Keep­ing a mini meadow

It’ll need an an­nual ‘short back and sides’ around now to give flow­ers a help­ing hand

Garden News (UK) - - About Now - With Ju­lian Rollins

Bees, but­ter­flies and many other mini-beasts – a wild­flower meadow area brings so much to your gar­den. The other truly great thing about switch­ing from a prim and proper lawn to a wild, free meadow is that it gives you back your life. No more be­ing a slave to the lawn­mower!

And there’s no wa­ter­ing to do ei­ther, or feed­ing for that mat­ter. What a meadow does need, though, is its an­nual short back and sides. Tra­di­tion­ally, July was the time for hay-mak­ing, but an Au­gust cut is just as good.

Cut­ting all that growth down to an­kle height gives the grass com­po­nent of your meadow ‘com­mu­nity’ a knock back. This gives flow­ers such as cowslips, self­heal and bu­gle, a boost.

What you use to do the job de­pends a lot on the size and sit­u­a­tion of your meadow. You can use a strim­mer, but it’s hard to re­move all the cut ma­te­rial af­ter a strim.

And get­ting as much as you can off and away is im­por­tant. A scythe is the old school so­lu­tion. For smaller, or slop­ing, patches it’s safer to go slow and use gar­den shears. How­ever you do the job, what you’re try­ing to achieve is to leave grass and wild­flow­ers that are around 7½cm (3in) tall.

The ‘hay’ you’ve cut should stay where it is for two or three days to dry in the sun. Seed heads re­lease their con­tents, guar­an­tee­ing more flow­ers in com­ing years. That’s about it for main­te­nance. In the­ory any­way!

In prac­tice there’s the peren­nial weed prob­lem. Left to its own de­vices a meadow will be cap­tured by one peren­nial weed or an­other. This­tle down will blow in, or net­tles and bram­bles will creep out from a bound­ary hedge. Keep­ing in­vaders at bay has to be an on­go­ing job. You can keep things in bal­ance by do­ing some hand weed­ing two or three times a week.

Help flow­ers tri­umph over grasses with a meadow trim now

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