When to mow a wild flower meadow

In the Q Lawns office, we’re often being asked about meadow management.  When do you cut the flowers down?  What tools are best? What happens once the hay is cut?

What we say, is that there are no set rules, only guidelines and they will change with the weather.

Meadow maintenance regimes

There are two suggested mowing regimes for Meadowmat.  One is based on traditional hay meadow management and encourages flowers in late spring/early summer; the other brings flowers in midsummer. 

  jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sept oct nov dec
regime A - traditional meadow management mowing flowering mowing
regime B - early cutting mowing flowering mowing

 

Traditionally, farmers cut their meadows towards midsummer capture the maximum nutrients in the hay  which is intended for animal feed and to get the grasses growing strongly again in for autumn when animals will be released on to the meadow to graze it.

Gardeners however, are not necessarily too worried about the nutritional value of their wildflower meadows; it’s the quantity and variety of flowers that interests them.

What does mowing do?

Mowing or cutting is not just about aesthetics and keeping the meadow looking good in the short term.  It's about making sure that over time the whole area just gets better and better. That's why it's important that whenever a garden wildflower meadow is cut,

  • the seeds must be allowed to drop back into the sward,
  • all clippings must be removed to help reduce soil fertility

Case study

Angela Lambert from Q Lawns has a small amount of Meadowmat in her back garden that was installed in 2011.  She normally cuts down the tall growth at the end of July but year, because of the late spring, flowers were later than normal and so “mowing” happened a month late.

This is what the mini meadow looked like just before it was mown.

wild flower meadow ready to cut

Most of the flowers and grasses have finished blooming, have set seed and now have strawlike stems.

This is only a small area so it was cut using garden shears.  A garden strimmer would beat up the plants too much and send little pieces of debris flying back into the sward which would be all but impossible to remove before they add to the soil fertility.   Experienced landscaper David P Fisher recommends using a motorised hedge cutter for large areas.

wildflower meadow cut for hay

The hay will be left on top of the mini meadow for a day or so to dry out and to allow the seeds to drop back into the sward.  It will be shaken and turned at least twice during the drying process – to dislodge the seeds and to make sure it’s dry enough to store.

Angela will be using her hay to feed family pets over the winter (Lily and Luna the guinea pigs).  If you have no use for yours, then add it to the compost heap.

Meadowmat contains 34 different species of wild flowers and grasses that are perennial and native to the UK.  It beats trying to start a wildflower meadow from seed because the establishment is a lot more reliable.

To find out more (and learn about meadow maintenance), download our free booklet.