Do you like the idea of growing wildflowers in your garden? A meadow turf might just be your solution.
Comparably low-maintenance and potentially good for the environment, this type of turf has become popular among homeowners looking for something more natural for their garden.
We wrote this article to let you in on everything you need to know about meadow turf.
What is a meadow turf?
A meadow turf, also known as a wildflower turf is a natural type of turf that consists of grasses and wildflowers. It is often grown or installed as a less expensive, low-maintenance alternative to turfgrass, which typically consists of grass only.
There are several ways to cultivate or set up a meadow turf in your garden.
- You can grow the turf from plug plants. These are basically seedlings that have been cultivated in a nursery and can be replanted in your garden where they will blossom into wildflowers or forbs.
- Meadow can also be grown straight from seed. This involves planting grass seeds and wildflower seeds in your garden and letting the seeds grow into the desired plant.
- The fastest way to set up a wildflower meadow is to install rolls of turf consisting of grass and wildflower.
Pros and Cons of Meadow Turf
Many homeowners looking to reduce lawn maintenance expenses opt to set up a wildflower turf at least in a section of the garden. Here are some advantages and a few disadvantages of having a wildflower meadow in your garden:
Advantages of Meadow Turf
Establishing a meadow turf is no less easy than laying traditional lawn turf. But, once it is set up, a meadow wildflower turf is easy to maintain. For example, you will only need to trim the turf once a year. Compare that with the traditional turf that needs mowing almost every other week to keep it in tip-top condition.
If you are keen about sustainable living, a wildflower meadow is the way to go. The combination of wildflowers and grass will attract native wildlife including pollinating insects, reptiles, and birds, creating a vibrant ecosystem right in your garden.
Traditional turf requires plenty of ground preparation, application of fertilizer, and rich soil to thrive. Meadow turf doesn’t need any special environmental conditions. You can lay the turf on infertile or thinning soil and the plants will still thrive.
Disadvantages of Meadow Turf
Some few challenges with meadow turf include:
They can be a threat to native plants
Wildflowers thrive best in the local environment. This is why you are encouraged to install or plant native grasses and wildflowers when creating a meadow. In case you introduce non-native plants, these can wreak havoc on the local environment, making it difficult for your garden to host local species.
Traditional garden turfs with their short, uniform grass blades tend to be more attractive. Wildflower turfs have a more wild and natural look and might not be the right choice if your idea of a garden is a well-manicured lawn.
It is common to set aside a small section in a garden to plant a meadow turf. However, this doesn’t mean that any small space will do. In fact, wildflower turf requires a significant amount of space for the plants to thrive or else the wild forbs will spread to the rest of your garden and create a weed problem.
Slightly difficult to establish
If you decide to plant a wildflower meadow, be prepared to spend a significant amount of time in your garden. Wildflower seeds take quite some time to germinate and grass take can several months to a year to grow to a meadow-worthy height. Lawn turf, on the other hand, is slightly easier to install and you will have a new lawn in a few short hours.
All in all, you will find meadow turf to be beneficial if you are looking for a low-maintenance, eco-friendly alternative to the regular lawn turf.
How To Lay Meadow Turf
Are you considering installing meadow turf in your garden? If so, here are the steps you need to follow to get your turf off to a great start:
Step 1. Choose the right plants
Select turf whose grasses and wildflowers are primarily native. Native plants will do well in the local soils and climate with little maintenance.
You will also need to decide between annual or perennial plants. Annual plants add a burst of colour to the garden but will need to be replanted yearly.
Perennial plants can take 2-3 years for the roots to establish but will require only minimal watering and in most cases, replanting will not be necessary.
Step 2. Prepare the ground
Before laying your meadow turf, you will need to prepare the ground that you want to transform. If the area has grass, use a spade to cut out the grass and the soil underneath.
Level the soil using a rake. Take out any remaining roots, stones and large rocks. Make the soil compact using a soil compactor or simply by walking on the area severally. Rake the soil again before installing the turf.
Remove some of the topsoil so there will be as few minerals as possible. Surprisingly, wildflower thrives in poor soil.
Step 3. Install the turf
Roll the turf onto the prepared soil in a staggered pattern. Cut the extra turf and water it immediately after installation.
How to maintain a wildflower meadow turf
In as much as your turf will require minimal upkeep, you still have to tend to the meadow to give the growing plants a chance. Here are some tips to get the most from your wildflower turf:
Avoid feeding your turf
Unlike a traditional turf, a meadow turf does not need to be fertilized. Fertilizer will cause aggressive forms of flower and grasses to grow and outdo delicate native plants and animals, which goes against your goal of growing natural plants and encouraging a diverse ecosystem in your garden.
Slow down grass growth
Grass grows faster than wildflowers. If you do not suppress the grasses, your meadow turf will have just a few flowers and too much grass when you should actually have a good balance between flowers and grasses. One way to slow grass growth is to introduce a parasitic plant such as the Rhinathus minor, which starves grass of nutrients.
Mow at the right time
A meadow turf requires minimal mowing and cutting and you will only need to mow once a year. Ideally, you should wait for the flowers to self-seed before mowing. Mowing as little as possible also allows more plants to take roots, therefore encouraging biodiversity.
We have gathered some extra tips to help you get the most from your meadow turf. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Opt for a turf that has only native plants
Wildflowers are at their best when they grow in their native soil and climate. Be careful with cheaper turf grown from seed mixes as these may have non-native plants that will outcompete the native plants and even spread to the rest of the garden against your wish. Turf that only has native plants is your best option.
Look into plugs and seeds
Meadow turf is a pocket-friendly option if you are looking to transform just a small section of your garden. If you want to plant a large meadow, you can look at other alternatives such as plugs or seeds, which are a less expensive option but will also require more tending to as the seeds are spread out across the garden.
Remove the nutrients from your soil
This might seem counter-intuitive but when preparing soil for installing a meadow turf, you should remove as many minerals and nutrients as possible. Wildflower thrives in poor soil unlike other types of plants that require nutrients to grow.
It is also important to get rid of weeds and vegetation on the ground as these might provide the soil with the nutrients you are trying to remove in the first place.
Prolong the flowering season with bulbs
You can extend the presence of wildflowers in your garden by planting summer or spring bulbs before installing the meadow turf. Examples of wonderful summer bulbs you can plant include caladiums, elephant ears, and dahlia.
Hyacinth, daffodils, and crocus are good spring bulbs to plant underneath the turf. Before rolling out the turf, spread the bulb seeds on the soil then cover with the turf.
Whether or not you are new to gardening, you now know what meadow turf is. As you’ve seen this type of turf has many advantages over a traditional lawn but it is not for every gardener.
You might find a wildflower meadow helpful if you enjoy biodiversity in your garden, don’t mind the shabby look of a meadow, and/or you want a low-maintenance alternative to the regular, well-manicured lawn.
Have you tried installing a meadow turf before? Please leave your comments and questions below—we’d love to hear from you!