Hello flow­ers

Lose your lawn

Better Homes and Gardens (Australia) - - Contents -

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.

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