Farming wildflowers is an intricate process. To convert modern high yield grassland back to a traditional wildflower meadow is a lengthy and in depth process. The Wildflower Farmer is doing this now at Great Avercombe as he knows wildflower meadows have huge benefits for the environment.
These are the steps he is taking to make a positive change to his farm to bring back the wildflower meadows.
- Test the soil to see if the field is suitable to be converted. Wildflowers will only be successful in soil which is low in fertility.
- Plough the field in May. This turns the ground over, burying the old grass and any weeds underground and bringing the soil to the surface.
- Roll the soil to press it down and create a firm seed bed.
- Use a power harrow, this machine breaks down lumps of soil to create a fine seed bed.
- Wait 5 weeks and lightly harrow the field again to kill weeds such as docks and thistles which have germinated to leave a clear seed bed.
- Roll again.
- Sow the wildflower seed mixture in late August, this month is perfect for germinating seeds as the weather tends to be warm and wet.
- Roll the seeds in.
- Flowers and grasses are naturally slow to germinate. When they reach about six inches in height, lightly graze with the children’s pet sheep during the autumn and winter until May. Grazing helps the wildflowers to tiller (thicken) which makes them stronger so they can out compete weeds.
- During June and July the flowers come out in full bloom.
- In August, once the plants have seeded, cut the wildflower meadow. Allow the cut grasses and flowers to dry in the sun to make hay.
- Bale the hay and remove it from the field. It is important that the flowers and grasses are cut and removed as if they were left in place they would create a thick rotting mass. This would kill the plants underneath resulting in fewer flowers and more weeds growing.
- After hay harvest, until the end of September, a small herd of cattle graze the field. As they walk, they lightly scuff the soil surface, this exposes some of the soil to sunlight which allows the light to get in and germinate the seeds ready for the following year. Their dung also fertilises the soil and plants.
- Once the ground is too wet for cattle, graze with sheep instead until May.
- The flowers come out in bloom again in June and July and so the cycle continues…
The Wildflower Farmer is now reinstating this system of grazing and cutting which has historically gone back hundreds of years. It is how a wildflower meadow is sustained and doesn't involve any chemicals or fertilizers.
Join today to support the Wildflower Farmer in doing this. Your membership will help create these wildflower meadows and then maintain them. This ecosystem will offset carbon and create a fantastic wildlife habitat.