Wildflower Gardens Are A Haven For Wildlife
The creation of wildflower gardens would seem to be an easy and obvious course to take if we are wanting wildlife friendly gardens, but contrary to what many believe as with all gardening it will require some planning and preparation.
In general native wildflowers prefer a soil with a low level of nutrients, less fertile soil, some describe it as poor soil.
Rich fertile soil will give the wildflowers competitors the upper hand and they will muscle out the wildflowers before the wildflower garden can get properly established.
Once established wildflower gardens are relatively low maintenance. Once a year wildflower meadows will need to be cut in late summer, then left for a while to allow any remaining seeds to drop. To keep the soils fertility low we are advised to clear all the cut foliage as nature will take its course if its left and allowed to rot down.
Key points on how to grow wildflowers
- Wildflowers require poor nutrient soil, but like sunshine.
- A weed free bed is important as wildflowers struggle to
compete with weeds.
- Generally sow in Spring or Autumn.
- Mix seed with sharp sand to help with casting and will
protect seed from birds etc.
- When using a wildflower mix of seeds lightly rake the soil
- Lightly rake the soil after sowing as this helps activate the
- Water, but keep in mind wildflowers, unless they are bog
plants, do not like being waterlogged.
- Remove all foliage from soil to aid low soil fertility.
- Allow self sowing but also harvest seeds for containers,
garden pots or other areas in the garden.
Many choose to use a wildflower mix of seeds
These are prepared for particular habitats, such as a meadow
or a wildflower butterfly border or bee border as well as a wildflower cottage garden border.
Others prefer to make use of boxes of wildflower plants that
are collected together for specific types of soil, such as acid, limestone, clay or sandy. We can also choose wildflower plants for coastal, rocks or pavement, pond margins even green roofs. Wet and Damp situations, sunny, shade or semi-shade.
And as with a wildflower mix there are collections of wildflower plants to attract bumblebees or birds.
These collections in a box do a lot of the work for us, we just need to make sure we plant them in the right situation. Here's where having a garden plan helps us to choose the right plants for the situation we are considering planting.
Whether we decide to sow a wildflower mix of seeds or to use wildflower plugs or plants, part of the preparation is to remove as many weeds as possible before sowing or planting because wildflowers do not compete well with aggressive weeds, so we may have to spend some time with a hoe as we are best not disturbing the soil too deeply as this could activate more weeds. Shallow raking of the soil after sowing wildflower seeds helps activate germination. How often are Red Poppies seen flowering along a roadside that has recently been dug up?
There are alternative methods to using a wildflower mix or
plugs and plants to create wildflower gardens for wildlife.
Commercially Prepared Wildflower Turf
One option we have available to us is what is described as wildflower turf, this has been seeded with a mixture of grasses and wildflowers and can be purchased by the square meter.
Having been sown onto a non permeable membrane the roots of the wildflower turf are prevented from rooting into the soil below so they mat together in a thin layer of compost. When laid in situe they are raring to root into the soil while also creating a barrier for any latent weeds, even so, where the wildflower turf is going to be laid the soil needs to be as weed free as reasonably is possible.
The wildflower turf is laid the same as we would ordinary turf and approximately eight weeks later will produce wildflowers subject to any seasonal variations.
Wildflower Seed Mats Are Another Option.
These are made of thick tissue paper measuring 9" x 6" which has been impregnated with wildflower seeds and come in a packs of five. There is an obvious application with wildlife container gardening or with reasonably sized garden pots.
We might think that a lot of these would be needed to create even a small wildflower garden which is true if we thought about trying to plant a large area with these. But by cutting them down to 6"x 4.5" with a 3" equi-distant gap between and around them, one pack can cover a 48" x 18" garden bed. By this reckoning six packs will cover a plot 3 feet x 12 feet. At £2:50 a pack (at the time of writing) this is worth considering especially when we will be harvesting seeds from the plants.
Using the expertise of others we can create wildflower gardens for wildlife that will bring us pleasure for years to come.