By Mike Jourdain
It is that time of year that we need to start the process for turning as many pockets of Cuckfield into wildflower sanctuaries. This magazine kindly ran a piece last year (September 2017) about the benefits of having more wildflower areas in the village.
I’m not an expert gardener or anything so if I can do it, anyone can! I simply cleared out a patch of about 12 square metres, put some top soil on it, planted the seeds, watered regularly and waited.
You also do not need a large area to make a big difference. It is something everyone can do - elderly people may need help - but we could have a drive to create wildflower gardens all over Cuckfield. I would happily spearhead a campaign and help anyone who needs it.
As such I have negotiated a discount code from the supplier that I have used in the past. Pictorial Meadows (www.pictorialmeadows.co.uk or call 0114 2677 635) - have agreed to offer an incentive to this initiative by quoting the reference Cuck18 to get a 10% discount on any orders.
Last year I used the Annual seed selection packs - mixing all the seeds together.
I have put together the following ‘how-to’ seed-sowing guide but if you would like any more help or have further queries then please email me mikejourdain at hotmail.co.uk - good luck!
This guide should help you...
Sowing times and Conditions :
When: Sow in spring as the soil begins to warm up from now until the end of May
Where: Any open and sunny spot. PM Meadow seed mixes will grow happily in a wide range of garden soils - they DO NOT need to grow in impoverished soils where the topsoil has been removed. Consider them as any other flowering garden plant with regard to their growing requirements.
Ground Preparation :
Weeds: Crucial to the success of the meadow is the cleanliness of the site prior to sowing. You need to achieve a very clean, weed-free seed bed and in particular you need to ensure that you have removed all the perennial weeds and any grass. Selective herbicide treatment is recommended but you could also achieve the same goal through very careful physical weeding. You might have to repeat this 'cleansing' process several times as re-growth of weeds occurs. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when handling herbicide.
Soil Preparation: By digging over and rotavating the soil you should aim to create a fine tilth for the seed to be sown on to. Remember though that when you dig over the soil you will expose fresh weed seeds so you will have to kill off or remove these weeds prior to sowing.
Sowing Rate: Annual meadow mixes should be sown at 3g per square metre.
Measuring your Plot: To calculate how much seed you will need, measure the length and breadth of your plot and work out the following simple calculation:
Length (metres) x Breadth (metres) = ? Square Metres x 3 = Required Grams
How to Sow: Recommended you mix the seed with sharp sand (5 parts sand to l part seed) to help you distribute it evenly over the area - and most importantly to show you where you have sown the seed. You should ensure that the sand and seed is very thoroughly mixed and that you spread across the whole area - preferably by scattering in two different directions.
It is not recommended using any mechanical seed spreaders to sow our mixes seed as they do not distribute mixed seed sizes evenly.
Sow the seed/sand mixture on the surface of the fine tilth you have created on the soil. It is important that you do not cover the seeds.
Rolling & Watering
How: It is very important to lightly firm the seed/sand mixture into the soil. You can use an ordinary garden roller, the back of a spade or simply the weight of your feet to achieve this.
Water: There is no requirement to irrigate our annual meadows - however some light watering will help to establish the meadow if the weather is very dry following sowing.
Establishment & Maintenance :
Growth: Germination can take place quite rapidly (within 7 to 10 days) as long as there is sufficient moisture and warmth in the soil.
Weeding: There will be some incursion of weeds into the meadow during the season but if you have cleaned the soil properly before sowing there shouldn't be an issue with troublesome perennial weeds such as Nettles, Docks and Thistles. Hand weeding the obvious weeds may be necessary but other than that there should no requirement for any form or intervention.
End of Season: The meadows could flower until November/ December if the weather remains mild. At this point you can clear away the dead and dying stems or if you prefer you can leave them as winter quarters for insects and other wildlife.
Next Year: It is recommended that if you want to enjoy an annual Wildflower Meadow you really need to sow a fresh mixture every spring. If you have enjoyed your meadow there will be some re-seeding of some of the species from the mix the following year - however because these are not native wildflowers many seeds will not survive a UK winter so the display will be very poor.