Can I mix annual seed with perennial seed?
No. If you are trying to establish a proper perennial meadow then do not put annual seeds with the mix. Annuals will very quickly out compete the slower perennials and create bare patches in the sward later in the season which will encourage weed infestation.
Can I mix the perennial seed with grass to make it go further?
No. Grass is very competitive and will quickly dominate.
What happens if I sow less or more than the recommended rate?
It’s best to stick to the 2 grams a metre rule as that’s how we’ve formulated the meadow designs. Do not under sow a perennial meadow as you wont get the all important number of species to grow and cover the ground. If in doubt its always better to over sow a perennial meadow than under sow.
Will my meadow look exactly like it does in the pictures I have seen?
No, even though the mix recipe will be the same, everyone’s meadow will develop its own unique characteristics and these will continue to change throughout the year, and year to year.
Do I need to protect the seed from birds, mice or squirrels?
No. We have sown meadows in areas that were afterwards visited by big flocks of birds and in areas where mice and squirrels were particularly happy and so were our meadows in the end.
What effect will the fertility of my soil have on the display?
Most of the Pictorial Meadows mixes have been specially designed to perform on normal to high fertility soils making them perfect solutions for most gardens and parks. The richer the soil though the taller and bushier the plants will be especially in year one. The thinner and poorer the soil the opposite will happen. It is best to select a mix to start with that best sits your soil and then to sustain the annual cut and collect. After a few years even on the most fertile soils you will see the composition and structure changing as fertility start to decrease and the emerging meadows look finer and shorter.
You suggest at least one early summer establishment cut in year one – is this really necessary?
No, but again it can make a very significant difference to the success, especially the species diversity of your perennial meadow. Every species in your mix needs a slightly different set of triggers that allow it to germinate and grow. We formulate the mix carefully to encourage the greatest range of species to all thrive together but it is necessary to check the faster and bushier ones to allow slower and finer ones to get a foothold. At the same time any open soil is likely to start getting colonised by invading weed seeds. Left unchecked, faster growing perennials and aggressive weeds will gain a competitive advantage quickly swamping out others. An establishment cut checks any invading annual weeds and stops the faster growing or emerging perennials from dominating. Essential light and water reaches the slower growing species and allows them to catch up. It also encourages basal shooting which in turn helps to close out bare ground. Once you get to the end of the first growing season and there is a good range of species present they are all remarkably resilient but really do need this initial helping hand.
You suggest sowing perennial seed onto a sterile mulch – is this really necessary?
No, but it can make a very significant difference to the success of your perennial meadow. In the first year the greatest cause of failure is competition from young weeds including grasses. However well you have prepared your site the seed bank in the soil can still contain millions of weed seeds. Perennial meadow seeds germinate slowly over a period of time. On non mulched sites this allows the weed seeds in the soil to gain a competitive advantage quickly swamping the slower perennials. Mulching reduces this very significantly although it still doesn’t stop weed seeds from blowing in.
Yes, irrigation can make a big difference to perennial meadow success. The critical period is late spring through to mid summer whilst the bulk of the young seedlings are emerging. Once you can see a good range of species establishing and the ground is starting to look more green than brown irrigation can stop.
Does the sowing time have an impact on how quickly I will have a flowering meadow?
Not really. Autumn and winter sowing is beneficial because it provides an important chilling period that in turn helps a greater number of seeds to germinate in the spring. Whatever the sowing time though vigorous establishment growth won’t happen until the soil really starts to warm up, normally from April onwards. Spring through to summer sowing can give you rapid germination as long as the soil is warm and moist but a greater percentage of seed may still remain dormant until autumn or even the following spring. In general though, whatever the sowing time you should start to enjoy some colour by late summer.