Wildflower seeds / garden


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7 Oct 2021
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We've got a small garden (about 90 x 40 feet) that in previous years was mostly lawn but had got a bit overgrown (slight lack of maintenance!). Last year I did a shallow bit of rotavating and weed removal... now some of the grass has come back in a fairly patchy way. My wife now wants to turn it into a wildflower garden - but we have no experience of doing this. We're happy to leave the patchy grass as it is currently - but add wildflower seeds in the grassy area and also sow wildflower seeds in the bare-earth areas (that are about 60% of the total garden area). Is allowing the grass to continue a dumb idea - will it compete with the wildflowers?

Would be grateful for any advice on how to achieve a fairly colourful wildflower garden. We're not into over-manicured gardens... so we envisage a wide variety of flowers growing to knee height... and we'll just strim paths through it to get to seating areas / pergola / bench etc.

The garden already has a few patches of Ox-Eye Daisies... and Red Poppies that seem to come back each year. So we're happy to retain and encourage those. But it would be good to know some of the following...

1. Which types of seed are a good idea to get?
2. Is it worth avoiding mixed seeds that include grass seed as well as flower seeds? ie is it best to go with a mix that just contains wildflower seeds (and no grass)?
3. Is it worth rotavating the soil again (I'm just using a Stihl Kombi system motor with the Stihl Pick Tine attachment - and that doesn't go very deep into the soil... so it's not like I'm heavy ploughing!)?
4. After sowing, will I have to cover the ground to make sure I don't lose all the seed to the local bird population?
5. Any recommendations on decent suppliers for wildflower seeds?
6. Anything else I should consider / do?

Many thanks
We did it the lazy way - basically do less mowing and it will take care of itself. it's a bit late but you could do it now but on a high setting say 2 to 3". Take the cuttings off and use as mulch or compost elsewhere. We just lay them direct around flower or veg beds.
Then leave off mowing for as long a time as you like, perhaps twice more before winter. See what grows. It will change slowly year by year. Don't "weed" anything out, just leave it be. Don't feed, fertilise, treat with anything. Chuck on some seeds if you have them but they'll come anyway. Anything which self sets tends to be a survivor.
Moss is good, nothing to worry about. Ditto dandelions and almost everything
If it's a big area you could mow paths through it which can look good and people follow them and tread less on the longer grass. Following year mow the paths in different locations.
Basically mimicking cow pasture - unlike sheep which nibble everything very short.
There are other ways of course - can be labour intensive if you want!
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A seed mix containing yellow rattle is good, suppresses grass a bit. RHS (rhs.org) has useful guidance, no need to be a member, search for wildflower meadow.

The chance of natural colonisation probably varies a bit with what's around you but I'm constantly astonished by wild flowers popping up from tiny cracks in walls etc. in inner cities.

Wildflower meadows got a bit trendy and you can pay ££££ for seeds, but some charities like RSPB sell packs, at least then the money goes to a good cause. It might just be a case of not mowing and waiting. Cut it all down in September and hope it improves year on year.
Yellow rattle is good advice.
Look out for / at local meadows. They will give you a clue for what will work with the local soil and climate.
Buying plants in general from local nurseries is a good thing because they are acclimatised to local conditions and more likely to a) survive moving into your space and b) to thrive there. So if you can source wildflower seed locally that's great.
From my dabbling with wildflower seeds is that they will grow, and die come the winter. Then that's it you need more seeds again
Yes that’s my understanding as well, but that can’t be how things were years ago, the flowers seeded and regrew each year, so have the seed producers rigged it? Obviously theses aren’t the seeds you need - perhaps a little borrowing of roadside seeds etc might pay dividends.
It does take a few years for any plant species to thrive (become established) in its new surroundings. The green roof on my workshop for example just put ordinary soil on there with some grass seed initially for some colour. Eventually (some 10 or more years) there's now a variety of stuff there but mostly weeds & green, it looks good. I did also put one type of plant bought from the garden centre that survives without much water and grows well in shallow soil; that quickly spread to cover the entire roof but now has naturally died back and been replaced by all sorts of green looking species. Not much in the way of flowering plants but maybe thats due to the shallow soil on the roof. Im no expert but expect wild plants come and go in cycles, wherever the wind carries them to be sure.
Surprisingly wild flowers do best on impoverished soil. Serious WF gardeners will strip the topsoil off to achieve instant impoverishment. This is probably a bit drastic in a domestic situation but you can steadily impoverish it over the years by removing all top growth and not allowing it to decay back into the soil. WF gardens tend to look a bit scruffy after the flowers have died off but you need to leave them alone until the seeds have set and fallen to the ground to provide next year's show.
Yellow Rattle is good because it lives parasitically off grass roots thus minimising grass growth and allowing flower seedlings space to grow.
We've had 2 attempts at WF gardening but have given up because it can be hard work for the short season of beautiful flowers.
My advice would be to get some Yellow Rattle down now and in the autumn throw mixed flower seed down after you've tidied up the summer growth but don't get rid of the. mower. You might change your mind in 3 years time.
Old flower meadows were mostly cut for hay, the process of cutting, drying, raking and gathering allowed the flower seeds to ripen and fall in the field before the hay was carted. The last place I was at had a wild flower meadow that was cut in late June, once seed had set, with an Allen scythe type of thing and the grass was then raked up. As years went by the wildflowers got better and better. It was on a chalk soil so a very different range of species than we used to get on Herefordshire clay
Thank you very much to everybody for your advice. Some great suggestions.

I like the sound of the lazy approach! And 'Be more Cow Pasture' could become my new motto.

@Richard_C and @Sideways ... thanks, Yellow Rattle is now on my list.

@Mel769 Wow 10 years. I'm going to have to take up a new hobby... that of patience (not something that comes easily to me).

@Yojevol interesting info re. soil condition.

@Cabinetman Thanks.

@Tris Thanks

@sawdust1 Thanks for the link. Looks like a lot of great info there... and the seed packs they sell look interesting.

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