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How to Sow Wildflowers

How to Sow Wildflowers

Once you've chosen your seeds, there are a couple of options around how to start your wildflower area: 

Sow Into Trays

For maximum success, you can propagate seeds using trays, plugs and small pots before planting out into your garden or meadow area. Steps include:

  1. Fill seed trays ¾ full with peat-free compost.

  2. Spread seeds thinly and evenly over compost.

  3. Cover with a layer of fine grit.

  4. Water and place outside.

  5. Keep seedlings moist.

Wildflower seedlings sown into a tray

Once the seedlings have two true leaves, they can be transferred into small pots with extra compost. When the plants are robust enough, they can be planted out into your meadow area, or kept in a larger planter or pot.

If planting into the ground, choose a location for your new meadow - this could be a sunny area of a lawn or a border. Remove as many unwanted perennial weeds as possible. Before planting, clear an area around the plant to reduce competition and give a better chance of survival. 

Sow Directly Into Soil 

The key steps for sowing directly into the ground are: 

  1. Clear area, removing weeds. 

  2. Rake the soil so it’s fine and crumbly.

  3. Scatter your wildflower seeds evenly and thinly over the soil. Top tip: To make spreading easier, mix seeds with dry sand or bran. This ensures an even dispersal (so the seeds don’t all land in one small area!) and you can see where you've sown them.

  4. Rake the soil gently again to cover the seeds with a very thin layer of soil. (Be careful not to bury the seeds too deep.) 

  5. Water the area if possible, taking care not to wash away your seeds.

Wildflower seed mixed with bran for dispersal

Sowing Larger Areas 

When creating wildflower meadows from large areas (i.e. 1+ acres), the conditions of the existing site become even more important, including factors such as:

  • Fertility - Wildflowers prefer areas of low fertility. High fertility soils attract vigorous grasses and weeds which out-compete wildflowers. 

  • Existing growth - Wildflowers prefer being sown into bare soil, as they struggle to compete with existing grasses and weeds.

More grass cover and higher fertility will mean slower progress and increased management to ensure the meadow’s success. However there are a few options on how to begin your project if using high fertility ground (in order of success rate): 

  1. Deep soil inversion - This buries fertile top soil and brings low fertility subsoil to the surface using a 1 metre plough. This is part of the ‘Forest of Flowers’ method devised by Richard Scott and offers the highest chance of success for wildflower and tree growth. 

  2. Shallow plough/dig - A regular farming plough could be used to disturb the soil and bury grass. This will provide bare soil to sow into, however a standard plough depth will not reduce fertility, and grasses and other weeds will return quickly. 

  3. Cut and Harrow - Cut the grass very short and then harrow or rake the soil to create disturbance. In this scenario, Annual wildflowers struggle due to competition from grass, however more robust biennial and perennial species can still grow. 

  4. Yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) - This is a key species to sow (especially in options 2 and 3 above) as it is parasitic on grass and reduces its vigour, allowing more space and resources for wildflowers to thrive.

When To Sow and Next Steps

You can sow wildflowers in Spring (March - May) or Autumn (September - October). 

Ideal conditions for the wildflower seeds would be moist, for at least the first six weeks. It's not always possible to control this, especially with a larger area, but if the plot is a manageable size it's recommended to water the area twice a week if sowing in Spring.

If sowing in Autumn, you only need to water your seeds once and then leave them over winter, when the seeds will be dormant.

Your seeds should germinate within a couple of weeks, depending on the weather. 

View our article here for information on how to manage your meadow once established.

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