The becoming of a wildflower meadow – a story in two parts

In 2012, a small group of people decided to create a wildflower meadow in the ‘communal area’ of the Washbrook Allotments in Knighton. The communal area can’t be used to grow produce as it sits on top of a water storage tank and only has a shallow layer of soil. For some time, a corner of this area had been used for a communal compost heap but the majority was unused and sprayed about twice a year to control the weeds.

We sowed a mix of native seeds containing grasses and wildflowers in autumn 2012 with some addition of Wild Carrot seeds. In the first season the vegetation was dominated by grasses with a large number of Carrot plants, Teasels, Thistles and other ‘weed’ species probably present in the seed bank. It was not what we expected from a wildflower meadow but it had already transformed the area into a haven for invertebrates that could live in the tall vegetation and feed on the flowers.

We manage the meadow by mowing late to allow the plants to flower for a long time. We always make sure that we leave some areas uncut as refuges for invertebrates, especially over winter, and then cut in spring before the new growth starts.

Quite quickly after sowing we noticed that the desired meadow flowers, such as Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Lady’s Bedstraw, Meadow Vetchling, Oxeye Daisy and Black Knapweed, mainly grew in a narrow strip along the footpath where the soil is particularly thin and gravelly. It was exciting to see also all the other plants that came up from the seed mix and also grew on both sites of the path but often only as single plants or small patches, like Wild Marjoram, Musk Mallow, Common St-John’s-wort and Viper’s Bugloss.

However, the main area of the meadow was dominated by different grasses that seem to outcompete the wildflowers on the deeper soil. Docks and Nettles also thrived in the area where the compost heaps used to be.

Editor: find out how Uta and friends took the meadow to the next stage in episode 2 coming shortly!