Treading Softly - Environmentally considerate living in a rural english home and garden

Treading Softly


Oxeye Daisies 2011

The 100 square metre wildflower area used to be a low-mowed area of the meadow which took up a good deal of time and fuel to mow and keep as a lawn. In 2003 the process of converting it to a dedicated wildflower area began with close mowing and raking (see below) and the sowing of Yellow Rattle seed, a "semi-parasitic herbaceous annual plant " that gains some of its nutrients from the roots of neighbouring plants which in this case was various meadow grasses.

"Research at the UK's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has shown that encouraging Yellow Rattle to grow in hay meadows greatly increases biodiversity by restricting grass growth and thereby allowing other species to thrive."

The first sowing was successful with the Rattle getting well established. In Year two additional Yellow Rattle seed and wildflower mixed seed were sown to supplement the natural dropping of seed. By year three the grass had diminished and a variety of indigenous and sown wildflowers had taken root.

Now in its 7th year the wildflower lot features Alconet, Betony, Birds Foot Trefoil, Meadow Buttercup, Celandine, Clover (red), Cowslip, Daisy, Dandelion, Dock, Dog Violet, Goldilocks Buttercup, Hawkweed, Knapweed, Lady's Bedstraw, Meadow Cranesbill, Mouse Ear, Nipplewort, Oxeye Daisies, Plantain (Greater and Ribwort), Ragwort, Selfheal, Scarlet Pimpernel, Sorrell, Speedwell, Stitchwort, Tare (Smooth), Vetch (Tufted), Wood Spurge, Yarrow (Millefeuille) Yellow (Meadow Vetchling, Woundwort and (yes!) Yellow Rattle.
Yellow Rattle Wildflowers Buttercups 2011

Wildflower Lot Maintenance

I estimate that I only spend one day (8 hours) a year maintaining the 10 metre square wildflower area. Most of that time is in mid-Winter when there's little else to do. So having a wildflower area is economical on both time and money, while generating great enjoyment for insects, us, our visitors and smaller creatures.

The annual routine is:


  • In November or January, I strim the area very low, exposing much bare soil. I rake and remove the 'hay' to compost on the wildlife heap.
  • I close mow with a lawn-mower on its lowest cut setting - the more exposed soil, the better - then rake the thatch once again with a tine rake and remove to compost.
  • It looks drastic and pretty awful, but by March it will be green again, and full of summer promise.
  • Hose down the very muddy mower. This is the right time of year to have it serviced so I make this its last task of the year.
  • Then I sow wildflower seed mix (or once established just a few additional seeds) in the prescribed ratio over the area. Some wildflower seed needs to have been exposed to frosts before it will germinate so the earlier the seeding the more likely the germination. If I end up doing it later in Winter, I put the seed in the freezer for a couple of days before sowing.
  • I tread down the scattered seed into the soil to deter the birds from picking it off.
Close mowing in Winter Raking off the thatch Knapweed The Wildflower area


I do absolutely nothing except enjoy and record the resulting flowers, grasses and insects


I do absolutely nothing except enjoy and record the resulting flowers, grasses and insects



I hand pull any thistles that have flowered before the seeds blow all over the neighbourhood.

That is it!
A year in the life of the wildflower lot.