Compared with a conventional lawn, a wildflower meadow, or a wildflower lawn, has considerable advantages, the most important being the reduction in mowing. Mowing requirements can be cut to a fraction of that required for a good lawn.
Another significant advantage is the removal of the necessity to apply fertilizers or weedkillers. A wildflower area makes a change from manicured lawns; it is a beautiful feature in itself, and very appropriate for a certain kind of garden.
A lawn can be maintained as a wildflower lawn, encouraging the wildflowers, or ‘weeds’, instead of killing them. A lawn grown for wildflowers needs mowing less frequently, about every two to three weeks instead of every week, giving the flowers a chance to open. Mulch mowing returns the nutrients to the soil. Fertilizers might be used but only once a year at most and at a low rate of 10 to 15 grams per square metre, not using high-nitrogen lawn fertilizer, which encourages grass, but general fertilizer which encourages the flowers as well, or an autumn lawn fertilizer. A wildflower lawn, note this is not a meadow, is a very practical labour-saving approach for smaller gardens.
There is a big reduction in effort when a lawn area is turned over to wildflower meadow, especially in a large garden. Instead of mowing once a week from April to September, no mowing at all is done before the end of June, or early July, just like a traditional hay-meadow. After cutting, the grass is left for a few days to shed seed and then removed to a compost area. Subsequently, the re-growth of grass is mown every four or five weeks to keep it tidy.
The cut grass must be removed to reduce the fertility of the soil. This, in turn, reduces the vigour of grass growth and encourages wildflowers – the exact opposite of looking after a quality lawn. For the same reasons, no fertiliser is given, or lawn weedkiller applied, to a wildflower area.
The process of creating a successful wildflower area takes a few years. The reduction of fertility and the build-up of wildflowers takes some time. It can be speeded up by removing some of the top-soil, and by planting wildflower seedlings raised in pots. However, if the object in converting to a wildflower area is to reduce effort, these techniques are unlikely to be adopted.
The single big cut in July can involve considerable effort. For a small wildflower area, the grass can be cut with a strimmer and raked off. For larger areas, a rough grass mower, or mowing machine will be required, and these can be hired. However, the job of mowing gets easier as the meadow settles down, and infertility increases.
Even in the early years, it is still a lot easier than weekly mowing. This feature suits large gardens best because it can look a bit messy in a small garden. A close-mown boundary where wildflower meadow meets paths and driveways helps to tame an otherwise unkempt look.
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