Wildflower meadow ideas: how to create a wild garden at home
Wildflower gardens are a fantastic way of attracting a diverse range of wildlife to your garden, and you don't need a large outside space to create one
A wildflower meadow can bring your garden to life with beautiful blooms that attract a diverse range of wildlife. Pollinating insects, birds, and small mammals will flock to a wildflower meadow, and even transforming a small patch of your garden - or even growing wild flowers in a planter - can make all the difference.
To help inspire you, Gemma Sharp from Garden Wildlife Direct has written this guide to creating a wildlife meadow in a small garden, so you can support the ecosystem around you and have a beautiful attraction right on your doorstep.
What is a wildflower meadow?
A wildflower meadow is a patch of permanent grass that wildflowers grow in, and they are fantastic for attracting wildlife. Plus, this beautiful combination of plants provides a unique alternative to lawns or borders. There are two types of wildflower meadow that you can grow depending on the conditions of your garden:
- Perennial Meadows – Perennial wildflower meadows grow best in poor soils since the grasses won’t overtake the wildflowers.
- Annual Meadows – An annual wildflower meadow requires rich soil and is usually comprised of cornfield annuals. Often, annual meadows are created when converting an existing border.
Why is a wildflower meadow good for wildlife?
A wildflower meadow is exceptionally beneficial for wildlife. The diverse range of plants and flowers provides a scope of habitats, feeding areas, and pollination spaces for various animal species. Unfortunately, since the appearance of wildflower meadows around the country has declined drastically over the last century, establishing a patch in your garden can help conserve and protect the range of animals that a wildflower garden attracts.
Here are just some of the wildlife species you can expect to see around your wildflower meadow:
- Small mammals, like hedgehogs and voles
How to create a wildlife meadow
Starting your own wildflower meadow from seed is the most economical option and is suitable for both perennial and annual meadows. However, at no stage should you feed the soil with compost. This enriched soil will encourage the growth of rough grasses and leafy weeds that can choke and overwhelm wildflowers. An annual wildflower meadow will bloom more openly on unimproved soil.
Ideally, it would be best if you planted a wildlife meadow in a large, open spot that receives sun for the best part of the day. This is best done in autumn when the seeds can establish themselves quickly.
Even your garden is only small, there are still ways that you can start a wildflower meadow for wildlife to enjoy. To grow a wildflower meadow in a small garden, the best option is often sowing seed on parts of your existing lawn or flower beds. However, to do so, you will first need to reduce the fertility of the soil, especially if you’ve added plenty of fertiliser over the years. You can reduce its fertility by removing the top 3-6 inches of topsoil or sowing a crop of mustard plants for the first year.
Once you’ve rid the soil of any stones, clumps and weeds, you can sow your chosen wildflower seed mix and start watching your meadow grow!
Wildflower seed mat: what are they and how to lay one
If starting a wildflower meadow from scratch isn’t for you, there are a few other options that you can try. Wildflower seed mats are the perfect choice if you only want to cover a small area of your garden. Pre-sown wildflower seeds are grown with a mat backing, allowing you to move and lay them wherever you wish.
Although you can make a meadow using a wildflower seed mat at any time of year, autumn is still the best time. Laying a meadow that’s already in flower is often more challenging and much more expensive, so try to lay your seed mat during autumn or early spring.
Since wildflower seed mats usually contain a varied combination of wildflowers, you can expect to see a similar range of animals being drawn to them. However, because wildflower seed mats only cover a small area, they are particularly popular with pollinating insects, including bees, butterflies, moths, and hoverflies.
How to plant wildflower plug plants
Wildflower plug plants are cell-grown plants that will establish themselves quickly, giving you control over the species in your wildflower meadow. Usually, wildflower plugs will flower well within the first year. You can then leave them to naturally sow seeds for even better results in the following seasons.
Wildflower plugs can be planted straight into an established lawn, though it’s best if the lawn’s soil is poor, to begin with. Normally, plenty of weeds like clover, speedwell and plantain are indicative of a soil quality good enough for wildflowers. But don’t worry about removing them – these will fit right in with your new wildlife meadow.
You can plant wildflower plugs at any time of the year, if your soil isn’t frozen, waterlogged or completely dry. They are perfect for creating a meadow in a smaller garden because you can plant them straight into lawns or beds of bulbs without disturbing the ecosystem.
Plug plants will establish and grow quickly, and a range of wildlife species will not be far behind. Because these plants grow in a similar fashion to wildflower seeds, you can expect to see similar animals, including bees, butterflies, birds, and a variety of small mammals.
Using your garden to help preserve wildlife is one of the most beneficial things you can do for the ecosystem. And planting a wildlife meadow is the perfect way to support a range of animals with little hassle. So don’t let the size of your garden deter you – start your own wildlife meadow with whatever space you have to benefit both the wildlife and your garden!
Garden Wildlife Direct is family-run business that is passionate about supporting nature – and making it as easy as possible for you to care for your garden birds.