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Page 6Ground Preparation 

Wildflower Growers Manual

Prepare the ground

The best meadows are started well in advance of sowing wildflowers.  Create a weed free soil on well-prepared firm (well rolled) ground. Once the soil is free of weeds you can sow the seeds. At DBN with our own crops, we are leaving the ground fallow, for one year to allow the complete killing of weeds before we sow our crops, when and where we can. 

Clear the ground of any weeds before sowing by using a systemic weed killer &/or cultivate it 'organically' by tilling the soil repeatedly during the dry summer months.To prepare the ground, kill and remove all weeds grass and stones. 

Remove anything that will get in the way of cutting machinery to be used later.  Some customers just spray with systemic weed killer, wait until the area is dead before sowing, others burn off dead vegetation with flame

Fire: If fire or heat is used to clear ground, depending on the site, there may be no need to cultivate, , taking care to slowly burn around the outside first, to create a fire break,  if burning meadows have a few people handy with shovels to control the fire and burn into the wind so the fire burns slowly and into the roots, burning with the wind will burn to fast and get out of control, fire also burns fastest up hill.

The Wildflower Grower's aim is to create a fine, firm weed free seedbed. If you wish, plough &/or rotavate, harrow &/or rake the soil when the weather is dry. Do not work wet soils, it will ruin them for sowing seeds by compacting the soil. If you allow time for two weed killing operations, you can sow a meadow in 4-6 weeks from start to finish. 

It is essential to kill all weeds. Destroy all vegetation (unless natural wild flora) & remove >3" stones. It is best to 'weed kill' or cultivate the ground twice to kill weeds. Kill off the first flush of weed seeds prior to sowing. Carefully burn away or remove any dead grass left on the surface, so that you can cultivate, rotavate, harrow or easiest of all sow directly on to the soil. (As long as the seed gets covered)

After you have killed off the vegetation, cut or burn off the grass down to the bare soil and follow by a light raking or harrowing to get the seedbed ready for the seed.

Kill Dock - weed, Couch grass, Nettle, (keep some at the back for butterflies,) and Thistles. (keep some at the back for birds, so they can feed from the heads)

Create a fine seed bed.

Prepare a fine 'seed bed' (2-3mm worked soil)
For large rotavate areas a harrow will finish the seed bed preparation. Some types of soil will need stones picked at this point. Create a firm 'seed bed' with a crumbly layer of soil across the surface. The seedlings will then be able to send out their tiny roots to find food and moisture.

For small areas use a rake, get the soil as level and crumbly as you can. Make the seedbed, firm when walked on. Sand can be spread on clay soil.

Using Weed killer? 

Please read and follow any safety instructions.

While weed killer will clear ground quickly, I find it takes four sprays over 14 months to totally kill all the roots of weeds. 

Weed killers are toxic especially to the user, even cloths contain the toxins and should not be washed with other cloths, always read and follow the instructions and always follow the mixing rate as recommended, do not guess amounts to mix with water.

Organically Cultivate the soil.

If you cultivate the soil ' Organically' about three times in dry weather, you will kill weeds. 
Tip; Always sow plants, trees or shrubs bigger than the weeds that grow on any site.

No need to plough except for specific reasons.

A plough will only turn the weeds over and will not kill Nettles, Dock or Couch Grass, no matter how deep you plough. 
If you must plough, kill the weeds first and then rotavate after ploughing in dry weather. 'Turn over' the soil and 'turn up' the weeds on to the surface to dry them out, repeat rotavation again two weeks later and then re-spray any growth with weed killer or continue organic cultivation's.
A plough can be used to 'turn up' the subsoil which helps to reduce fertility on fertile sites. After any cultivation evaluate any re-growth of weeds and destroy all invasive weeds.

Advice for Gardeners

To create a longer lasting flowering meadow you can use two mixtures of wildflowers. A tall one without grass for the back of the wildflower bed (cut late) and for the front of your planting scheme sow a lower growing mixture of grasses and wild flora, one such as MM03 or MM10, one that can be regularly cut. 
I usually recommend that you do not use grass sown with wildflower seed, as you will get better flower displays without grass and more flowers in the first year. However in many cases you will want a green looking frontage to your meadow, so use 20% grass mixed with 80% wildflowers (MMF Range). I also suggest a strip of normal lawn at the very front without flora. 
Erect a wildflower meadow sign to let folks know you are capable of keeping the garden tidy but has chosen otherwise. 
Always remove the grass cuttings and use it as compost or mulch under hedges or where grass or wild seeds will not spread. 

Wildflower Seedbed:

A level seedbed is not required as long as the seeds come into contact with the soil. See that the soil is firm, yet fine and crumbly for the seed to send out its tiny roots. Before you sow apply a light raking or harrow to finish the bed and create a freshly moved soil or 'ferment', to increase the soils biological activity. Roll after sowing. Seeds take up to eight weeks to germinate. So if dry, it helps to keep a seed bed moist.