Sowing and Aftercare – Mixtures
MEADOW CREATION BY SOWING ONTO PREPARED SOIL
Ground Preparation: Select ground that is not highly fertile, and does not have a problem with perennial weeds. Remove any existing vegetation by repeated cultivation or turf stripping. Then plough, surface cultivate or dig to bring up clean soil, harrow or rake to produce a medium tilth, and roll or tread to produce a firm surface. Aim to produce a firm, weed free, medium tilth, seed-bed.
Sowing Rate: Sow at 4g/m2 in a landscaping or garden setting. A reduced rate of around 2g/m2 may be used in an agricultural setting or on large areas.
Sowing: Sow in the autumn or the spring, or at any other time of the year if the ground conditions are good. Divide the quantity of seed and sow half in one direction over the entire area and the remainder across the whole area in the other direction. The seed must be sown on the surface and can be applied by seed drill, seed fiddle, or broadcast by hand. Do not incorporate or cover the seed, but firm in with a roll, or by treading, to give good seed/soil contact.
On a small scale it helps to mix the seed in a bucket or bowl with some fine sand at a rate of 1 part seed to 2 parts sand, this will act as a carrier and help you to see where you have sown your seed. At this stage if you have decided to add some cornfield annuals then mix them in all together.
Aftercare: Most of the sown meadow species are perennial and are slow to establish. Soon after sowing there will be a flush of annual weeds, arising from the soil seed bank. These weeds can look unsightly, but they will offer shelter to the sown seedlings, are great for bugs, and they will die before the year is out. So resist cutting the annual weeds until mid to late summer, especially if the mixture contains Yellow Rattle, or has been sown with a nurse of cornfield annuals. Then cut, remove and compost. Early August is a good time. This will reveal the young meadow, which can then be kept short by grazing or mowing through to the end of March of the following year.
In the second growing season, and each year thereafter, leave the meadow uncut and un-grazed from the end of March to mid-summer, allowing the sown species to flower in June and July. After flowering, cut and remove the vegetation. This may be taken off as hay, or cut and stacked nearby to rot. The meadow may then be kept mown or grazed through to the end of March in the following year. Moderate winter poaching is beneficial. Flowering in the second growing season will be very good, and as the years go by, and with good management, species diversity will increase.
Cutting date can be varied from year to year, bringing it forward to early July if the meadow becomes rank, or taking a later cut in early August if the structure is good. Perennial weeds can be controlled by selective scything or topping. Cut perennial weeds at flowering and before seed set.
MEADOW RESTORATION BY SOWING INTO EXISTING GRASS
Meadow restoration is a no-plough method for diversifying existing established grassland. However, restoration is more challenging than creation, and success depends upon, (1) a good site, (2) very hard scarification, (3) autumn sowing and (4) Yellow Rattle.
Select grassland with a good wild grass content (but otherwise species poor) on poor to moderately fertile soil. Avoid ground infested with Docks, Thistles or Nettles. Prepare in late summer by cutting low and/or grazing very hard. Then scarify hard with harrows or by raking, aiming to create around 50% bare soil. This is best done when the ground is dry. Sow on the surface in the autumn (September is the best month) using a complete meadow mixture at 4g/m2, following the method given above. Then roll hard to firm back the soil and give good seed/soil contact. Continue cutting or grazing after sowing the seed, and until the end of March in the following year. From then on manage as a meadow, leaving it uncut each year till mid summer.
Yellow Rattle at up to 0.5g/m2, if not already in the standard mixture, will help to suppress some of the existing coarse grasses and assist in the establishment of the sown species.