How to Create A Meadow

How To .. Create A Wood Meadow. Based on the experience at Three Hagges Wood-Meadow just South of York

• Grant – Apply for EWGS, if appropriate.

• Plan – Use the maximum Open Ground, usually 30%. Plan where trees are to be planted to allow maximum wood edge effect, with rides and glades.

• Spray – the whole area off with roundup, to reduce weed burden.

• Cultivate & Spray Stale Seedbed – Allow min. 4 weeks. Cultivate the whole area to create a fine seedbed, allow a flush of weeds, then spray with roundup again, and again if necessary.

• Seed Mix – Take a soil sample and consider soil type when choosing seed. Low phosphorous levels best for meadow establishment. To keep cost down you could broadcast the whole area with fine grasses, and using a GPS tractor, wildflowers only in the Open Ground areas. This may also reduce the strangling effect of eg vetch on baby trees. Flowers over whole provides 100% habitat till canopy closes.

• Seed Rate – 15-20kg/ha, with as high a percentage of wildflowers as affordable.

• Cornfield Annuals – look great in the first year, (good for invertebrates), but die out by the third year. They may act as a nurse for wildflowers. Do not include corn marigold, as it is too vigorous and stalky.

• Broadcast – with a wildflower and fine grasses mix, without any further cultivation, and roll in, ideally in the autumn, but otherwise in the spring. Also broadcast slug pellets.

• Establish ‘meadow’ by cutting at least three times in the first season and then plant trees into it. This may require waiting a year longer, where the original weed burden is high. If cornfield annuals included, less cutting will be possible, which may hinder sward establishment.

• Native Trees & Shrubs – Plant a wide variety, with shrubs at the ride and glade edges. Consider coppice coups. Larger transplants (60/90cm) will be less likely to be swamped by strong vegetation growth.

• Fencing – Consider deer fencing if you have a large square site. Otherwise tubes may be more cost effective.

• Planting Pattern – plant in lazy S rows, to prevent the straight line effect, but still allow easy maintenance between the rows. Use coloured canes to highlight rows.

• Protection – Consider vole guards if you haven’t used tree tubes.

• Meadow Management – once established, cut annually for hay. If too much grass cut and remove twice annually.

• Between The Rows – tread back vegetation round trees if it is cutting out light. Brushcut over winter months, leaving arisings to increase organic matter.

• Weed Control – If you spray around each tree, it may enhance tree growth, but it will provide bare land for weeds to establish in. Few vigorous weeds will appear if the sward is established. Remove docks, ragwort, nettles, and thistles by hand or spot spray with roundup.

• Yellow Rattle – reduces sward fertility. It is an annual plant. Sow in the autumn into any small bare areas. Harvest your own seed, once established. You can use a Cultipack Seeder, also for enhancing species diversity.
Recommended reading:

• http://www.sdfarmbirds.com/_app_/resources/documents/www.sdfarmbirds.com/ unused/arable_reversion_to_species_rich_grassland_establishing_a_sown_sward.pdf

• http://www.sdfarmbirds.com/_app_/resources/documents/www.sdfarmbirds.com/ unused/arable_reversion_to_species_rich_grassland_early_management_of_the_ne w_sward.pdf

• RHS Companion to Wildlife Gardening 2016 Chris Baines