This method of establishing a wild flower garden I stumbled on quite by mistake and have since encouraged others to try the same.
After harvesting my carrots I left the land-fallow, I no longer wanted to grow any crops, as I would soon be leaving the house. After quite a short amount of time weeds started to appear and I noticed among them were some varieties I wished to cultivate, (poppies, euphorbia characias, ladies mantle). I only recognised a couple at first and decided to read up on wild flowers and see which ones would look nice and which may become a nuisance. I then weeded out all the undesirables like nettles, bindweed, couch grass, rose bay willow herb. Then, to give nature a helping hand, I sowed a bag full of wild flower seed bought from my local garden centre. The result was a low-maintenance patch full of wild flowers.
It seems a lot of effort to go to for a house you are about to leave but I felt good knowing my legacy would perhaps come up year after year in that garden. It also meant, for the time it was there, the local wildlife would get the benefit from it too. I know also that the new tenants are keen to get a vegetable patch established again and I have suggested a new area of the garden. They also may choose to leave the wildflower site, as it should encourage predatory insects such as lacewings and ladybirds, which will act as a natural defence against many pests such as aphids. Indigenous plants should also encourage insects to keep the native bird population up. A garden should be about harmony and what better harmony than a garden that needs very little effort on your part to maintain.
To have a wild flower garden that really thrives it is worth having a look which plants are native to your area. In the UK the Natural History Museum run an excellent service where you can type in your postcode and see which plant species are native to your area, click here to visit it. It includes species they deem as garden worthy.
For the US I have found a site ironically called Dave’s Garden. Com. This site has an extensive plant database and shows a map of US hardiness zones.
– NOTE – I wrote this article back in 2004 or 2005 when the site first started and despite my lack of knowledge at the time I would still go about this in the same way. A wild-flower garden needs to be nutrient poor, following on from a crop and leaving the site exposed are two very good ways of achieving this. Alternatively to prepare the ground you may need to scrape away the layer of top-soil.
Some other species you may also want to consider planting (in the UK) are yellow rattle, red campion, mallow or just a wild-flower mix. Mole hills can sometimes be good sources of wild flower seeds as the moles bring up seeds that may have been dormant for a number of years. For a wild flower meadow try a mix of native grasses along with the wild flowers.