Now is the time to start a wildflower meadow – not only a stunningly beautiful feature for the garden, but also a haven for wildlife including pollinating insects such as butterflies, bees and lacewings. Start sowing in autumn and you’re mimicking nature, as this is when flowers naturally shed their seed.
In our garden centre here in Surrey we have a wide range of blended meadow seed mixes. Most contain a proportion of meadow grasses, but you can also go for an annual meadow mix of bright annual flowers to sow direct onto bare earth – ideal for a quick fix for that spare patch of garden. You can even sow them into roomy pots or troughs for a mini-meadow right outside your back door!
If you’re trying for something more permanent, though, start now by preparing your ground. Meadows flower best in sun (though shade-tolerant seed mixes are available). They also prefer poor soil – if yours is too rich, scrape off the topsoil to use elsewhere in the garden, and sow onto the subsoil instead.
You can start from scratch and sow onto bare earth: remove weeds before you start, then lightly dig over the soil before broadcasting the seed evenly across the surface (you may find it helps to mix the seeds with silver sand so you can see where you’ve been). Then rake over the top to work the seeds into the top layer of soil.
Or, if you’re trying to establish a meadow in existing grass, try sowing yellow rattle only for the first year – it’s a parasite which will feed on and weaken grasses, so the wildflowers have a better chance of competing with them. It can also help to sow your wildflowers in modules to plant into the turf as young plants: this gives them a head start and helps them established much more quickly.