- Keep plants in a sheltered, cool location preferably in light shade to await planting.
- Keep plants moist, but not soaked (do not let them dry out).
- If you have more than one species, separate, for easy identification.
- If plants are very small, grow on for a few weeks in 9cm/3″ pots before planting out.
- Prepare planting area as below.
- Water plants well before planting.
- Excessive foliage may be removed with a strimmer or shears.
- If in a plant tray pull plant out gently by holding the leaves. If there is any resistance or the plant is small, pinch the base of the cell underneath or use a pencil/stick to push the plant up.
Removing grass prior to planting:
The grass around the planting area can be spot sprayed with a systemic herbicide. It can take about 3 weeks for the herbicide to take effect. [Please note that recent research has shown that some herbicides can have a detrimental effect on wildlife and on the health of the person carrying out the spraying.] Individual areas treated are normally about 30 cm (12”) in diameter but should not be larger than 45 cm (18”). Normally some 3 to 5 plugs are planted into each herbicided area.
The grass immediately around the planting area can be removed with a scuttion (an auger like tool) which cuts off and removes grass and topsoil to a diameter of 15 cm (6″). Alternatively a spade can be used to turn over a sod of grass and the seedlings can then be planted into the exposed earth. In each cleared area between 1 and 4 plugs are planted, depending on planned planting density and size of full grown flower.
- The planting hole should be the same shape and size as the module, i.e. an inverted pyramid. The planting hole can be quickly created with a suitably shaped dibber.
- Do not smear the sides of the planting hole, as the roots will not penetrate.
- The plants can be planted into cultivated soil or into an established grass sward. Grass should be mown down to 5 cm (2″) and the clippings removed before planting.
- When planting into existing grass, success is improved by reducing immediate competition while the wild flower establishes itself. Patches of bare soil can be achieved either chemically or mechanically.
- For protection from slugs/snails use pellets approved for organic use such as Advanced Slug Killer.
- WATER REGULARLY UNTIL ESTABLISHED.
- The Planting area can be marked out in advance with diluted emulsion paint and a paint brush. Colour or letter coding can be used to ensure that the flowers are planted in the correct places.
- Emulate natural wild flowers by planting in drifts and clumps. Avoid grid planting, as it looks unnatural. Try planting more densely at the centre of a clump becoming less dense towards the edges.
- Try to match the location to the plant – wild flowers grow best when conditions suit them. For example, Ragged Robin likes damp conditions while Red Campion grows well on the edges of shrubs and trees.
- Ideally, soak the plants with water after planting.
- Be prepared to spot irrigate in dry spells while the plants establish themselves.
- In wild flower meadow situations subsequent management is very important for success. The actual grass cutting programme will depend on whether the flowers have been planted into an established sward, or cultivated soil sown with non-invasive grass cultivars, and also on the general fertility of the site.
- Planting densities are typically in the range 4 – 10/m², depending on plant size, impact required & budget.
First Year’s Maintenance:
When planting into established grass swards: it is critical that the grass is never allowed to overshadow and swamp the wildflower seedlings while they establish. Cut short before planting.
During the first spring and early summer keep the grass short. The first cut is the most important and it is far preferable to cut early rather than too late. Whenever the grass reaches 10 to 15 cm, cut back to about 5 cm. This programme can continue until early summer (i.e late May).
Cutting can then be stopped until late July, when another cut can be taken. The final cut is taken in Autumn. Do not worry about cutting the tops off your wild flowers – they have been grazed by rabbits for generations and are unaffected. N.B. Do not expect flowers. Remove or disperse cuttings.
Caring for wild flower seedlings planted into an area sown with seed cocktails:
In areas of low fertility during the first year, some 2-4 cuts will be made starting in March. An alternative approach is to cut down to a height of about 7cm whenever the grass reaches 15-20cm in height. Remove or disperse cuttings. In areas of moderate fertility between 4 and 7 cuts will be necessary.
A Guide for Subsequent Management Regimes:
There are a number of options for subsequent management, depending on what your objectives are, the soil fertility and the weather conditions in the individual seasons.
The classic wild flower meadow is a hay meadow with a cut taken in late July/early August and an aftermath cut in the Autumn. The cuttings are removed, especially after the hay cut. This management regime aims to replicate the practice of taking hay in the summer and grazing the field over the winter.
If the soil is fertile, or the growing season is especially good, which would result in very strong grass growth that swamps the wild flowers, lodges (falls over) and looks untidy in the summer, the management regime can be modified. One, and possibly two additional cuts (if the site is especially fertile) in the spring and early summer (i.e. April/May) can be introduced. Cutting at this time reduces the grass’s vigour, results in a shorter sward and a later flowering. The hay cut is taken in early August, when the cuttings must be removed, with an aftermath cut in the autumn.
Spring Flowering meadows have their first cut taken in late June. A second cut can be made in late July/early August followed by an aftermath cut in the Autumn. This management regime encourages spring flowering wild flowers (e.g. Cowslips, Cuckoo Flowers) and the shorter wild flowers (e.g. Birdsfoot Trefoil, Daisies, and Self Heal) during the summer.
Late Summer flowering meadows can be encouraged by only cutting in the autumn, and adding one or two spring cuts if especially fertile.
A mixed mowing regime to encourage diversity can comprise:
- paths cut through the meadow to improve access and to demonstrate that the wild flowers are cared for.
- a spring flowering area which subsequently supports shorter wild flowers is cut in late June, again in late July/early August and finally in October. Choose an easily accessible area of the site that can be used for family recreation during the summer.
- a summer (June/July) flowering area, generally on the outer areas of the site. This is cut in late July/early August and again in October.
- a late summer flowering area is typically located at the edge of the flowering grass land next to fences, hedges or ponds. These areas are only cut down in the Autumn, when the whole of the site is cut.
In fertile sites additional late spring/early summer cuts are introduced in the summer flowering areas.
Last Updated: 28/06/2012