Lose your lawn
Plant out a yard full of flowers, instead of grass
do you have a bland area of lawn that you want to turn into a little piece of paradise this summer? Then why not create a meadow garden in your backyard! As long as you choose a selection of tough and hardy flowers, and set it up in the right way, it can be an easy-to-maintain and beautiful landscape feature.
Imagine masses of brilliant flowers for months on end, with birds, butterflies and bees visiting the habitat you’ve created. Basically it’s a flower bed – but one that sits where a lawn normally would. So ditch the weekend mowing and create a feature that will be the talk of the neighbourhood.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT SITE
A meadow by definition is an open sunny area of ground, with no trees or shrubs. So the first step is to choose a clear stretch of lawn that gets full sun for most of the day, and which has well-drained soil.
PREPARE PERFECTLY You can make a meadow bed
any shape you like, but a more relaxed, curvaceous outline suits it best. The easiest way to create the shape is to lay a garden hose on the lawn and keep rearranging it until you’re satisfied with the look. You can either create an island bed, surrounded by lawn, or else utilise a corner of your yard. To define the area, you can use flexible garden edging or, if you prefer, just a sharp-spaded edge.
Before any flower planting starts,
you need to kill off the grass. To do this, either spray the area with herbicide or, alternatively, lay down sheets of cardboard and wait a few weeks for the grass to die (this is slower than herbicide, but chemicalfree). Remove the dead grass with a sharp spade, then turn the soil over using a garden fork and hoe – you can hire a rotary hoe to do this. Dig in a little compost and cow manure to enrich the soil, and smooth the soil to a fine texture with a rake.
CREATE YOUR MEADOW GARDEN Buy several packets of each type of flower
you’ve chosen, so you can create a massed effect. Remembering the different height layers, mix each batch of seeds with damp river sand in a bucket, then take small handfuls of the mixture and broadcast it directly onto the prepared soil – this way you can see where you have sown the seed. If you choose sunflowers, you’ll have to plant the seeds individually by pushing them into the soil, as they’re a large hard seed.
Starting from the middle of the bed, sow the seeds in drifts, remembering to plant the tallest growers in the centre, followed by the medium-height flowers, then the lower-growing varieties. Lightly tamp the soil down and apply a very light layer of seedraising mixture over the top. Water in using a fine spray, and keep the seed bed moist, but not wet, until the seedlings start to appear (depending on the weather, this might be just a couple of weeks). As the meadow starts to develop, the occasional weed will pop up, but don’t be too fussed. You can pull them out, being careful not to disturb the flower seedlings, or just leave them to become a part of the overall naturalistic effect.
Keep the water up to them, especially as the weather warms up. Before you know it, the meadow will be bursting with colour and life, attracting a wide variety of wildlife to your garden – your own mini ecosystem! Butterflies, bees, birds and the occasional lizard will be drawn to the meadow as a food source and a habitat to live in. As summer progresses, plants will set seed and die, so you can take this as an opportunity to collect the seeds for next year’s meadow garden. Or they can be left in the meadow to add another point of interest.
As summer draws to an end, the plants can be removed and composted and the area covered in a thin layer of bark or sugar cane mulch and left until the following spring, when you can start the process all over again. But this time there will be a lot more seedlings coming up from last year’s meadow garden. Alternatively, you can return the area to lawn by sowing grass seed or re-turfing the area.
Ditch the weekend lawn mowing and smell the flowers instead ...
1 It’s a jungle out there! Basically an oversized flower bed, the meadow garden lets the plants go wild, so they mass and mingle, and crowd out any weeds.
2 Marigolds, in alltheir types, make marvellous meadow flowers. Here, dwarf and tall double forms mix it with singleflowering varieties.
4 Flowers like cosmos produce lots of seeds. You can either leave them to shed, or collect the seedheads for replanting next year.