Going wild is really the way to go

By Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Published 08/10/2016 | 00:00

Poppies and wildflowers
Poppies and wildflowers

Slugs, slugs, slugs

Strobilanthes wallichii

It's October and I am already planning for next year. I have a few projects in mind in various parts of the garden and to help facilitate these, strangely, I am going to undertake another additional project. In this additional project I intend to turn my vegetable area into an annual or cornfield wildflower area.

There are actually three reasons for this. Firstly to save me some time so that I can tackle the more permenant projects I have in mind. Once sown this area should take care of its self. Secondly to give the vegetable garden a ley year to rest and also a clean up of residual pests and diseases. Thirdly just for a bit of a colourful change,experimentation and to see what wildlife the area brings to the garden-also my daughter loves wild flowers particularly poppies so I guess that makes four reasons.

I have always had a wild naturalised area in the garden. This amounts to an area of rough never cut grass with a collection of trees planted through and mown pathways for access. This doesn't constitute a wildflower meadow as they require annual cutting back for most wildflowers to thrive each year. The long grass just chokes them out otherwise. There are many species of grass growing here however which are a beauty in their own right when in flower and there are some wildflowers that will compete with the rough uncut grass.

Buttercups have proliferated, there is good sprinkling of ox eye daisies, vetch and common trefoil. Only sporadically there is purple loosestrife, great willowherb, bluebells and primroses. The latter two appearing in ditches. The maintenance here involves the management of danelions, docks and mares tail to control them from taking over and that's it. One of my afore mentioned permanent projects is to increase the diversity and quantity of wildflowers in this area of the garden.

What I have planned for the vegetable area is completely different to the rough grass area. I will be sowing cornfield wildflowers here. These are annual wildflowers that need disturbed soil to germinate rather than a meadow environment. Hence a cultivated cornfield provides these plants with a home and a terminology. A sad example of the conditions these plants thrive in was provided in bomb ravaged fields of Northern France during WW1where the poppies grew in such vast numbers from the broken soil. Cornfield wildflowers also prefer a good fertile soil unlike meadow wildflowers which prefer a poor nutrient soil.

Examples of what I intend to sow are corn poppies, corn marigolds, corncockles, corn flowers and mayweed. These plants will flower June to October in abundance and in theroy then set seed for next year. At that stage I will have to decide whether to continue for another year with the 'experiment' or go back to veg growing.

To sow the area I need to ensure that is cultivated and weed feed. I'll rake the soil down to a fine tilth and firm by walking over the soil surface then lightly rake again. I'll then sow at 1.5 grammes per square metre with an annual cornfield wildflower seed mix and lightly rake again. Then leave alone except for hand picking out any perennial weeds that will inevitably spring up here and there. This sowing can be done from August until late October or alternatively in the early spring.

Two websites you should look at if you are interested in Irish wild flowers are wildflowersof ireland.net which has great photos and information and wildflower.ie. The latter web site is a treasure trove of information, it is less attractive visually but carries every conceivable site condition and seeds suitable for them. It also sell Irish grown Irish wildflower seeds, plug plants and bareroot plants. All enquiries to this site are answered personally by the owner to give you first hand advice from a man with a passion.

Wexford People

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