Are perennial meadows by seed relatively easy to grow especially if I have little gardening experience?
No, perennial meadows from seed, whilst cost effective and stunning are not the easiest solution for less confident gardeners to start with. Consider starting with an annual meadow or using PM turf if you do not want to be very actively engaged in careful preparation and establishment.
When is the best time to sow my perennial seeds?
The best time to sow our perennial seeds is Autumn, anytime from early September through to November as the ground is workable and the seeds benefit from a colder spell that aids spring germination. They can however, also be sown throughout the winter and throughout spring as long as the soil remains workable. Avoid summer sowing unless you can provide plentiful regular irrigation.
Does the sowing time for perennial seed 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 wont happen until the soil really starts to warm up – normally from April onwards. Spring through to summer sowings 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 mid summer although the main impacts wont be experienced until the second growing season.
Can I mix annual seed with my perennial seed?
We don’t advise this. All of our perennial mixes already contain a very small percentage of a few select annuals but we keep this amount to the bare minimum. If you are trying to establish a proper perennial meadow, unless it is on extremely low fertility soils, annual in any greater amounts will very quickly out compete and over shadow the slower emerging perennials. Ultimately this prevents a successful long term sward establishing.
Will my meadow look exactly like 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 mice, squirrels and birds?
Only very rarely. We have sown hundreds of meadows in areas that have never shown any predation by birds or other animals but that doesn’t mean it can’t ever happen.
Will soil fertility have an effect on my perennial meadow?
Yes it will. Many of the Pictorial Meadows mixes have been specially designed to perform on normal fertility soils common to most gardens and parks whilst others are only recommended for lower fertility soils. The richer the soil though the taller and bushier the plants will be, especially in the first few years. The thinner and poorer the soil the opposite will happen. It is best to select a mix to start with that best suits your soil, to sustain the annual cut and collect and to bring in an additional early summer cut and collect in some cases if growth is too vigorous. 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.
Can I sow my perennial seeds over existing grass?
No. Not starting with clean cultivated soils which are especially clear of grass is probably one of the greatest reasons why young perennial seed sown meadows fail. Always sow on bare clean cultivated soils.
Can I mix the perennial seed with grass to make it go further?
No. Grass is very competitive and will quickly dominate all the slower growing perennial seedlings. It is almost impossible to keep wild grasses spreading into meadows over time so you will eventually get some grass for free but the less you can have especially in the first few years whilst the perennial plants are getting well established, the better.
Do I need to irrigate my perennial meadow seeds and seedlings?
Yes, irrigation can make a very 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.
What happens if I sow less or more than the recommended rate?
It’s best to stick to the 2 grams a square 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.
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, especially the species diversity, of your perennial meadow. Whilst you wont be able to spot them, natural soils can contain huge quantities of weed seeds. Many lie dormant for years but when brought closer to the surface as you prepare your ground to sow your perennial meadow these weed seedlings will also start to grow and can very quickly swamp your slower meadow seedlings. A sterile, low fertility mulch will sit on the top of your cultivated soil acting as a really effective weed seed barrier. You then sow your perennial seed onto the top of it and this also gives you confidence that all the seedlings you then see emerging are the desirable ones.
You suggest at least one early summer establishment cut in Year 1 – 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. 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 and stronger root development 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 they really do need this initial helping hand.