Establishment methods

There is good advice in the Flora locale Advisory Note ‘Sowing wild flora seed’. This covers a range of soil types, including soils heavier than those at Abbey Farm.

All of our dry grasslands have been established on land that has light, sandy and/or chalky soil that was previously in arable production. The establishment process starts with land preparation before then sowing the seed:

Land preparation:

  • When growing the preceding arable crop, we often do not add any potassium (K) or phosphate (P) fertiliser. Most of our soils are maintained at about index 2 for these nutrients. Without any additional fertiliser being added, the last arable crop will reduce soil P & K levels which helps the development of diverse dry grassland flora
  • At some point in the 12 months before sowing the mix we often apply glyphosate herbicide to kill perennial weeds like creeping thistle. During this period it is good idea to make sure any ragwort plants in nearby habitats do not produce seed
  • We plough shortly before the target drilling date. Immediately before sowing, if the soil is dry enough, we will then roll it to produce a firmer seed bed
  • The period before drilling is a good time to put in any artificial topographical features (read more…), though this can be done later

Sowing the seed:

  • The drill should be set up so that seed falls on the soil surface. It should NOT be buried. The drill should therefore also be set up so that the coulters and any tines that run behind are lifted up so they are clear of the soil. There will therefore be no soil movement that may bury seed
  • We usually sow from mid-September to early October, a bit later than Flora locale recommend. This allows more species to produce ripe seed for the mix
  • If soil conditions permit, we then roll again immediately after drilling
  • In areas that cannot be sown by machine, we sow by broadcasting by hand. We often add wood shavings as an additional bulking agent and marker. The shavings are easy to see on the ground so help keep track of where has been sown, especially when doing large, irregular areas
  • After sowing the main seed mix, the other plant parts like seed heads, stems etc. we’ve separated out during seed processing are spread onto the new grassland site (see ‘Handling and storing seed’)

Drill sowing on top of ground
Seed drill set up so that the coulters and tines are out of the ground