How to do it
When to do it?
The easiest way to create a pop-up meadow is to just stop mowing it for a number of weeks, and you can do this anytime from spring through to late summer.
How to make it look attractive?
The easiest way is to mow neat edges around the outside, or pathways through the middle. You could mow straight lines for a formal look, or wavy ones for something less regimented. I find that kids love running along the pathways.
How long to leave it for?
It is very much your choice and depends rather on the conditions in your garden. If your lawn is on a rich, fertilised soil, the grass might grow so lush in four weeks that it then begins to flop. In that case, I recommend that you cut before it falls over! Remove all the clippings onto the compost or into a green bin, and that will gradually reduce the fertility and mean you can leave your pop-up meadow for longer next year. However, on poor or sandy soils, or in dry weather, you might be able to leave the lawn for two or three months, no problem.
What wildlife to look for?
If you've 'popped up' your meadow in July and August, it is the prime time for meadow butterflies which lay their eggs in long grass, such as the meadow brown. It may not be the most colourful of butterflies, but it epitomises healthy grasslands. With luck, other butterflies may visit as well, including gems like the marbled white and common blue. If you repeat your meadow year after year, there is a very good chance that grasshoppers will colonise, frogs and toads may come to hunt at night, and hedgehogs might come for a good rootle about.
How to mow it?
When you come to mow your pop-up meadow, start by checking whether there are frogs or bees or other vulnerable wildlife currently in it. If so, shoo them out to safety! If the grass is really long, you may need to remove the tops with garden shears to start with. Then put the mower onto its highest setting and run over it slowly. The cut area of your meadow is likely to look rather yellow to start with, because all the greenery will have been up top, but don’t worry, it will soon green up again.
Wildflower meadows vs poppyfield annuals
There is some confusion about the difference between wildflower meadows and the beds of colourful mixed annuals such as poppies. The former contains grasses as well as long-lived wildflowers that come up each year and is managed by mowing; it creates a subtle tapestry rather than a paintbox explosion. The latter is much more colourful, but is created by digging the soil each year and sowing fresh seed.