As a gardener friend told me, getting out every few days, if not every day, is the kind of attention our garden needs.
But I haven’t, and the garden looks a completely wild mess. We have about nine large veg beds, and at least three of them have gone totally to seed and are overgrown with grass, nettles and bindweed. I love a clump of nettles here and there, especially as they are so attractive to butterflies, but this is no longer a pretty wildlife haven but a tangled and unsightly mess. The bindweed is the most challenging of all, creeping over everything and strangling it. These beds are at the front of the house and I wanted to find a way to make them look beautiful without spending heaps of cash, or having to commit to constantly tending them. That’s where wildflowers come in.
Why plant wildflowers?
According to research, Britain has lost about 60% of its wildflower meadows since the ‘50s, with large-scale agriculture and pesticides to blame, and this has had an impact on our native wildlife. Global warming also plays a part in the demise of our wildlife, with some studies predicting that every 1C rise will cause the eventual loss of 10 per cent of all species. Defra recommends the planting of wildflowers instead of more exotic, non-native plants in people’s gardens. Even a small patch of native wildflowers brings more bees, butterflies, moths and birds to an area and supports biodiversity.
How to plant them
There are different ways you can introduce wildflowers to your garden. Some favour plug plants to get a wildflower area underway before more virulent species such as grasses take hold. It also yields quicker results, but the drawback is the price making it an option only for smaller areas. My parents recently transformed a barren area in their front garden which had been concreted over, into a flourishing wildflower bed using rollmats impregnated with wildflower seed. These inconspicuous looking pieces of mat produced a colourful selection of wildflowers within a few months. However, this would again be too expensive a solution for me with the area I want to cover. So, it’s simple but wonderful wildflower seeds for me. I chose a native blend to ensure plants that would flourish and support the local insect and wildlife population. A bit of research online throws up differing opinions on how – or whether – to prepare the soil, but I bought my seeds from Wildflower Lawns and Meadows, whose owner has plenty of experience creating wildflower havens on a big and small scale so I thought I’d follow his advice. Believes that a space shouldn’t need too much preparation, even if it is a fertile area (some people recommend lifting the topsoil and adding sand to create a less fertile environment – wildflowers prefer less fertile soil such as wasteland). Reckons that this isn’t a necessary measure if you can control the weeds. I have pulled up the worst of the offenders – the bindweed and grass – and am going to put a piece of carpet over the whole patch so that the weeds die back, leaving an area where the seeds have a better chance of flourishing.
To be honest, I’m not entirely convinced it will work as I have had limited success sowing wildflowers before, but I am going to give it a go. Hopefully by springtime there will be a beautiful bed of wildflowers right outside my kitchen window – watch this space!