow.  I believe you have such a feature at Bide-a-Wee and I would be grateful for any advice you could offer me.

The field has been used for grazing in the past, but not for at least 3 years - my main concern is that it may be to fertile and grasses will smother the wildflowers but I would really like to avoid removing the top layer of soil if at all possible.

I am relatively new to horticulture and realise this is a big project, but I am determined to succeed, so I really would appreciate any advice"

Bide-A-Wee response (by Mark Robson)

The potential of your meadow sounds wonderful, we have only 1/2 an acre of meadow here at Bide-a-wee, that looks wonderful in early summer, but we manage it very carefully.

You are right that fertility is the key to achieving a good wildflower meadow, I assume that the potential meadow is virgin land and not been used as a midden or tip, that would result in enhanced fertility. In order to see what flowers you actually have, I would not graze the field but cut it for hay until the sward becomes thinner, this will happen after two or three seasons. Grazing actually fertilises the meadow so should be avoided, until the sward is really thin.  We accelerated the process by mowing the meadow after hay cutting right into November and removing the cuttings for compost. It is amazing how many wildflowers are there but just need the chance to thrive by a change in management.

Hay cutting and mowing really does work, our meadow had been grazed and fertilised with nitrates, it is now full of yellow rattle buttercups and harebells, with fine grasses.

Good luck with your project!

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