Sep
01

How to create a wild flower lawn

How to create a wild flower lawn in easy stages.

Following my instruction sheet on using my best selling Low Flowering Lawn seed mix containing wild orchids, which you can see pictures of and buy by clicking on this link here

Instructions for creating your ‘low flowering wild flower lawn’

Ideally choose a site that receives a reasonable amount of sun. Although this flowering lawn mix will tolerate a fair degree of shade it will flower best where it receives more sun.

 

Within the area to be seeded remove any existing vegetation. You can either remove the top thin layer of vegetation just below soil level to reveal bare ground using a spade or a turf-cutter is good for this (which one can hire), or lay some black plastic or old carpet over the top of the vegetation to kill it (this takes a few weeks). Alternatively and for larger areas spray off the existing grass or weeds with Glyphosate (Roundup) weed-killer. Ten days after spraying, cut the dying vegetation as tight to the ground as possible and remove the cuttings. I only advise the use of Glyphosate as some other weed-killers do not break down on contact with the soil and so remain active to kill or weaken the future germinating seedlings. It is also the least harmful chemical weed-killer to use from a wildlife perspective. For weedy long grass lawn areas, or where a lot of weed seeds have been allowed to build up in the soil’s seed-bank over the past, it is best to spray the area off twice. Carry out the second spray when the area has greened up again, which can be several weeks later. Then undertake the seeding. This will reduce the amount of weed seeds that will germinate from your soil along with your sown wild flower seeds.

 

You can simply sow your seeds on the surface of the soil which has been revealed by the weed killing process described above. You can cultivate the ground but you do not have to; if you do you may expose many more weed seeds dormant in the soil’s seed-bank, which will germinate along with your sown seeds. If you need to cultivate the ground because it is rather compacted or you need to bring in soil, do this early to allow the weed seeds within the soil to germinate and then carry out the weed-killing procedure outlined above, then seed it. For smaller areas I favour spreading over the top of your bare ground a top dressing about 1cm thick made up of multi-purpose compost from your local garden centre mixed with one third sharp sand. This creates a great germination bed but it is not thick enough to prevent the seedlings getting their roots into the firmer ground beneath as they get bigger.

 

You can sow your seeds anytime of the year. To get the quickest results my favourite time to sow is between mid February and the end of May but later will still work, anytime up until October. If you sow later than this the chances are nothing will germinate until the following spring so you might as well wait and sow nearer that time. However the rate of germination will depend on the level of moisture and warmth in the soil. If the weather is dry following seeding water the area regularly to speed up germination and establishment. Not all the wild flower species germinate at the same time, some are months behind others so there is always new things to spot when you inspect your wild flower lawn. If for any reason you find that you are not able to sow your seeds as quickly as you had hoped, do not panic, as long as you ensure the seed is kept in the bag and stored in a cool, dark, dry place it will be viable for 12 months or more.

 

Seeding. If seeding by hand, divide up the seed packet and your plot into quarters and this way you will get early warning if you are sowing too thickly and are likely to run out of seed before you reach the end of your plot! If you have scales to measure 3 grams accurately, do this and then between your fingers carefully scatter that quantity of seed over a marked 1 metre x 1 metre square of flat material such as a cardboard or plastic sheet etc. By doing this you will get to see the seed pattern/quantity that you should be using when sowing at 3 grams per square metre accurately. You will also get an opportunity to see the array of different seed shapes and sizes as many are very tiny and hardly noticeable from looking at the packet. Save the seed from this exercise to sow with the others.

 

I would encourage you to take the time to put some seed on a piece of plain white paper and use a magnifying glass to see their wonderful variety of shape and size. Even more amazing is looking at them under a microscope at x20 magnification – this is how I check and identify seeds – tiny round seeds that look the same to the naked eye can be from several different species and will have a very different appearance when magnified x20. At this magnification they can be seen for what they are, some of Mother Nature’s incredibly beautiful designs!

 

Do not cover with soil. Don’t worry about birds eating your wild flower seeds, I have never found them to be a problem as the seeds are too small, some grass seeds may be taken but this will not affect the final appearance. However if you will have wild rabbits entering the seeded area then do protect it from them i.e. fence them out using rabbit netting, as they love young seedlings and will eat them before you even notice your seeds have germinated and you will end up with very few wild flower species or large bare areas.

 

Once the seeds have germinated and you see vegetation growing start mowing it when it reaches about 3 inches high, with your mower cut height set to about 2 inches (it is preferable to remove the cuttings). It will begin by looking very gappy with bare ground but will fill in as the plants germinate and spread to create your wild flower lawn.

 

Mowing. The species in this mixture will tolerate close mowing to a height of about 2 inches (5cm). To receive good flowering all season maintain a mowing frequency of about one cut every 3 weeks for the majority of the summer – this is approximate and you can certainly extend this mowing interval. However, if you mow too regularly i.e. every week, then many of the flowers will not get a chance to bloom, although you will not kill the plants you will not have much flowering. The final cut of the year should be done shorter than 2 inches to leave the lawn quite tight and ideally remove the cuttings to ensure good flowering resumes in the spring. When the wild orchids start flowering (this will not be until 3 to 4 years after sowing) you might want to mow round their lovely flowering spikes as they will only flower once each summer unlike the other species which will put up more flowers following mowing. Please note that the wild flowers in your lawn seed mix are perennial and come up year after year but only a few will flower during the initial year of seeding as they usually like a year of growth before flowering.

 

If you wish to maximise the flowering and wildlife benefits of your wild flower lawn once it is established (which would normally be from the second year), instead of mowing the whole lawn in one go, you can mow alternate halves every 10 days or more i.e. alternating which half of the lawn you cut each time, this will ensure that there are always flowers to view and for bees and butterflies to enjoy throughout the summer, as it can take a week to ten days for flowering to resume following each mowing.

 

When will the wild flowers appear? Being perennial wild flowers they take longer to germinate than annuals and depending upon the levels of warmth and moisture in the soil the majority will not germinate until late June or early July from a spring sowing (so be patient and don’t panic!). There will then be a succession of different species germinating throughout the following weeks and months. Many of the perennial wild flowers spend their first year bulking up their leaf growth and root structure instead of flowering so do not expect to see very much flowering in this first year. It is from the second year when your wild flower lawn will mature, with different species flowering en masse throughout the spring and summer. During the first year it is quite normal for it to look patchy with only a little colour but this changes during the second year. Your low flowering lawn wild flowers are all perennial which means they will survive year after year without the need for re-seeding. They are fully hardy to survive the winter and dry summers.

 

If you follow these simple instructions your wild flower lawn should survive indefinitely and bring you much pleasure and fascination year after year. No two years will be the same as different species will bloom at differing levels of abundance, producing an ever changing feast of colour and form for your enjoyment and the bees and butterflies too.

 

Colin Reader 

Proprietor of Wild Flower Lawns and Meadows

Posted in Uncategorized |
Aug
29

Wild Flower Turf

Wild flower turf for sale with wild orchid seeds. Nationwide delivery.

To view my three wild flower turf types click here.

My wild flower turf is lighter than conventional lawn turf and easy to lay, just like carpet. It has a biodegradable weed suppressant membrane to stop weeds growing up from underneath it. To lay it cultivate the ground to a good tilth like a flower bed and rake it level and then lay the turf on top and water it well for the following few days and during any drought, until the roots have grown deep enough into the soil to get their moisture easily. The turf plants are frost hardy and will come up year after year. At the end of every year cut it down tight and remove the cuttings, this will allow it to grow back up fresh each spring and flower right through from spring until late summer.

Wild Flower Turf – inspecting the growing beds.

The turf is created on a ‘soil-less’ system that promotes good root establishment

Turf flowering in early May

Turf flowering in early May

Posted in Uncategorized |
Aug
28

Yellow Rattle seed

Now is the time to buy Yellow Rattle seed for sowing. My Yellow Rattle seed sale page can be accessed by clicking here. It is all locally harvested.

Yellow Rattle is a native wild flower plant that does a great job weakening and reducing grass competition for wild flowers in grassy areas. They are annuals and flower throughout the spring and summer and look lovely. Their dry seed pods rattle, hence their name. They shed their seeds from July, which germinate in the spring and become new plants and continue the grass suppressing effects for your grassland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best time to sow Yellow Rattle seed is between August and February. It enjoys being exposed to the winter cold which assists germination, which happens during late March or April.

You should sow your Yellow Rattle seed over the surface of the ground having first cut the grass very tight and removed the cuttings. The rain will wash the seed down to the base of the grass where it will germinate in the spring and attach onto the grass roots. I suggest you sow at a rate of 0.5 grams of seed per square metre; I have developed my pack sizes to reflect this. To view my blog article on how to enhance a grassy field using Yellow Rattle click here.

Posted in Uncategorized |
May
31

I like this positive news item

Tailored strips of wildflowers allow pest-eating insects to spread throughout crop fields, reducing the need for pesticides. We meet the team behind the trial that puts flower power at the fore…read more by clicking on the piece below:

Out with pesticides, in with wildflowers

Posted in Uncategorized |
Mar
30

Slug and snail deterrents


I found the following company’s unique plant pest deterrent products of particular interest due to their safe ingredients, beneficial side-effects on the plants and non-harmful effects on the target pest. The products are plant protectors and not pesticides. I have used their G2 formula on my plant plugs and mature plants and found them effective against slugs and snails; repeat treatment I found beneficial as the plant grows and produces new leaves and also after periods of rain.

They also do a G1 formula to protect plants against rabbits which has been used in agricultural situations as well as gardens, I am yet to try this one as I tend to use rabbit netting to fence out my wild flower areas if rabbits are present, but I would be interested to hear from customers who have used their G1 product.
Click here to visit their website.

Posted in Uncategorized |
Jul
22

I will be back at BBC Countryfile Live again this August

I will be back at the BBC Countryfile Live Show at Blenheim Palace from Aug 3rd till 6th (Thursday till Sunday), come and see me at stand B03 along Craven Avenue in the garden area.

Posted in Uncategorized |
Dec
09

Wild Orchids

 

At this time of year many people are thinking about planting my wild flower bulbs for the early spring however I thought it is worth mentioning that our wild Orchids are not dissimilar in their development, forming an underground tuber or rhizome first, before putting up a flower spike. My selection of wild Orchid seed can be sown at any time as the start of their development all happens beneath the ground, not reliant on sunlight at this stage, they are one of the few plants whose seed can be sown straight onto the soil surface among the grass of a lawn or field (I have written the instructions on the seed packet); they do not require bare ground prior to seeding which is required for the wild flower seed mixes.

Early Spider Orchids a secret of the south downs

 

Green-winged Orchids come in various colours

 

More Green-winged Orchids …aren’t they gorgeous!

             You can purchase my various Orchid seeds on the ‘Rarities page’

Common Spotted Orchids in flower

Common Spotted Orchids in flower

Posted in Uncategorized, Wild flowers up close |
Nov
30

Seeds for Bach Flower Remedy plants, Scleranthus, Mustard etc.

I have been impressed by the large number of people contacting me for seeds of plants used in Bach Flower Remedies, in response to this I have done my best to collect as many species seeds as I can including Autumn Gentian, Scleranthus, Centaury, Common Rock-rose, Heather, Wild Mustard, all of which you can see for sale on my uncommon species page which you can view by clicking here. I can also supply other wild seeds by request such as Gorse and Broom etc, just drop me an email to enquire by clicking here.

Autumn Gentian

Autumn Gentian photo by Colin Reader

Posted in Uncategorized |
Jul
28

See me at the BBC Countryfile Live Show

I will be at the BBC Countryfile Live Show at Blenheim Palace from Aug 4th till 7th (Thursday till Sunday), come and see me at stand J107 in the garden area near the main arena.

Visit 'Wild Flower Lawns and Meadows' at the Show

Visit ‘Wild Flower Lawns and Meadows’ at the Show

Posted in Uncategorized |
Jul
26

Enhancing a grassy field using Yellow Rattle seed

Part of my work is to advise on wild flower meadow creation and management, sometimes I carry out the work too with my colleague. Here is a field we sowed with Yellow Rattle seed in 2011 to reduce the grass vigour and open up the sward and then we added wild flower seeds.

Field in its original grassy state

Field in its original state 2011

The results five years later.

The results five years later in 2016

Once Yellow Rattle was established in one part of the large field we collected its seed with our ‘flail collector mower’ and dropped and spread the cuttings in other parts which needed more Yellow Rattle and we did the same with seed from wild flowers which had established elsewhere within the field.

This is a longer process to reach the end result compared to creating a wild flower meadow anew from bare ground whereby full colour can be achieved within a year but on the right sites it is very achievable and benefits from no use of any chemicals which often need to be employed when creating a meadow from scratch where weeds are potentially a big issue when bare ground is created. I find this enhancement method is better where wild rabbits are a threat which would otherwise destroy a newly germinating meadow coming up from bare ground.

An area of the field still requiring Yellow Rattle colonisation in 2015

An area of the field still requiring Yellow Rattle colonisation in 2015

 

Preparing the area to receive the seed

Preparing the area to receive the seed

 

That's how tight I like it cut before spreading on the cuttings containing the seeds

This is how tight I like the grass cut before spreading the cuttings containing the seeds

 

The Yellow Rattle seed rich cuttings being scattered on the required area

The Yellow Rattle seed rich cuttings being scattered on the required area

 

The results of adding the Yellow Rattle seed rich cuttings in late summer 2015, photo taken late July 2016 showing swathes of Yellow Rattle seed heads

The results of adding the Yellow Rattle seed rich cuttings in late summer 2015
photo taken late July 2016 after flowering, showing swathes of dark Yellow Rattle seed heads amongst
the grass which is now less dense

Posted in Uncategorized |