When to Sow
Sowing wildflowers can either be done in the Autumn (Aug-Oct) or the Spring (Mar-May). Most people tend to favour sowing in the Autumn, because there is less competition with weeds.
Before you start to prepare your wildflower seed bed, you need to kill off any grasses, weeds or plants in the area first. Do this by either spraying, or lifting the turf, with the latter of course involving more physical work. Typically this work is best done a few months before you intend to sow.
Wildflower are slow to establish and do not like much competition early on so the more you reduce the competition before sowing the better chance of success.
Once you have cleared the area, you need to break up the soil. Do this with either a fork, petrol tiller, or if you are doing a larger area, a contractor in your local area.
Once you have selected your site and have a bare seed bed prepped for sowing, it’s time to pick your wildflower mix. We have wildflower mixes that contain grass and we have ones that do not. The main reason for including grass with the wildflower seed is to keep weeds at bay and to create a year on year habitat for wildlife when the wildflowers are not in bloom.
For a medium sized area, we recommend opting for a mix that contains grass. If you plan to sow a border or bed, we would recommend a 100% wildflowers mix such as our Bee & Butterfly mix for uninterrupted colour.
If you have a medium to large sized area where you consider your soil type to be normal and relatively free from shade, you can sow our general purpose Wildflowers mix which contains annuals, perennials and grasses for colour year on year.
If you want to turn a large field into a meadow over time, you should consider introducing Yellow Rattle.
However, if you have clay soils, sandy soils, or the area is heavily shaded, you may benefit from one of our more specialised mixes.
Sowing wildflowers is very different to sowing lawn seed. To put it into context, you use 28 times more lawn seed than wildflower seed. The sowing rate for wildflowers is 1-2g/m2 for wildflower straights and 4g/m2 for wildflower mixes. Spreading seed at such a low rate can be difficult. People find mixing the seed with coarse builders sand can help spread seed more evenly. Over small patches, this doesn’t tend to be so much of a problem. Use a spreader, or spread by hand. Once the seed is spread, gently rake the soil, and compact it with or roller, or by treading in.
Once you’ve sown your seed, it should begin to germinate within a few weeks. The flowers and the grasses will all come through at different times, so don’t worry if the grasses emerge first. If you’ve chosen an annuals or annuals and perennials mix, then you should see colour in the first year. With a perennials mix, then you may see some flowers establish the first year, but they will be much better the second year.
All you need to do in order to keep your flower meadow healthy, is to strim the area once a year, after the wildflowers have flowered. Usually this is September-October time. You need to remove all the debris, and the tidy the area up with a rotary mower, cutting it down to a few inches.
Establishing a Wildflower Meadow or Garden
If the area has been overgrown with weeds for several years, it is important to reduce the number of weed seeds in the soil. It may be necessary therefore to allow time for the first flush of weeds to germinate then remove before attempting to sow any wildflowers.
Wildflowers prefer a poor soil with low nutrients.
Once the weeds have been removed, prepare soil to a fine tilth ready for sowing your wildflower seeds.
Try not to disturb the soil any further as this may bring more weed seeds to the surface.
Choose a wildflower seed mixture suitable for your soil conditions. If uncertain, remember to think what your soil is like during the growing period from March – October (most soils during the winter can be heavy and wet).
Sowing times can be any time during the period from the end of March to the end of October. The ideal time being the cooler spring and autumn months – avoid the hot summer months.
The nurse grasses will appear within 7 – 10 days; the wildflowers may vary depending upon species – some may take only a few weeks, while others can take several months.
Cornfield Annuals will flower the same year if sown during the spring or the previous autumn.
Perennial wildflower species will establish during the first year of sowing and flower during the second year.
If you’d like to establish a wildflower garden that flowers in the same year, but with new species the following year, use a dual purpose wildflower seed mix. A dual purpose mix contains both cornfield annuals and perennial wildflower species.
Before buying wildflower seeds, take measurements of the area where you plan to establish a wildflower garden. This will help you understand just how much wildflower seed you will actually need. 10% should be added for mismeasuring, 10% for seeds eaten by the birds and an additional 10% for filling in any thin spots around a month after sowing. This means you ideally want to buy 30% more seed than is required for your measured soil area. You don’t need to worry too much about wasting any seeds, as any leftover wildflower seeds can be used to help fill any patchy areas throughout the year.
Can I just sprinkle wildflower seeds?
One of the easiest ways to spread wildflower seeds is with a seed spreader. Even handheld seed spreaders have an impressive spreading pattern of 1.5-2 metres. This means you can ensure an even distribution of seeds across your garden in a relatively short space of time.
If you’d prefer to do it by hand though, you absolutely can. Some gardeners simply find it more satisfying to manually spread seeds. It can even be great fun if you have children that want to get involved in creating your wildflower meadow. To make it easier to see where you’ve already spread wildflower seeds, you can mix a very small amount of sand into the seed mix. This way, it will be easy to see where you’ve already spread seeds and make sure the wildflower seeds are evenly distributed.
After spreading your wild flower seed mix, we’d recommend lightly running a rake over the soil. You only want a few millimeters of soil to cover your wildflower seeds so using a rake will ensure the seeds are covered without being buried. If the seeds are buried too deeply, they will struggle to get enough sunlight to begin germination.
If you have any animals, it may be worth fencing off the area or laying some netting over the area until the seeds start to sprout. This will stop any curious furry friends digging up all your hard work!
How much wildflower seed do I need per square Metre?
How much wildflower seed you need will depend on if you choose a pure wildflower seed mix, like any of our 100% Wildflower Seed Mixtures, or a wildflower seed mix that also contains meadow grass, like our Wildflower Seed Mixtures 80/20.
One gram of 100% wildflower seed mix is generally enough for a square metre of soil. While this may not seem like much, seeds are incredibly light so that is still a lot of seeds! Wildflower seed mixes that also feature grass tend to need a little more per square metre, normally around 4g.
However, if you have clay soils, sandy soils, or the area is heavily shaded, you may benefit from one of our more specialised mixes. Mixes like our Hedgerow & Shade Wildflower Seed Mix will be able to brighten up even the shadiest spot! Many of our seed mixes, like the Cornfield Annual Wildflower Seed Mix, are recognised by the Royal Horticultural Society as featuring wildflowers scientifically proven to tackle bee, butterfly and pollinator decline.
If you’re looking to improve biodiversity within your garden, wildflower seeds are the perfect choice.
To get a good establishment, 70 grams of seed per m2 is recommended. Measure the area and allow a little bit extra for subsequent filling in or patching that may be necessary at a later stage. You could also grow a small area somewhere else in your garden so that you have a ready supply of matching turf for any repair work that may be required.
An easy way of sowing the seed is to divide the area into easily manageable sections. Next, divide the seed into as may lots as there are sections. Then sow half the seed for each section one way, from the left to the right of the section. Following this, sow the other half across the first sowing from the front to the back of the section. This will help to ensure that you get an even spread of types of seed over the area.
Again, go over the area one way and then repeat at right angles to ensure proper distribution of the seed. When you have sown your seed, rake it in lightly and, depending on weather conditions, your lawn will begin to show in 14 – 21 days.
Improving existing lawns
The process is similar to that above. Sow at 50g/m2, slightly less this time. Rake or scarify the existing lawn, spread the seed, and tread the seed into the lawn.
It’s best to try and keep of the lawn area for around 6 weeks after sowing. This is to allow the seeds a chance to get established.
Converting a lawn to a meadow
Lawns can be converted into wildflower meadows, but it can take a number of years for the balance between grass and wildflowers to be established. The most important thing to do when planting a wildflower meadow is to remove as much grass as you can from the area, we recommend at least 50%. Some people use herbicide or dig it up which will give you a blank canvas to work from. This is important because grasses will compete with wildflowers, and are the main reason why wildflower areas don’t work. Stop feeding and weedkilling the turf and the first year, continue mowing weekly to weaken the grass
After that, the seeds can be sown. Do this in autumn or spring, after raking the soil so that it’s fine. You should then cover gently or simply firm down and water well. You’ll need to keep watering them to make sure they germinate, and after the seedlings come up they should be fine. To come back year on year with abundance, they do require mowing.
Wildflowers have a reputation for being considerably less maintenance than other garden flora – they don’t need regular feeding, watering or pruning, but in order for them to continue to be low maintenance.