creating a wild flower meadow

Sarah talks through how she has begun to establish the wild flower meadow at Perch Hill.

So this is the new wildflower meadow, and we planted this 18 months ago, and what we did first of all was we sprayed it off with glyphosate which some people feel really anxious about but the truth is the whole of this farm had been sprayed with glyphosate over 40 years on a really regular basis and what it resulted it was then re-sown with really boring Italian rye grass mix and there were lots of thistles and docks in it. So what we had here was very boring and it wasn’t really a good place to start, so we sprayed it off and we re-sowed with a much more exciting mix of grasses and wild flowers in it, and the key thing is that the grasses that we’ve re-sown with are fine-leaved rather than coarse-leaved grasses, so they look almost more like a chive rather than like an iris, if you see what I mean.

If you have fine-leaved grasses they can cohabit with wild flowers really easily because it’s literally the leaves don’t creep out and just smother all the wild flowers around them, and that’s what you don’t want, and so fine-leaved grasses can have the wild flowers growing through them, and then what we did is we sowed the stuff called ‘Yellow Rattle’ which is an annual which is parasitical on grasses, so not only have you got a weak growing grass with the fine leaves, but you’re weakening it further by adding in ‘Yellow Rattle’, and that allows the sward to open up so that the wild flowers stand a much greater chance to self-sow all the way through it.

So if you just stand here, this is only 18 months old, it’s not that exciting at the moment as there aren’t many flowers out, but if you look down into the grass you’ll see there are lots of different leaves, lots of different textures and patterns and that’s because there are quite a few different species in here. And then you just look over the hedge, which is a newly planted hedge and look at what was here 18 months ago and that was that which was really dull, nettles, docks, thistles and mainly Italian rye grass mix, and so even though this isn’t spectacular yet it’s really optimistic and if we come back and look at this in about 6 weeks’ time, you know I can see here there’s geranium, there’s buttercup, there’s sorrel, there’s knapweed, there’s oxeye daisy, there’s lots of exciting things, yarrow, and so once this is all in flower then it’ll look beautiful and it will then gradually just self-sow from one year to the next and you’ll get more and more and more flowering and less of this grass.

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