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Soil Preparation & Sowing

 


Soil Preparation and Sowing Wildflower Meadow Seed:

 

Definition: Pre sowing 'Soil Preparation' prior to sowing a native wildflower meadow.

Keywords, Topsoil, imported top soil, Subsoil, imported fill, ground works, Surface cultivation, Soil cultivation, drainage, preparation of seed bed, germination, turfing, sodding,


 

Pre Sowing Instructions

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. 

In our nursery, where we can, we are leaving the ground fallow for one year to allow the complete killing of weeds.

Prepare the ground:
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.  


No need to cultivate or plough: , just spray with systemic weed killer, wait until the area is dead and burn it with flame, taking care to burn the outside first, 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.

If the soil that you intend to sow wildflowers on has only got grass and no weeds it is best not to turn or cultivate the soil.

Instead kill the grass and remove the dead foliage, then rake or harrow the upper surface of the soil, do not turn it, then sow the seed. This method stop weed seeds in the soil from being turned up into the light into which they will germinate.


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. 


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. 
If you Organically cultivate the soil about three times in a dry summer, you will kill the weeds faster, while sprouting & then kill seedlings which weed killer cannot do. 

 

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.

 

Tip; Always sow plants, trees or shrubs bigger than the weeds that grow on any site.
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.

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.



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. 

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.


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.


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. 



Seed sowing instructions:
As long as the soil remains moist wildflower seed does not have to be buried deep or raked into the soil, just covered & rolled to insure that it contacts the soil. 

Wildflower seed germinates due to sunlight, the deeper you bury it the less chance of successful germination. Bury seed to 3mm on dry soils. 

To achieve the best results after you sow wildflower seed, rake the soil very lightly and follow with a light rolling to barely cover the seeds. 

While a garden roller will do, you can roll using a Cambridge 'ridged' roller or a branch tied to a toe-bar on a ride-on mower.

If you have a clay soil and for some unforeseen reason cannot create a fine seedbed, cover the seed with 2mm of sand or sifted soil or hydraseed the site (seek advice). 

In areas where wild birds might eat the seeds after sowing, rake the seed to cover it with no more than 3mm of fine soil that you created making the seed bed. 

Use a scarecrow to stop birds eating the seeds. 

Wildflower seeds are varying weights and sizes, always stir the seed before and during sowing.



Cambridge bush roller
On large areas raking the seed after sowing is unnecessary, instead use a Cambridge roller or branches of a Hawthorn bush well weighed down with boards, rope or bricks and tied to the tow-bar of any vehicle. 
Drag over the soil, it's an old trick.


Ideal time to sow:
The Ideal Sowing Times are mid March to late May or into July if wet and again in late August to late September. 

You can sow all year around as long as the weather is mild and some rain is due. Germination will be slower if the weather is dry or cold. 
If you sow in very early June and if the weather is wet the meadow will start flowering in mid-August. 

You can then arrive home from the summer holidays to a blaze of colour. 

When sowing never let the seeds dry out. 

Coincide the sowing of wildflower seed with any spring showers or autumn rain and sow when the soil is warm. 

Sowings made after September may not germinate until May. 

The ground will have to be re-raked to break any soil crust that developed over winter. Poppy seeds are best sown in November, as are most species that require cold to germinate them. 

Where a meadow is sown in spring many seeds will not germinate until the following spring after the winter.

 

 

 

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Mr. Sandro Cafolla t/a   Design By Nature (Ire) 

Monavea, Carlow, Ireland. Eircode R93 T289

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