The techniques explained on this page are for newly-sown and existing perennial meadows. It is important to work out whether you have (or are aspiring to) a spring or summer-flowering meadow, as this will affect what regime you choose (see below).
To look their best, meadows do need some maintenance each year. The basic process is explained below.
Watering and feeding
A wildflower area doesn't require any additional watering or feeding. This could alter the natural balance of plants in the area. Many native flowers colonise poor land and the addition of extra nutrients and water will only encourage excessive vigour in the grasses, which will consequently out-compete the more desirable native plants.
Mowing is one way gardeners can manipulate the range of wildflowers that grow.
New meadows: To encourage perennial flowers and grasses to make good root development, it is important to mow the meadow in the first year after sowing. Cut to a height of 5cm (2in) four times during the year.
Established spring-flowering meadows: Cut in July and for the remainder of the summer to reduce the vigour of coarse grasses and to allow flowers such as cowslips, fritillary, lady's smock, selfheal and bugle to prosper. Leave un-mown from February to July.
Established summer-flowering meadows: Don't mow until late August or September, after wildflowers such as knapweed, devil's bit scabious and lady's bedstraw have set seed. Use this summer-flowering meadow regime for meadows with plants flowering at various times, including spring and summer species.
For meadows at all stages:
- It is usually a good idea to leave the initial mowings in situ for a few days to allow seed to drop to the ground but then it is important to collect mowings to reduce soil fertility.
- Aim for the first cut to be 5-7.5cm (2-3in) high. Subsequent cuts can be lower.
- Many lawnmowers will struggle with long grass. Small areas can be cut with a strimmer, though larger areas are best tackled with a heavy-duty mower (e.g. sickle-bar mowers and motor scythes) or a two-wheel strimmer.