A meadow doesn't have to take up acres upon acres of space. Learn how you can have a meadow garden in your backyard with these gardening tips.
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The ideal site for a meadow is an area of grass, free from vigorous weeds, that can be left to grow long and which has an existing population of native wildflowers that will flower and set seed year after year. Sadly, most home gardens haven't inherited a perfect wildflower meadow and will at the very least have to be introduced to new plants.
As a rule of thumb wildflower meadows prefer poor, impoverished soil. This is mainly because it prevents coarser grasses such as Yorkshire fog and rye grass from competing with and swamping the flowers. If the proposed patch of ground has nettles growing on it, then this is a good indication that the ground is nutrient-rich and the fertility needs reducing; similarly if the ground has been enriched over the years with the use of fertilizer and organic matter such as garden compost. One possible option is to remove 4 to 6 inches of topsoil to expose the poorer subsoil underneath. However this is only really practical over a small area of the garden. Another option is to sow yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) into the existing meadow in early fall. This semi-parasitic plant attaches to the roots of competing grasses, reducing their vigor.
Excess moisture can also improve the soil's fertility. If your site is damp, drainage can be improved in small areas by digging sharp sand into the soil. However in large spaces it may be more practical to choose moisture-loving species such as snake's head fritillaries, which will thrive in damp meadow situations.
It is essential that persistent perennial weeds such as nettles and thistles are removed at the time of sowing or planting, or otherwise they may prove difficult to deal with later on.
Most wildflowers will thrive on a sunny site such as this south-facing slope. Wildflowers make great groundcover on banks that are tricky to mow.
Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover © 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited