Sowing Times and Conditions
When to sow
Spring sowing during the months of March to May always gives the most reliable results. Successful schemes can still be achieved by early June sowings but expect a much later flowering especially if you can’t irrigate or there is no rainfall. An autumn sowing can achieve some early flowering effects but seedling and seed survival over winter is unreliable and can result in partial or full failure, depending on the severity of the conditions.
Where to sow
An open, sunny location not overshadowed by trees or buildings is always best for annuals. If sown in shade, growth will occur but will always be patchy and flowers will be smaller. They will grow happily in average, free draining garden soil – consider them as any other flowering garden plant with regard to their growing requirements.
Whatever scale you are working on, it is important to get a very clean seed bed before sowing. This means removing all visible weeds, especially grass. It is a complete waste of time scattering seed into existing grass or other vegetation.
Preparing the soil
Once weed and vegetation - free then the ground needs cultivating so that a seed bed can be achieved. Keep this cultivation as shallow as possible, just enough to be able to rake the soil and get a surface texture that is level and looks a bit like breadcrumbs. Bare, cultivated soil is a magnet for weed seeds to make their home in so make sure you get your pictorial annuals in first.
Sowing the seed mix
Most sites can be sown quite successfully and quickly by hand - but you can also contact us for our machine meadow sowing services for larger sites or wherever you feel you need some specialist help. Pictorial Annuals should be sown at a rate of 3 g per square metre.
For hand sowing whatever the scale it is always best to mix your seed thoroughly with a dry bulking material such as clean dry sand and then divide the whole amount into two or three separate containers such as plastic buckets. One portion of the mixed seed and spreader is then hand scattered over the whole area. Then take the next portion and repeat but walking in a different direction. This allows you to put a little more or a little less on areas which need it. If this is the first time you have ever done this then the last portion allows you to finally make good any obvious gaps.
It is essential that the seed is firmed into the seed bed. Do not rake the seed into the ground as this will stop many species from germinating. Instead use a roller, the back of a spade or even the bottom of your shoes to firm the seeds into the soil after sowing.
The seedbed should not require any irrigation for spring sowings. If you have sown really late or there is a prolonged dry period just after sowing, then a couple of thorough soakings can speed things up.
Management and maintenance
In normal warm moist conditions you could expect to see the first signs of germination in 7-10 days. Growth can be very rapid after this and flowers may start appearing as early as 6 weeks after sowing.
If ground preparation has been good, then it is normal not to undertake any form of maintenance such as weeding at all throughout the whole of the flowering season. Pictorial Annuals are specifically designed to throw up taller and taller flowering stems as the year progresses and this characteristic, along with the very high flower content is very effective at ‘masking’ weeds that do invade.
Of course, you can do some weeding. It all depends on you, the site and what look you want to achieve. There are two methods that work well if you have a weed problem. Many common weeds can very simply and quickly be removed just by pulling out at the right time. This is best done just before the meadow is about to flower and where there is a scattering of visible weeds. Quite large areas can be treated by hand pulling and the benefits are that the flowers go on to have maximum impact and the ground remains uncontaminated with weed seed for years to come. Where soils have not been well prepared in advance and/or a large weed seed bank becomes evident after sowing, the best approach is to cut the tops off the carpet of weeds with a grass mower. The native weeds normally appear before the annual seedlings so the ideal timing for this will be when there is a canopy of weed leaves standing 3-4 cm high. By cutting on a high setting it significantly checks the growth of weed seedlings but allows the sown annuals to emerge largely undamaged.
A mid-season mow is another technique that can be used successfully in the rare times when summer drought has really dried out your annual meadow. Annual meadows are normally tolerant of all sorts of extreme conditions, but every site and year is different. Again, a high cut (no need to collect any of the cuttings) can tidy up the display and with a bit of summer rain encourages some wonderful late summer and autumn displays, often very low growing and particularly dainty.
Most of the time though you can just sit back and enjoy successive waves of colour, sometimes right up until December and the seeds will be appreciated by the birds as a source of food. Remember too that many insects love to nest in the dead stems so if you don’t mind the area looking a bit untidy then please leave the plants for as long as possible. At some point though the final task of the year is simply to cut the meadow right back. There is no need to collect and rake off the material as you would with a perennial meadow. Normally Pictorial Annual flower stems are very fine and dry and therefore will just return goodness back into your soil.
That’s it for the year. Next spring though the cycle must start all over again if you want a similar display – so remember to order your seeds early enough.
Annual Meadow Top Tips
Really check your measurements when ordering your seed, and then check again. You don’t want to waste any seed by having far too much or of course finding you have underestimated and can’t finish the sowing. If you have done this right but you worry that your seed packet looks tiny don’t panic - our mixes are very carefully formulated to cover the area you’ve measured.
Don’t be surprised to find that your ‘clean’ soil is full of weed seeds. All our common weeds are common because they are extremely successful in surviving in our soils for many years and in huge quantities. Often, we don’t know this until we have cleared the land and prepared the seedbed. Rotovating or digging over the ground can unfortunately stimulate weed growth by activating dormant weed seeds.