100 Meadows – The Dream and The Drive

/, Grassland, Insects, Land Management, Nature, Wild Flowers/100 Meadows – The Dream and The Drive

At the beginning of 2018 we started the 100 Meadows Initiative… basically in 2018 we wanted to create 100 (or hopefully more!) meadows to help reverse the decline in wildflower habitats.

The decline in wildflower meadows over the last 50 years has meant that this diverse and valuable ecosystem which is home to so many is disappearing. By creating a small patch of wildflower meadow everyone, regardless of size of garden and soil type, could help increase biodiversity and habitats across the UK.

Meadows form crucial habitats just a single healthy meadow can be home to over 100 species of wild flowers and grasses, not to mention the array of wildlife that live and feed from it. Everything from insects to small mammals and birds will benefit from the formation of new habitats, wild flower meadows not only house but also feed a huge variety of creatures.

Meadows are amazing things; plain grassy meadows are great for voles, small mammals and invertebrates which has a knock-on effect providing food for larger animals and birds. But, if you can inject floral diversity you will be providing a multi-level food supply. Adding as many native wildflowers as you can within your meadow you’re providing nectar and pollen for butterflies, hover flies, bumbles bees, solitary bees (UK native Solitary Bees are under a greater threat than their more well-known cousins the Honey and Bumble Bees) and more. Flowers will encourage pollinators and more insects, which means more food for birds and bats. Meadows are incredible – the more native plant species the more specialist invertebrates and vertebrates you attract

Within the 100 Meadows initiative we are helping people create all different sizes of meadow, the project includes anything from a seeding a mini meadow of just a few square meters to many hectares of new wildlife habitat. We have been fortunate enough to seeded 3 large meadows in association with Blenheim Palace Gardens to kick of the project in style!

We know not everyone has vast swathes of land to give over to meadow, a few square meters of garden boarder alongside your existing lawns will help us create a patchwork of wonderful wildflower habitats across the UK, and hopefully begin the reintroduction of wildflower and grasslands.

When creating wildflower habitat, these are our top tips for long term meadow success;

Soil Analysis

Soil testing is an essential part of the meadow planning process, by taking multiple samples across your proposed meadow site you can ensure that you have an accurate representation of the site.

Sampling from one spot will not be enough as the spot you sample may have been heavily fertilised or some parts of your ground may be wetter and therefore have more nutrients. We recommend between 4 and 10 sample sites across your proposed meadow (depending on size!), dug down to 10 cm.

Seed Mix

Once your soil sample has been analysed you will be able to then ascertain the type of seed mix required for your site. Soil analysis will provide you with a specific soil PH and nutrient base, from this you can select your flower and grass seed mix. Mixes are created with specific sites in mind and choosing the right mix is incredibly important.  If the area you wish to sow is chalk or limestone, acid or clay, damp or shady, then always sow a mix created for those specific sites to increase the levels of success.

Start Early

Meadows need minimal maintenance throughout the year but to be sure that your meadow gets the best start you MUST ensure the seed bed is clean – so that no weed seeds will germinate, as weeding a wildflower meadow is very problematic. To create a dead seed bed start with a standard herbicide/ weed killer then rotorvate (or hand turn the site with a fork) the site to pull all the weed shoots and seeds to the surface, we recommend that the process is repeated 3 – 4 times to fully ensure your grass and flower seeds get the best start in life.

If you are not keen on the use of a herbicide you can do this process without it you need to ensure the rotorvation is done 5-8 times and you remove all weed seedlings thoroughly at each turnover of the soil.

Sow your seeds

Scatter your seeds and lightly rake them in to avoid losing the seeds to birds. You can water lightly if the soil is particularly dry but not if the ground is already damp, seedling roots will penetrate deeper in search of water, and therefore become better established. If you sow in spring, a few typical meadow species will bloom in the first year, such as ox-eye daisy, buttercups, clovers and poppies. The longer the meadow is established the more varied the flowers you will get year on year.

Mowing and On Going Care

When it comes to mowing, timing is key. Don’t attempt to mow until the end of August or even better early September, this gives the seeds time to form and drop. You can then mow with your normal Lawnmower, leave the mown grass and flower clippings for a day or two to let any remaining seeds drop. Do not leave the clippings to rot down as compost as this increases the nitrate levels in your soil and can make it a haven for weeds instead of your desired wildflowers and grasses.

Meadows take minimal maintenance and weeding, pull weed seedlings if you spot them but otherwise sit back and enjoy your very own manageable wildlife habitat.

James Gillies Consultancy can provide soil analysis and seed mixes, visit our shop to buy your full meadow creation kit.

To register with 100 Meadows visit www.100meadows.com– if you would like personalised advice for your site or have a very large area to convert please call James to discuss your meadow 07973 796406 or email office@james-gillies.com to arrange an appointment.