September has started, and with a turn in the temperature and a newfound briskness to the morning air; there’s a sure sense of the closing of summer.
As summer gives way to autumn, I’m beginning to return my attention to my garden – for now is a great time for the green-fingered among us to plan and plant a wild flower patch to come to life next spring.
This time of year, when the summer annuals and biennials (plants that flower and set seed within one or two growing years retrospectively, and then die) have finished flowering for the year, it’s a good idea to cut back these plants by leaving the stems to collapse and decay naturally; creating valuable habitats for insects to live in through the winter.
Perennial flower stems (those from plants which re-occur year after year) can be cut back to around 20cm and seed heads will scatter across your patch, creating food for birds as well as seeding your patch further.
But perhaps the easiest way to refresh the garden and create a thriving wild flower patch ‘nature reserve’ for next spring is to pop a seed ball on top of the soil, water and simply watch it grow.
Seedballs for wild flower meadows
Seedballs have been created by Conservation Scientists to make growing wild flowers from seed simpler.
They are their own mini ecosystem, protecting seed from birds, ants and slugs and giving them the nutrition they need to have a head start.
Each wildflower species has a different flowering time and length of time taken to come into flower – some will flower in the first year and others will flower in the following year – but once in flower, they will provide important habitat and food for an abundance of garden wildlife.
Seedball’s Bat Mix
Seedball’s Bat Mix has been created in collaboration with scientists at the Natural History Museum to help garden bats.
Bat Mix contains a special mix of wildflowers to attract a wide diversity of insects that bats feed on, including flowers that release their fragrance in the evening when bats are most active in our gardens.
The mix also has a plants with a combination of long and short pollen tubes and a range of colours and shapes of flower to maximise the number of insects that they attract.
Many of Britain’s bat species are in decline, faced with less roosting places and declining food availability. They have massive appetites, and a tiny Pipistrelle bat alone can eat over 3,000 mosquitoes a night!
Seedball’s Beetle Mix
Also made in collaboration with the scientists at the Natural History Museum, Seedball has created the ideal Beetle Mix to attract ladybirds and pollinating beetles.
Flowers in the Carrot or Umbellifer family (Apiaceae), and those with multiple flower heads, seem to be particularly attractive to these important — but often overlooked — pollinators.
Did you know that many beetles pollinated the first flowers 140 million years ago at the time of dinosaurs?
These critters continue to be super important to our garden ecosystems.
Seedball’s Bird Mix
Bird Mix is designed, quite simply, to feed the birds — and it’s a much more sustainable option to buying bagged bird feed!
This mix will increase the number of birds seen in your garden by boosting the food supply for a wide range of birds including goldfinches, blue tits, chaffinches, greenfinches, robins and starlings,
According to the RSPB, a lack of habitat and food abundance has lead to huge decline (over 50% in the last 45 years) of many common UK garden bird species.
Whilst in bloom, the wildflowers are perfect for attracting insects that many birds feed on and birds will also feed directly on the plants and seeds themselves.
Advantages of autumn sowing
Although we mostly think of springtime as the time to sow wildflower seeds, you don’t have to wait until spring to scatter Seedballs – in fact, there are a number of advantages to getting out in the garden this time of year.
In early autumn, the soil is still warm after the summer, and the extra moisture in the air during the autumn and winter months can in fact aid germination.
Poppies, among other wild flower seeds, actually require a cold period before germination – meaning that sowing them in autumn will give them a head start when it comes to flowering next spring.
Although spending time over the garden may be less appealing than in warmer climes, autumn can still be an appealing time to work outside, with its soft light and calmer atmosphere.
The autumn months usually mean less watering too, as rainfall increases — seed balls are already a low maintenance way to garden, autumn makes them even more so, as the change in weather decreases the need to water the ground where seed balls are scattered.
Things to consider when sowing an autumn wild flower patch
Although leaves break down to release nutrients into the soil, wild flowers are known to do better in poorer soils.
A top tip is to gather fallen leaves before seed scattering; and collect up those which have fallen subsequently – before they get chance to decay – stashing them so that when they break down the resulting leaf mould can be spread on your vegetable patch.
Once the ground is clear; now is also a great time to think about sowing bee-friendly plants and flowers that will also attract butterflies in the spring, too.
Scattering a seed mix like Seedball’s Bee Mix will attract solitary bees, honey bees and bumblebees. Each seed ball contains approximately 30 seeds from a mix of bee-friendly plants recommended by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust; such as Birdsfoot Trefoil, Foxglove, Red Clover, Viper’s Bugloss and Wild Marjoram.
They’ve also added pollinator-friendly annuals such as Chamomile, Cornflower, Corn marigold, and Night-flowering catchfly — which are found in their Butterfly mix, too.
The Seedball Butterfly Mix is a mix of native wildflowers — mostly purple, pink and blue flowers — designed to attract butterflies to our gardens, balconies and window boxes.
Each seed ball contains approximately 30 seeds from a mix of flowers recommended by Butterfly Conservation: Purple Loosestrife, Forget-me-not, Musk mallow, Red campion and Yarrow.
Win! Autumn Seedball bundle: Attract garden birds, bats, beetles, bees and butterflies
I’ve teamed up with Seedball to offer one lucky winner the chance to win this bundle of Seedball wildlife-themed mixes worth £42 — perfect for bringing wildlife into your garden.
Prize Bundle includes…
- 1 x Bat Mix wildflower tin
- 1 x Beetle Mix wildflower tin
- 1 x Bird Mix wildflower tin
- 1 x Bee Mix bag containing 100 seed balls
- 1 x Butterfly Mix bag containing 100 seed balls
TO ENTER: If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning, tell us why you’d love this prize. Leave your answer in the comments below by 23rd September 2020.
One lucky winner will be chosen to win this prize bundle, and notified on 24th September 2020. Competition open to UK Residents only. Good luck!