Mid-March is an exciting time at Hitchin Lavender as our planting season gets well underway. Despite the grizzly weather outside, we’ve been busy as bees this week as we begin working on our wildflower meadow. As those of you who have visited us will know, our wildflower area, with its bright streaks of colour and odd assortment of flowers, offers a stark contrast to the neat rows of lavender.
In the wind and rain, our field is looking a little less pretty…
Of course, the wild flowers in our field are important not only for their beauty but also because they contribute massively to the biodiversity of the local environment. A wildflower meadow provides fantastic groundcover for wildlife, offering nesting space for partridges, pheasants, and skylarks or a safe space for a hare to hide in. Butterflies flock to meadows like these and you’ll be likely to see a whole range, from Red Admirals to Painted Ladies, if you visit the farm this summer.
On the farm, we use new seeds to encourage the regrowth of our wildflower patch before the summer begins but you needn’t do this at home. If you cut back and mow your patch in the autumn, you will encourage new growth in the following year by releasing seeds into the soil. This year, we’re using a cornfield annuals mix and a summer flowering butterfly and bee mix, both provided by Naturescape. These include several wildflower varieties that can be found all over the local area, such as Common Knapweed and Poppies. In both mixes, you’ll also find some truly remarkable wildflower names, ranging from Lady’s Bedstraw to Tufted Vetch.
Establishing your own wildflower meadow using seeds:
One of the best things about wildflower areas is that they can be cultivated quickly to brighten patches in gardens that might otherwise feel empty. Seeds are widely available and come in a variety of mixtures, allowing you to select the flowers and grasses that will best suit your area.
The best time to prepare and sow your patch is in the autumn, but the process can be done any time from mid-March until late October. Just make sure to avoid the extreme heat in the summer months as this will damage the plants during their germination.
Wildflowers actually thrive in poor soil with low nutrients so, when selecting your wildflower patch, you will want to avoid areas that have been heavily fertilised in the past.
Once you’ve found the right spot for your meadow, make sure that it is clear of weeds and prepare the soil by raking it up and breaking any large clumps of earth.
Your wildflower seeds can then be sown into the earth. Be sure to follow the prescribed sowing rates for your seed mixture to ensure you get an even distribution of seeds. You may also wish to use a carrier, such as dry sand or compost, in your wildflower seed mixture to ensure an even distribution of seeds. The mixture can then be sown by hand or, if you’re looking for a highly professional finish, by using a pedestrian or hand-held spreader.
For more information, take a look at Boston Seeds, who have plenty of helpful information on establishing and maintain a wildflower meadow.