Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) Seed
We have rattled on about Yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor, elsewhere. At length. The "meadowmaker" is an important tool in your amoury if you want to establish a meadow on anything but the most impoverished soil.
There are at least 6 subspecies of Rhinanthus minor in the UK. I would think there are many more, to be honest; Rattle varies enormously in its appearance and there are even significant variations in time of flowering. We source our seed from three different suppliers, in Scotland, the south of England, and this seed is from meadows in Pembrokeshire.
We have relatively little of it as it's hand processed, and the 2019 harvest has just arrived. I'm afraid it's also expensive as a result of the time it takes to harvest and clean up.
Yellow rattle seed is available in larger quantities at our Habitat Aid website, although - sorry - it's English.
Supplier: Wyndrush Wild
Is My Site Suitable?
If you want to make a meadow you'll need a sunny site with relatively poor soil. Why poor soil? It's not so much that wildflowers don't like fertility, just that weeds like it more! You will have a constant battle on your hands with weeds like Dock and Nettle. If soil fertility has been improved artificially you can reduce it before starting; some people grow a crop of potatoes in the season before they start, others invert the soil so that relatively infertile subsoil is on top and the topsoil is buried.
When Do I Seed?
You can seed in spring or autumn - whenever it's wet and warm. If you seed in the spring make sure your seedlings don't conk out in a dry spell in summer, so keep them watered. If you have heavy ground don't seed too late in the autumn, as the seed will just sit on the ground and rot. If you sow in autumn you'll get some germination that season and some in the spring aftrerwards from species which need a prolonged period of cold to trigger it. These include Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor. Apart from the Rattle please remember that the species in most of our mixes are all perennials and won't flower in their first year of establishment.
What Preparation Do I Need to Do?
There's no short cut here - you really need a seedbed which is clear of weeds and existing grass. Don't cheat! Firstly, your new seed needs to have light and contact with the bare ground. Second, it is much, MUCH more difficult to deal with unwelcome plants once the plants you do want are established. It's best to physically remove all existing vegetation and then rotovate/hoe any seedlings that come up. Then do it again! Rake the seedbed over to get rid of any lumps, detritus and stones.
Ready to sow
How Do I Seed?
The seed mixes we sell typically need sowing at 4g per square metre. This is not a lot! It's a good idea to add something like sand to the seed, so you don't end up running out of seed half way through your project. Don't be tempted to think the seeding rate is too low and seed at a much higher rate - you'll end up looking at a lawn; the wildflowers in the mix need space. Mark out the area you want to seed into squares using canes to help get an even covering. Scatter the seed / sand on the surface of the soil - don't bury it - and tread / roll in to make sure the contact with it is good. I would just scatter by hand unless you have a large area to cover, and do two passes - one North / South and one West / East, if you see what I mean.
How Do I Manage my Meadow Area?
Contrary to popular belief, this is not as time consuming or difficult as managing a lawn. Make sure the seedlings don't dry out. Pull out any weeds you see appearing. Early on, these will be things like thistle, mayweed, dock and nettle. All of these plants have value for wildlife, but they will take over given half the chance! Start mowing or grazing your meadow area from late July. This helps light reach the wildflowers, which typically form leaves close to the ground, and stops weeds from seeding. Don't be tempted to wait and wait before cutting it as the grass will just get thicker and thicker and fall over; it MUST be cut before September. Keep the meadow area cut or grazed from then until say early March. If you're cutting it, remove the cuttings. That's it!
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