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Wildflower meadow maintenance jobs for summer

The hum of bees is the voice of the garden. Elizabeth Lawrence

The wildflower meadow comes into its own during the months of June and July. Expect to see lots of flowers, hear the hum of visiting bees and be entranced by the butterflies. In early summer, the jobs in the wildflower meadow are few and far between. But as August rolls around and autumn approaches, the most important job of the year must be done.Mowing

  • GrowingAllow your meadow to grow unchecked in May and June. You will be rewarded with a plethora of flowers. Enjoy them. Do NOT add fertiliser of any sort. If you are unlucky enough to spot any unwanted plants such as nettles or docks, simply pull them out.
  • MowingIt's a good time of year to mow paths through larger wildflower meadows. These allow you to get close to the flowers and the wildlife without crushing them. Foraging birds such as blackbirds will appreciate the shorter grass. So will low growing wildflowers such as nectar rich clover, birdsfoot trefoil and common daisy. As summer comes to an end, you will need to think about the "big mow"
  • SowingWildflower seeds sown in summer are unlikely to grow just yet so hold fire on this one. It is still possible to lay wildflower turf so that it's well established in time for next spring.

When to mow your wildflower meadow

Most ornamental wildflower meadows should be cut back in July or August. You will see when your meadow is ready for a trim. The grasses will be honey-coloured and most of the flowers will have turned to seed. There are however 2 exceptions to the rule.

  1. If your meadow is very grassy: Lots and lots of lush grass is the farmers' dream but it may not be what the gardener wants. If you feel that the grass element of your meadow is outcompeting the flowering plants then you must cut your meadow back in June. You may sacrifice some of the flowers for this summer but if you cut the grass while it is still green you'll do the best job you can of weakening it and giving the other plants a chance
  2. If you are growing Meadowmat for Birds and Bees; The plant species in Meadowmat for Birds and Bees have been chosen to give you (and the birds) some beautiful seed heads in the autumn. For this type of meadow you must wait until late winter before chopping it down.

This wildflower meadow in cambridge is almost ready to be cut back

wildflower meadow in cambridge ready for summer cut

 

How to cut your wildflower meadow

There are many tools on the market that you can use to cut your meadow.

  • For a very small area, garden shears do a great job.
  • For medium-large areas, a scythe is ideal.
  • For very large areas, you can buy specialised equipment. At Q Lawns we use a Grillo mower with a collection box when we're trimming Meadowmat on the field. The average domestic lawn mower probably won't cope with the long grass.
  • Please don't use a strimmer. Strimmers tend to send tiny pieces of plant flying in all directions which eventually rot down and add to the nutrients in the soil. One of the 5 principals of meadow management is to decrease soil fertility - not add to it!
  • Choose a sunny day to cut your meadow, preferably when the weather forecast is dry for a few days ahead.
  • Cut the grasses and flower stalks off at about 10cm above the ground
  • Leave the vegetation laying on top of the meadow for a couple of days. Let it dry out and allow any ripe seeds to fall back on to the soil
  • You can turn and shake the clippings after a day or so - this will help them dry out quicker.
  • Once clippings are dry, give them another shake and remove them from site. They make great hay for small pets - just be sure there are not toxic plants in your species mix!

 

What happens after I've mown my wildflower meadow

Depending on the weather, your meadow might look a little bit sad for a while. Once it's been rained on though, the plants will start to green up and recover. DO NOT be tempted to add fertiliser to perk it up - you'll do more harm than good.

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