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Friday 28th November, 2014

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The Wildflower Meadow
How To Start

Look at the area where you live and record which wildflower species grow naturally and do well there. These should form the basis for your mini-meadow. Choose a site in full sun, preferably with unfertilised soil. Low fertility favours many kinds of wildflower and is one of the main requirements for a wildflower meadow.

Do not waste your money by simply throwing wildflower seed onto existing grass such as a lawn or pasture. This will not produce a wildflower area. Wildflower seeds cannot compete with established grasses and will not even germinate if you do this. You will not only waste your money but be disappointed too.
If possible, remove all existing vegetation and sow seed onto bare soil. Do not use fertilisers at any time.

Mix your seed with sand so you can see the area you have covered. Lightly rake and firm down.

Never sow a mixture containing ryegrass.

There are three types of ‘meadow’ you can create:

1. A ‘Spring’ Lawn
This is an area of short grass which favours low-growing flowers such as Daisy, Cat's Ear, Speedwells and Self Heal, which cannot compete with tall vigorous grasses. You will probably have noticed that Daisies only grow in areas which are kept short, e.g. on closely-cut paths and lawns and trampled areas. Once the grass becomes long, they quickly disappear.

For a ‘Spring Lawn’ you need to mow every week, apart from the weeks between mid-May and early June. Resume mowing by mid-June.

2. The ‘Summer Meadow’ (The Classic ‘Haymeadow’)
This favours such as Lady’s Smock (‘Cuckoo Flower’), Self Heal, Bugle, Cowslip, Yellow Rattle, Dandelion, Lesser Stitchwort and Orchids. Lady’s Smock is the food plant of the beautiful Spring butterfly, the Orange-Tip.

Mow once in early April, then leave unmown until mid-July.

3. The ‘Late Summer Meadow’ (The ‘Butterfly Meadow’)
This type of management favours many species of butterfly, especially ‘the Browns’ (Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Gatekeeper etc.) whose caterpillars feed on and pupate in grass, and Field Voles which feed and breed in long grass. Tall-growing flowers such as Greater and Common Knapweed, Lady’s Bedstraw, Sheep and Common Sorrel (food plant of the Small Copper), Field Scabious, Ox-eye Daisy, Meadow Buttercup, Yarrow, Musk Mallow, Harebell and Goatsbeard are all important components of this type of meadow.

Leave unmown until late September-early October, depending on the season.

The downside of this type of meadow is that it can look rather scruffy by the end of the Summer. However, it is a very important habitat for many types of wildlife and we urge everyone to manage at least part of their land in this way.

REMEMBER: A meadow must be cut to function successfully. If left uncut it will simply revert to scrub and eventually turn to woodland. Wildflower meadow management is not the same as ‘leaving it to nature’.

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The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.
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