As we explained in our How Fair to Nature Works page, when our Fair to Nature farmers join our scheme they dedicate 4% of their farm land to plants that provide pollen and nectar for butterflies, bees and other important pollinating insects, i.e. wildflowers and leguminous plants, such as clover. This is something that we are encouraging everyone to embrace as part of their gardening practices.
How do you create a mini wildflower meadow?
The seed choice is vital when you create a mini meadow; you need to ensure that the seeds suit your soil type in your garden. In general, wildflowers, particularly perennial species, thrive on less fertile soils because then they are able to out-compete grasses and the more aggressive braodleaved species. Annual species, such as poppy and cornflower can tolerate richer soils and give a colourful one-off show so may be better suited to garden borders. Wildflower seed mixes sometimes contain non-native species which are fine in a garden situation but care needs to be taken if sowing near open countryside.
Ensure that you clear the ground and dig out any grasses. Unless you are gardening organically, a herbicide may be used to create a ‘stale seedbed’, i.e. remove all the unwanted plants species. Your local garden centre will be able to assist with product choice. A clean seedbed will give your wildflowers the best start and allow them to get established.
Once you have a clean, finely raked seedbed you can sow your wildflower seeds according to the instructions on the packet. The seeds don’t need to be deeply buried; just sprinkled on the top of the soil and lightly raked in will be enough. Timing depends on soil type. On a wet heavy soil, mid-spring is the best time to sow wildflower seeds so they are not sat in the ground, rotting over winter. On lighter soils sowings can be made in mid-spring or in the autumn.
To prolong the life of your wildflower meadow you need to manage it by mowing and removing the cuttings. A spring flowering meadow should be cut in July and several times throughout the summer. A summer flowering meadow can be left to set seed then mown in late August/September. A wide range of species is best for pollinating insects because different types of insects favour different types of flowers. For a mixed spring and summer flowering meadow, mow in the autumn. Removing the cuttings lowers the fertility of the soil and reduces the occurrence of pernicious weeds.
If you don’t have big garden you can still introduce a Fair to Nature corner by growing wildflowers in containers and window boxes. Ensure that you have a good pot with drainage holes and to encourage good healthy plants, mix some compost with garden soil and if you have some – add some gravel as well to help drainage.
Check the seed pack to work out how much seed you need for your size pot, and mix your seed with some sand and spread evenly. Dampen the soil and make sure that the soil remains damp whilst the seeds are germinating. Place the pot in a sunny place and watch your seeds turn into beautiful wildflowers.
Leave your flowers to go to seed, save the seed and cut back the flowers to about an inch ready for the following year.
Below we have put together some of our favourite wildflower and wildlife friendly seed websites for you to browse…