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Establishing a Wildflower Meadow

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Results are better on sites with low fertility, as this gives a wider range of wildflower species an opportunity to establish, without the grasses or more competitive wildflower species taking over.   Fertile sites, such as former arable fields, will only support a limited number of the most competitive species of wildflowers, but any fertile site can be improved with some effort.   In most cases, cutting (& removal of the cuttings) over one or two years is effective.

Preparation

Ideally, existing vegetation should be killed off and soil should be rotovated or harrowed &, where possible, left for 3-4 weeks to allow weed seeds to germinate.   Any weed seedlings should then be destroyed.   Do not add fertilizer.

If the soil cannot be prepared in this way, existing vegetation should be cut down as low as possible and the surface raked to expose as much bare soil as possible.

Sowing

Sow in spring, from March to mid-June or in autumn from August to late-September.   Seeds should either be broadcast by hand or using a seeder suitable for grass seed.   If sowing by hand, sawdust or sand may be mixed in to make the seed easier to handle.   After sowing, the site should be rolled or given a light harrowing to improve seed contact with the soil.

 Seed rates

Our mixtures should be sown at 20-30 kg per hectare (= 2-3 g per m2  or 8-12 kg per acre).   The lower rate should be used where a fine seed bed can be prepared on soil of low fertility and few weeds.   The higher rate should be used for small areas, where a fine seed bed cannot be prepared, where fertility or weed infestation is high or on steep slopes.   If your calculations result in a requirement for less than 1 kg of seed, please consider ordering slightly more seed than you have calculated as very small amounts of seed can be difficult to handle.

Management

Perennials take time to establish and initial management is to control annual weeds, which may otherwise take over.   For spring sown meadows, cut twice in the first growing season to 10 cm (4”).   This will kill weeds and allow the sown species light and space.   For autumn sown meadows, cut in the first April or May.

Future management can be reduced to cutting once at the end of the season in late September.   Some areas can be left long over winter to provide food and shelter for birds.   Cut these areas in early spring.   Always remove cuttings.   Never add fertilizers.   The species in a mixture will establish and flower at different rates and the composition will change over a number of years until the species are eventually in balance.

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