Thursday, 1 March 2012

What is the best way to start a wild flower meadow?

When I was studying marketing, I was taught that "best" means different things to different people.  For example, it might mean "highest quality" or "fastest" or "cheapest" and so when customers phone Q Lawns and ask what would be the best way for them to bring wild flowers into their garden, I can only tell them what I have found out by comparing seeding to using Meadowmat.

Last April, I planted two wild flower areas in my garden.  In the first, I used seed bought from the garden centre for a total of about £10.00.  For the second I used six square metres of Meadowmat - retail value about £68 including VAT. 

Was the Meadowmat worth the extra money?
For me personally, YES.  Why? because I'm a busy person and I like reliable results with the minimum of hassle.

 Check out these two pictures, taken this afternoon (March 1st).
perennial wild flowers grown from seed almost 1 year ago.  No flowers so far, poor species mix and poor germination
Meadowmat installed almost 1 year ago, most of these plants flowered last summer, excellent ground cover
What you can't see from the photographs is the difference in the amount of work that each area has created.  Both areas were watered regularly for the first 3 weeks or so, once the Meadowmat had rooted in I stopped irrigating it but as it was a dry spring/summer, the seeds were watered probably twice a week.  This year, we are already being threatened with hose-pipe bans. Meadowmat should be fine....most water companies allow you to water newly laid turf....not so, seeds.

Weeds....I HATE weeding with a vengeance and I have to say, that I haven't had to remove a single plant from the Meadowmat patch, it seemed to supress the plants that would normally have popped up by themselves.  Not so the seeded area.  I'll concede that there weren't any native grasses sown into the seeded patch and that may have made a slight difference to the amount of groundcover that grew, nevertheless, all that lovely water served to germinate just about every weed seed there could ever have been in that patch.  Maybe I should have left it to its own devices, just to see what happened, but I didn't.  I must have spent a total of over 20 hours on my knees in that small patch, pulling out all manner of things that I recognised as weed (if I wasn't sure, I let it be, just in case it was something I wanted to grow).  And what did I get in return for all my TLC in the seed patch?  Precisely NO flowers but some lovely Yarrow and Plantain leaves for the tortoises. 

white campion in my meadowmat
If I were paying a gardener to nurture the seeded patch, It would have cost me far more than the Meadowmat, and if I were a bee.....I'd have given one area a wide berth and enjoyed the wild carrot, clover, vetch, hay rattle, birds foot trefoil, white campion, yarrow and plantain that bloomed so merrily in the Meadowmat patch before it was cut down, dried and fed to the guinea pigs as hay (which would have cost me about a fiver from the pet shop).

It's for everyone to make up their own mind about whether to use wild flower mat or whether to try seeding.  I know which I prefer.  This video says it all.
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