One of the most popular grass species in the UK is ryegrass. It's cheap, quick to establish, and provides a lush lawn that suppresses weeds. Yet we don't include it in our seed mixes. Why is that? Because all the qualities that make perennial ryegrass wonderful for a lawn make it terrible for growing with wildflowers.
Ryegrass is a dominant species. It germinates in just 3 to 5 days and produces turf in as little as 30 days. Considering most wildflower seeds take between 7 and 30 days to germinate, ryegrass will have already taken over the plot, covered the ground, and crowded out the wildflowers that are just beginning to sprout and establish roots. Even flowers that do manage to sprout are still at risk of being smothered by this grass as it grows. Ryegrass is both tall and known for rapid growth - reaching heights of up to 90cm. Not only does this create a lot of shade, which some flower varieties don't tolerate well, but it also grows significantly taller than most wildflowers, blocking the view of your beautiful flowers.
Alternatives to perennial ryegrass
What should you use instead of ryegrass? We suggest using several species of grass for a natural meadow. This creates variety and caters for as much wildlife as possible. Our wildflower seed mixes contain the following grasses:
- Creeping Red Fescue
- Meadow Fescue
- Tall Fescue
- Hard Fescue
- Smooth-Stalked Meadow Grass
- Mixed Herbs
Much like wildflowers, Meadow Fescue grows well in poor soil conditions making them very compatible. Timothy and Creeping Red Fescue are both slow-growing initially, allowing wildflowers to get well-established. All the species listed have been carefully selected to provide the best support to your meadow while adding visual interest and providing value to wildlife.
While people mainly think of flowers as being great for pollinators, the grass in a meadow is also important to wildlife. A great example of this is Cocksfoot - the grass is a food source for caterpillars, the seeds are eaten by birds, and the pollen is favoured by honeybees. On top of this, bees can build nests in it, small mammals can nest in the stalks, and it provides a habitat for reptiles and amphibians. Timothy grass is the main food source for caterpillars of several butterfly species including the marbled white, and it forms an essential grassland habitat for invertebrates. Just imagine all that wildlife thriving in your garden thanks to grass!