To learn how to restore our wildflower meadows, not only brings beauty to England, but also helps to provide food for pollinators (birds, bees, butterflies and bats).
Many wildflowers are toxic to pets. See the post on how to make your garden safe for pets to know which plants to avoid. Avoid using cocoa mulch, pine mulch or fresh compost (contains mould) near pets.
Avoid avoid digging where possible. If the ground is soft, use your hands. Earthworms and other creatures are harmed by garden spades and forks.
England has many roads with the word ‘meadow’ in the name, because years ago, nearly the whole country was awash with these flower-filled fields. Today, around 97% of them have disappeared (in the last 90 years or so), and the wildlife with them. Many meadow flowers are now critically endangered.
One meadow can be home to dozens of flowers, and provides a haven of pollen food for native insects and pollinators. Magnificent Meadows has tips on deciding whether your land is suitable to restore a meadow, or growing a new one.
A true meadow is formed by the annual cut of hay, with perennial flowers appearing through the grass from the roots. But because today we are more urban, not as much hay is made. Hare in particular (severely endangered) love hare meadows, and you may if you are fortunate, see two long ears sticking out of a wildflower meadow. Yet hardly any hay meadows remain (mostly in the north). There are also water meadows, which are flooded each year to maintain fertility. Coastal meadows are mostly found in Scotland.
Wildlife campaigners want farmers to take great care, when cutting meadows, to avoid disturbing ground-nesting birds and seed-eating birds (especially before 15 March). They recommend soil testing, applying well-rotted manure at low rates to increase natural food (insects and worms) and avoiding commercial fertilisers.
Why Have Meadows Gone?
Modern farming practices are the main culprit. Because most farmers now raise cattle to be killed at younger ages, most meadows have been mowed away to turn into intensive grassland, for pasture. Often fertilizers are used that kill off the meadow plants. Others have disappeared due to building new homes.
How to Restore Our Meadows
Eating less meat is one way, to reduce the need for so much intensive grassland for livestock. You can also ask your local councils to protect local meadows.
The best way to plant meadows is either to create one yourself, or find some unused wasteland to create one. Then scatter some seedbombs (you can buy these from SeedBall, Kabloom or Beebombs). These easily turn into meadows on bare land, and will soon grow flowers to attract native wildlife. If you have unused areas of a large garden, try not to mow it, and just let nature take care of itself. These contain wildflowers that may be toxic to pets, so only use them, out of reach of furry friends.
Books to Help You Grow a Meadow
- Mini Meadows is a beautiful little book, to help you grow your own meadow, and help restore our wildflower meadows. With just £30 or so, and 50 square feet of land, you can create a beautiful mini meadow.
- The English Meadow is a beautiful portrait of country life by Yvette Verner. Nothing compares to the unspoiled beauty of an ancient meadow on a hot summer’s day. In this book, she shares her passion for English meadows with lyrical prose, showing you what flora and fauna to look out for. Drawing on experience of managing her own meadow, she also discusses the importance of meadows to wildlife.
- Flowers of the Field is a book by natural history filmmaker Steve Nicholls, who takes you from the chalk cliffs to Kent to the Fens of Eastern England to the Outer Hebrides, to show the beauty of our wildflower meadows. He tells of ‘daffodil trains’ that transported Londoners to the odd case of the Bath asparagus: an edible flower bud of the rare spiked star of Bethlehem.
- Lawns into Meadows is a book by landscape designer Owen Wormser, who builds a case for growing more meadows. If you don’t use your lawn, allowing it to be reclaimed by native grasses and flowers can create healthy habitats for birds and insects. Meadows introduce ecological biodiversity with little effort, and also take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. They can also soothe the soul, and produce natural beauty year after year. The book shows how to grow your own organic and sustainable meadow, with before-and-after photos to inspire.