Creating a wildflower meadow.

TrickyT

Member
I help manage a small area of grassland for a 'country park' that is in my hometown. I am not a farmer, but have an interest, but mainly in vintage match ploughing!

This mainly involves cutting pathways with my Ferguson TEF-20 and a 4ft topper, along with some other maintenance activities that are required.

We have been given some money to convert an area of it from rough grassland to a wildflower meadow. This is only a small area initially of about 1.5 acres.

We have had advice from suitable groups, but most of this will be done but the committee of 8 members and hopefully some community involvement.

The only equipment we currently have is my Ferguson TEF-20, a 4ft topper and I also have an MF finger bar mower that could be used for cutting of the meadow when established.

Now we could contact this out and then maintain the meadow as it is proposed to be a 10 year project, but we would like to do in 'in house' to give us the opportunity to do future wildflower meadows where possible.

Now initially we have been told that the existing grass needs to be cut as low as possible.

The topper would not cut close enough and would also leave the cut grass in rows, which would have to be collected and removed. However, a flail mower will cut it much finer and would not need collecting. It could also be set lower to disturb the soil in places which is advantageous in creating the meadow.

I am aware that a fail mower for a TEF-20 would have to be quite small, but that would keep the cost of purchase down.

Once cut, the area would need to be 'roughed up' to accept the seed that we are planning on sowing. Would this be best with chain harrows or using a spring tine grass harrows, I am thinking spring tine grass harrows?

We have been told that the best was would be to broadcast the seed by hand due to the small amounts needed.

Would the seed need to be rolled? It would not be on any of the footpaths and there are no livestock?

Any advice on how it should be done and equipment would be appreciated.

This is the area proposed for information.

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Regards

Trevor
 

Danllan

Member
Location
Sir Gar / Carms
I can't comment on the success or otherwise of any other methods advocated, but... I've done this a few times, but with non-arbitrary hay in mind as opposed to pretty views, and I worked from the principle that the closer what I did was to the natural process, the better. So, other than grazing it hard first, I haven't done any ground prep' at all, just spread seed as appropriate to species. Obviously this uses more seed than other methods, but it's less laborious and does the job perfectly - as one would expect from a natural process. I did make sure that the seed I spread made it to the soil.

For me a meadow should be grazed periodically; although, by definition, far less than other land. This could be an alternative to cutting; it could earn you money if the plot is large enough, but so could hay-making too. You'll have to keep on top of the more vigorous species, nettles, thistles etc., but that's not difficult if you have the numbers written of, a walk through every month or so should see them controlled easily enough.

As an experiment, take a pic of a soil profile before you start and after a few years; and a survey of insects and birds too - you'll be pleasantly surprised. Good luck.
 
Looks like scrub to me and surrounded by houses, so little chance of judicious grazing...

Mowing late and then removing the material after any seeds have been shed, is pretty well vital from all I have seen of wildflower meadows, and if you can remove the material once a year for several years BEFOREHAND to reduce the background fertility, then even better!
 

Ali_Maxxum

Member
Location
Chepstow, Wales
Some of the things you suggest to help turn this into a wild flower meadow totally contradict how it is done around these parts. We've been 'creating' and 'managing' wild flower meadows around here for 15yrs+ now. Some of which are for the Wild life trusts, local meadow group, NRW, HRH coronation meadows and loads of private clients.

Firstly the grass/rubbish should be cut and removed/dumped. Best way is either to cut, bale and dump or use a flail collector, choose an area in a corner where you would be able to dump to allow the material to decompose. Cultivating of any kind is considered a big no no! (Apart from light harrowing in early spring)

You need to make the ground poorer and less fertile, flailing. Leaving the material actually feeds the ground.

It takes years for these meadows to establish. Broad casting seed is considered cheating. You would be amazed at what would come on its own, however this can take multiple years, but some things have popped up in the first year. It would be good to get the ground grazed from late summer through to March, but looking at where it is and with the woodland patches, looks to be a less viable option.

Happy to discuss/advise further.
 

TrickyT

Member
Thanks for all of your replies.

Grazing is definitely out, it is used for recreational walking.

The area has been surveyed and the types of seeds identified, I think the proposed cost of the seeds is £3k ish?

Due to the small area, not sure how many bales it would produce. The initial plan was to mow and then offer the cutting to others for meadow establishment (part of the local agreement) or use it to mulch around the young tress that we are trying to establish.

Regards

Trevor
 

Muddyroads

Member
Location
Devon
I’ve done some areas of this. “Wildflower” meadows mean different things to different people. Carefully consider what you want to plant and what the local community is expecting. The common perception of a wildflower meadow is anything but wild, hence the work involved.
Competition is a common problem, so the above comment about reducing soil fertility is spot on, but rarely has time to happen. Whether the community like it or nort, the area should be sprayed off, and ideally a false seedbed created. By the look of the picture you’ll have a big weed seed reservoir. As a result you’re probably better putting an annual mix in for the first couple of years, preventing weeds from going to seed.
The majority of seeds you plant will almost certainly need direct soil contact, so ploughing or rotavating is necessary. I used a Blecavator. The seeds then need rolling in.
Weeds need controlling each year to prevent them going to seed. I’ve seen some very good hand weeding of docks and thistles by community groups!
At the end of the growing season, once the desired plants have gone to seed, the area needs to be cut and cleared. I bought an elderly direct cut Orkel round baler for this, as it also helps redistribute seeds.
Don’t be afraid to ask if I can be of any further help.
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Totally agree with Muddyroads comments which concur with what I said... :)

I have had some experience with managing amenity land for a local Parish Council and to be honest its a bloody nightmare at times... I had a block of land that we had been cutting and removing the grass as big round bales, for over 10 years to reduce the fertility. Initially, the field gave about 10-12 bales and is now down to 5-6 every September. An early attempt was made to get both plugs and seed to grow, but not surprisingly, it was a fail

It is now ready for seeding. BUT... its full of Ragwort which as one of the local "experts" has stated is a vital source of feed for insects, so cannot be controlled! I suggested Roundup strips to allow some "clean" areas for a WF seed mix to be put in, but this was not acceptable as the public use the area.

I have a block of margin here that went into a wildflower Stewardship scheme 25 years ago, that I still mow and remove 50% of the grass and plant growth every year. Have had to stitch in new seeds to meet the latest scheme requirement each renewal, but it goes back to what it wants... :)
 

Muddyroads

Member
Location
Devon
Totally agree with Muddyroads comments which concur with what I said... :)

I have had some experience with managing amenity land for a local Parish Council and to be honest its a bloody nightmare at times... I had a block of land that we had been cutting and removing the grass as big round bales, for over 10 years to reduce the fertility. Initially, the field gave about 10-12 bales and is now down to 5-6 every September. An early attempt was made to get both plugs and seed to grow, but not surprisingly, it was a fail

It is now ready for seeding. BUT... its full of Ragwort which as one of the local "experts" has stated is a vital source of feed for insects, so cannot be controlled! I suggested Roundup strips to allow some "clean" areas for a WF seed mix to be put in, but this was not acceptable as the public use the area.

I have a block of margin here that went into a wildflower Stewardship scheme 25 years ago, that I still mow and remove 50% of the grass and plant growth every year. Have had to stitch in new seeds to meet the latest scheme requirement each renewal, but it goes back to what it wants... :)
Are your local “experts” familiar with the legal status of ragwort?
 

RushesToo

Member
Location
Fingringhoe
Totally agree with Muddyroads comments which concur with what I said... :)

I have had some experience with managing amenity land for a local Parish Council and to be honest its a bloody nightmare at times... I had a block of land that we had been cutting and removing the grass as big round bales, for over 10 years to reduce the fertility. Initially, the field gave about 10-12 bales and is now down to 5-6 every September. An early attempt was made to get both plugs and seed to grow, but not surprisingly, it was a fail

It is now ready for seeding. BUT... its full of Ragwort which as one of the local "experts" has stated is a vital source of feed for insects, so cannot be controlled! I suggested Roundup strips to allow some "clean" areas for a WF seed mix to be put in, but this was not acceptable as the public use the area.

I have a block of margin here that went into a wildflower Stewardship scheme 25 years ago, that I still mow and remove 50% of the grass and plant growth every year. Have had to stitch in new seeds to meet the latest scheme requirement each renewal, but it goes back to what it wants... :)
I think it most important that you explain to those that are using the field for amenity purposes that when puling ragwort they should have the correct PPE, an example here:


Ragwort pullingHandling live and dead plantsOperator
H​
PPE to be worn:-
Hands – protect by wearing sturdy waterproof gloves.
Arms and legs – ensure arms and legs are covered.
Face – facemask to be used to avoid the inhalation of ragwort pollen.
M​
If ragwort comes into contact with bare skin, the area should be thoroughly washed in warm soapy water, rinsed and dried.




You may find it less of a problem after this.
 

farmerm

Member
Location
Shropshire
Totally agree with Muddyroads comments which concur with what I said... :)

I have had some experience with managing amenity land for a local Parish Council and to be honest its a bloody nightmare at times... I had a block of land that we had been cutting and removing the grass as big round bales, for over 10 years to reduce the fertility. Initially, the field gave about 10-12 bales and is now down to 5-6 every September. An early attempt was made to get both plugs and seed to grow, but not surprisingly, it was a fail

It is now ready for seeding. BUT... its full of Ragwort which as one of the local "experts" has stated is a vital source of feed for insects, so cannot be controlled! I suggested Roundup strips to allow some "clean" areas for a WF seed mix to be put in, but this was not acceptable as the public use the area.

I have a block of margin here that went into a wildflower Stewardship scheme 25 years ago, that I still mow and remove 50% of the grass and plant growth every year. Have had to stitch in new seeds to meet the latest scheme requirement each renewal, but it goes back to what it wants... :)
1. It is a legal requirement to control ragwort
2. Last I checked Roundup is still legal and 90%+ of councils still apply it for weed control in public areas including footpaths
3. £3k for wild flower seeds for 1.5acres. that sounds like an appalling waste of money to me.
 

eagleye

Member
Location
co down
Is Ragwort not one of the Notifiable Weeds on AGRICULTURAL land, if this is amenity land may not apply?
I used to work in a dept that had to enforce the legislation in N Ireland and they could only try to persuade owners of building ground etc.
 
1. It is a legal requirement to control ragwort
2. Last I checked Roundup is still legal and 90%+ of councils still apply it for weed control in public areas including footpaths
3. £3k for wild flower seeds for 1.5acres. that sounds like an appalling waste of money to me.

Totally agree on all of the above! :D

The problem comes with Tier One councils where Councillors can have free reign with their beliefs and ideas on what is acceptable...
 

Brisel

Member
NFFN Member
Location
North Yorkshire
Roundup and cultivation for stale seedbeds to reduce the weed burden is best but with the right management, you can introduce the flower species into an existing grass sward. Do test the soil especially for pH as that will dictate the species mix. Some like acid, some alkaline, some clay, some sand etc. The guide posted by @Great In Grass is very good.
 
my 2 pence worth.

Very hard to achieve what the pictures on the internet look like. Every local will have an opinion and god help the man on the mower when he goes in 'destroying' the meadow. The armchair expert back lash will be impressive.

land needs to be really unfertile and you have to keep mowing and removing, we bale and try and flog for poor quality hay to locals
 

Great In Grass

Member
Location
Cornwall.
British native flowers are indeed expensive and 3k for 1.5 acres is very possible.

To help reduce the cost you could use the same species of flowers but with imported seed.

Bear in mind all the species will not thrive and some will die out due to competition with other plants and soil profile.

I would suggest sowing something like AB9 a Stewardship mixture which at two thirds cheaper the price (contains lesser amounts of flower seed) will in a short time show you which species thrive, you can then oversow with those species at a later date.
 

farmerm

Member
Location
Shropshire
British native flowers are indeed expensive and 3k for 1.5 acres is very possible.

To help reduce the cost you could use the same species of flowers but with imported seed.

Bear in mind all the species will not thrive and some will die out due to competition with other plants and soil profile.

I would suggest sowing something like AB9 a Stewardship mixture which at two thirds cheaper the price (contains lesser amounts of flower seed) will in a short time show you which species thrive, you can then oversow with those species at a later date.
I do believe it could cost £3k in seed. I don't believe such an investment offers an value for tax payers money. You can't create a natural wild flower meadow where nature does not intend to be one... at least not one that will be self sustaining and doesn't revert to grass, ragwort and brambles after a year. There are plenty of bits of land in the country that have never been farmed or managed in such a way as to remove wild flowers, yet wild flower meadow do not grow in abundance on these sites because the conditions are unsuitable.
 

nb844

Member
Can’t believe the seeds cost so much! We have around 15acres of wildflower meadows and a few years ago we were getting £50 per 4ft round for seed. Baled behind a drum mower and then sold to other farmers in HLS to spread on ground in an attempt to spread the seeds. Surprisingly affective when put through a straw chopper
 

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