Pollen and Nectar Rich Wildflower Meadow, Light-Medium Soils 20g
Pollen and Nectar Rich Wildflower Meadow, Light-Medium Soils 20g
A mixture of perennial native wildflowers with high nectar and pollen forage designed for all the species of bees in the UK as well as many butterflies and other pollinators. The ratio mix is 20% wildflowers to 80% non-aggressive grasses to form a permanent sward of wildflower meadow in heavy to medium soils. These plants species will find their own balance over time, some thriving more than others depending on your soil.
0.5 Achillea millefolium Yarrow
1.0 Centaurea nigra Common Knapweed
1.5 Centaurea scabiosa Greater Knapweed
1.0 Daucus carota Wild Carrot
2.0 Echium vulgare Viper’s Bugloss
0.5 Leucanthemum vulgare Oxe-eye Daisy
0.5 Linaria vulgaris Common Toaflax
0.5 Lotus corniculatus Bird’s-foot Trefoil
1.0 Malva moschata Musk Mallow
1.0 Medicago lupulina Black Medick
0.5 Myosotis arvensis Forget-me-not
1.0 Onybrichis viciifolia Sainfoin
1.0 Origanum vulgare Wild Marjoram
2.0 Prunella vulgaris Self-heal
1.0 Ranunculus acris Meadow Buttercup
0.5 Resea lutea Wild Mignonette
1.5 Rhinanthus minor Yellow Rattle
0.5 Silene dioca Red Campion
1.0 Silene vulgaris Bladder Campion
0.5 Trifolium pratense Wild Red Clover
1.0 Vicia sativa segetalis Common Vetch
6.0 Acrostis capillaris Common Bent
3.0 Alopecuris pratensis Meadow Fox-tail
30 Cynosurus cristatus Crested Dogstail
17 Festuca ovina Sheep’s Fescue
21 Festuca rubra Slender Creeping Red-fescue
3.0 Phleum bertolonii Smaller Cat’s-tail
This is a predominantly PERENNIAL wildflower meadow mix, and this method of establishment is appropriate
Ideal times to sow is Autumn into Winter as many of the seeds need cold snaps to break dormancy, and the soil tends to stay moist, but Spring or any time is fine if you can remember to water the germinating seeds in dry spells.
Preparing the Ground:
How you do this depends on what you have already. If you have wild grasses and a few wildflowers already, DO NOT PLOUGH. You can cut and over-seed with these wildflower mixes, which introduces a few more species, and you can then follow the guidelines below for subsequent years’ management.
If you have (as is common) a neglected patch with perennial weeds such as dock, thistle and couch grass, and mainly aggressive grasses you need some proper preparation. The docks are ideally hand dug out first. It is a good idea to get used to using organic methods for weed control, because herbicides will kill many wildflower species. It is primarily good management that will enable you to control and reduce unwanted weeds.
Prior to sowing, the area then needs to be ploughed or rotovated, to a fine tilth, then rolled to a firm seed-bed before sowing on the surface (making sure of even coverage and not covering the seed), then rolling again to create a good seed/soil contact, to ensure they stay moist for germination (on a smaller scale digging with a fork, treading with your feet, raking then treading again is a good method).
First Year Management:
In the first year many of the millions of existing seeds in the soil will germinate as well as your wildflower mix, so to ensure they do not dominate, the area must be regularly topped (mown on a high cut – no lower than 3-4 inches or 10cm), and this will enable the newly introduced species to establish. The perennial wildflowers or grasses will not suffer at all from mowing, in fact their roots would become strengthened for subsequent years. And any remaining weeds or docks will not be able to dominate if mown this way. Do not panic at the sight of unwanted weeds, just know that as long as you either gradually dig them up or cut them at flowering time (not allowed to go to seed), they will subside.
Subsequent Years’ Management:
Management by mowing or grazing on a permanent basis is essential for establishing and maintaining a true wildflower meadow. If not cut regularly at the right time, the area would eventually degenerate back into scrub or woodland.
There are various mowing strategies, but the fertility of your soil will in the early days dictate how fast the sward grows and may need more cuts initially. The regime of cutting can be decided upon the following factors:
• There must be one main cut known as the ‘Summer hay cut’, each year which can be done with a scythe, a strimmer or high-cutting mower or topper.
• The height should be no lower than 5 – 8 cm (2-3 inches) and you need to be aware of wildlife that inhabits the grassland such as nesting bees, slow-worms, grass snakes and mice. Birds will also nest until late July
• From their point of view it is good to sometimes make this cut at the end of August into September, but from the wildflower (and therefore pollen and nectar production) management point of view it must sometimes be done earlier, from July to August, otherwise some species of wildflower will die back. It is possible to divide the area into sections and cut some in July, some August and some September. This gives wildlife and area to move aside into and can be their lifeline. (Earlier mowings will produce the highest quality animal feed, which is why many farmers like to cut from the end of June, but this disturbs many nesting birds and other wildlife). It is also a good idea to leave some margins at the edges uncut so that other insects can overwinter safely.
• The hay needs to be turned for drying, so it is important to choose the right window in the weather. The hay should be turned, the seeds allowed to fall out, and raked up within 7 days, and either stacked (like old-fashioned hay-stacks using sticks to build up on), baled by machinery, or simply moved to a compost area (which will double up as a good hibernation site for hedgehogs or habitat for grass snakes and slow-worms). An area the size of a tennis-court will yield the equivalent for 5 small bales of hay.
• If the vegetation grows fast as on fertile soils and starts collapsing, it is better to take a cut then. As fertility may drop in subsequent years, it will be possible to leave the cut till later.
• Further cuts or grazing with livestock can be done after the main hay cut especially if the grass grows well as on fertile sites. This time, the cuttings can be left but should be mulch-mowed or flailed so it is broken up. Best of all is sheep grazing.
• Livestock (sheep are the ideal) can also safely be grazed in early spring to munch back weeds especially thistles or docks (even ragwort up to a point, though these should be individually removed when seen), clearing the way for the other grass and wildflower species to grow through to summer. An early spring grazing (or cut) of the first growth has the effect of producing a later flowering meadow which is shorter and more open, less liable to collapsing.
It is assumed here that not everyone has livestock on hand to graze their meadow, however, meadows managed with livestock grazing, rotated on different area of grassland is the best of all possible worlds. Not only does this save a lot of expense on fuel, contractors and time, but it manages the area in a far more wildlife-friendly way, and was the basis for hundreds or thousands of years of meadow management which provided the vital pollen and nectar for pollinating insects, along with what the livestock had to offer us. This was and is again, the basis of truly sustainable farming.
On areas that can never be grazed with animals, harrowing simulates the action of hooves which helps to reduce dense, matted dead material (thatch) close to the ground, which can prevent, in the long term, perennials from regenerating leading to loss of species. Late autumn is the best time to harrow as it creates open areas in the sward in which wildflowers can germinate (or you can plant plugs or sow additional wildflower mixes at this time).
Photo: Courtesy Emorsgate