Planting wildflowers is one of the easiest things you can do to help the environment! While wildflower meadows have been depleted by up to 97% between the 1930s and 1980s, we can all help by sowing wildflower seeds in our own gardens and other areas.
Wildflowers are essential to the ecosystem, as they provide food and a habitat for pollinators like bees and butterflies. Without these pollinators, we would have serious issues with food production as well as other domino-effect style environmental issues. In certain areas, wildflowers also prevent soil erosion and defend against flooding. Wildflower meadows also help to keep carbon sequestered in the soil and help to offset carbon emissions.
Our wildflower seed mix contains a wide variety of annual and perennial flowers and grasses, including cornflower, meadow buttercup, oxeye daisy, ribwort plantain, and sweet vernal grass – stay tuned for our next blog which goes into more detail about the seed mixes and the benefits of each plant.
No garden? No problem.
If you don’t have a garden or your outdoor space is limited, you can still plant wildflowers. People can and do sow our wildflower seeds in pots and window boxes with great success. This is easier in some ways as you don’t need to prepare a large area – just pop some soil in a pot. If you only have access to bags of compost, that is fine, but regular dirt from the ground is ideal because wildflowers thrive in low-nutrient soils. Sow your wildflower seeds thinly and cover with a thin layer of soil and water carefully, so you don’t wash the new seeds right out of the pot. Place in a sunny or semi-sunny area and add water if the soil has completely dried out, although wildflowers don’t need too much water. Good times to plant wildflower seeds are in spring between mid-March and May, and after the summer in September.
You don’t need to add compost or fertiliser
Many wildflowers thrive in ‘low quality’ soil, especially where grass is sparse, so it’s actually not helpful to wildflowers to try and enrich the soil. Overly fertile soil means that overenthusiastic grasses will take over and not allow your wildflowers to grow. Some wildflower seed mixes do contain native grass seed too – these are specially chosen to protect the wildflowers against more invasive plants, and to help establish a habitat for a variety of wildlife. We offer a wildflower seed mix that is 40% wildflowers and 60% grass seeds, whereas many commercial wildflower mixes are 80% grass and 20% flowers. If you want to plant wildflowers in an area which is currently full of grass, it may be worth taking steps to remove some of the grass so that it can’t outcompete the wildflowers for nutrients. You can do this by covering the area with opaque material like black tarpaulin to suppress the grass, mowing it very short, removing it entirely, or using a plant like yellow rattle which is actually parasitic to grass.
You need to mix the seeds into the soil
You could just throw some wildflower seeds down on the ground and call it done, but to ensure the best results, you should take some time to incorporate the seeds into the soil. You can do this by raking the area after planting the seeds, or even using a fork to break up the soil beforehand. After sowing, you can walk on the area to compact the ground a little and make sure the seeds are in contact with the soil. Plant 2g of seeds per square metre if it is a pure wildflower mix, or 4-5g if it’s a blend of grass and wildflower seeds. This is easy to do with our wildflower seed mixes in a glass bottle – they each contain 5 grams of seeds.
Water thoroughly after planting
Wildflowers need water just like every other plant – water the area well after planting the seeds. For the most part, they will not require watering once established – their complex root system allows them to access groundwater and utilise rainfall to maximum efficiency. During this summer I was actually tempted to water my wildflower area, but it was so well established in the spring, the flowers didn’t even wilt during the heatwave and subsequent drought. While lawns that get mown frequently in the summer have become browned and crispy, areas that are allowed to grow longer have more moisture sequestered within them, enabling them to withstand a period of drought. Of course, wildflowers grown in pots or tubs will need some watering during dry spells.
Protect against birds and other animals
Birds love to eat seeds – in fact, once the wildflower area is established, it will provide food and shelter for many bird species as well as insects. But while the seeds are growing, you may wish to use some netting over the top for the first few weeks after sowing your seeds. If you have dogs or cats that like to dig, try to keep them away from the area just while the seeds are germinating.
Cut the wildflower area once a year
It might seem counterproductive to cut down your wildflowers, but doing it once a year after the wildflowers have already bloomed and gone to seed is actually beneficial. Mowing once a year at the end of summer helps to prevent grasses from taking over the wildflowers, and the plants you actually want to keep will have already scattered their seeds if they are annuals, or are low to the ground as basal rosettes if they are perennials. Perennial plants actually tend to look better and grow stronger in the second year. If you feel nervous about cutting down your whole meadow, then you can cut in sections, allowing a week in between. This can help to boost floral diversity. After mowing or strimming down your wildflower area, leave the cuttings for a week to allow any seeds to fall out, and then remove the cuttings to avoid making the soil over-fertile. You can add the cuttings to your own compost. Many wildflowers are self-setting, meaning you don’t need to plant the seeds again the following year, but you can save some seeds from your wildflowers to spread to another area, or pass onto someone else who wants to start growing wildflowers. The tall grasses and wildflowers might be too much for most mowers, so consider using a strimmer or even a scythe to cut your wildflowers.
You can find our wildflower mixes on our website – we have a specific blend of wildflower and grass seed, ideal for outdoor areas, and the 100% wildflower seed mix that is perfect for growing in pots, borders or window boxes.