Wildflower Management: Perennial Meadow Management

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Management of the meadow

To ensure your meadow looks its best, it will require some maintenance each year. The basic process is explained below.

  • Watering and feeding

An established wildflower area does not require any additional watering or feeding. This could alter the natural balance of plants in the area.

  • Mowing

Although established wildflower meadows do not require anything like as frequent mowing as a conventional lawn, mowing is still important. 

  • New meadows

To encourage perennial flowers and grasses to make good root development, mow the meadow four times in the first year after sowing. Cut to a height of 5cm (2in) four times during the year.

If you have deliberately chosen a seasonal meadow or wish to encourage flowers in a particular season, time the mowing to suit. 

  • Established spring-flowering meadows

Cut in July and for the remainder of the summer to reduce the vigour of coarse grasses and to allow flowers such as cowslips, fritillary, lady's smock, selfheal and bugle to prosper. Leave un-mown from February to July. 

  • Established summer-flowering meadows

Don't mow until late August or September, after wildflowers such as knapweed, devil's bit scabious and lady's bedstraw have set seed. Use this summer-flowering meadow regime for meadows with plants flowering at various times, including spring and summer species. 

  • For all meadows:

It is usually a good idea to leave the initial mowings in situ for a few days to allow seed to drop to the ground but then it is important to collect mowings to avoid suppressing seedling germination or enriching soil fertility. 

Aim for the first cut of the season to be 5 - 7.5cm (2-3in) high. Subsequent cuts can be as low as possible. Mow during mild spells through winter if the meadow shows signs of growth. 

Many lawnmowers will struggle with long grass. Small areas can be cut with a strimmer, though larger areas are best tackled with a heavy-duty mower (e.g. sickle-bar mowers and motor scythes) or a two-wheel strimmer.

Potential problems

The main problem that is likely to be encountered is an abundance of weeds or dominant grasses. 

  • Perennial weeds - thistles and nettles for example – will need to be weeded out by hand 
  • Lawn weedkillers should not be used, as these will kill the wildflowers you wish to encourage. 
  • Where grasses become dominant try sowing the annual wildflower, yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) which is semi-parasitic on grasses. Sow this in August and keep the grass mown until March.