It’s often presumed that the best (and perhaps only) time to sow wildflower seeds is in the spring. It’s easy to understand why. Nature is fizzing with activity and raring to get going after the long winter sleep. Human beings are the same and we’re more inclined to get outdoors in anticipation of the (hopefully!) warm sunny months ahead.
You don’t have to wait until spring to scatter seed balls however. Autumn is a great time to get to work on your own wild flower patch. It’s also a lovely time to be out in the garden. The light is soft, it’s often still warm and everything takes a deep breath after a summer of frenetic activity.
The advantages of scattering seed balls in the autumn
The soil is still warm after the summer and the extra moisture in the air during the autumn and winter months can aid germination. What’s more some seeds (especially poppies) require a cold period before germination so an autumn sowing will have them raring to go in the following spring. Be sure to check out the FAQs page for great advice about preparing your patch and scattering seed balls.
When is it too late to scatter seed balls ?
Gardeners’ autumn lasts until the first frosts arrive. This depends an awful lot on where you are in the country. If you’re in the far north of Scotland your sowing window is a lot smaller than if you’re on the Isle Of Wight. If there’s still a little warmth in the air and the nights haven’t become icy you’re still good to go.
Autumn sowing usually means less watering
As the weather becomes more changeable and rainfall increases it would be unusual for you to have to water the ground where your seed balls are scattered. Seed balls are already a low maintenance way to garden, autumn makes them even more so.
What about fallen leaves?
So you’ve decided where you’re going to start your wildflower patch only to discover that the ground is now covered in fallen leaves. As they break down leaves release nutrients into the soil. Wild flowers prosper in poorer soils so these should be gathered up before scattering and any that fall afterwards gathered up before they get chance to decay. Collect them into a bag, stash them at the back of the shed to break down and use the resulting leaf mould on your vegetable patch.
What to do with wildflowers when they’ve finished flowering
Wildflowers can be broadly divided into three different kinds of plants. Annuals flower and set seed within one growing year and then die. Biennials do the same over two years. Perennials flower and set seed but live on, some for a few years some for longer. You can cut back annuals and biennials after they’ve finished flowering but by leaving the stems to collapse and decay naturally you create valuable habitats for insects to overwinter. Seed heads will scatter across your patch, creating food for birds as well as seeding your patch further. Perennial flower stems can be cut back to around 20cm. Be sure not to damage any of the new green growth when you’re doing so. Never cut back on frosty days.