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Heat is on for wildflower establishment

Belinda Bailey with annual wildflowers
With soil temperatures warming up now is the time for spring sowing of annual wildflower margins, reports Belinda Bailey.

Soil temperatures are warming up quickly and now is the ideal time to get annual wildflower seed mixtures in the ground for this season, advises Syngenta Environmental Initiatives manager, Belinda Bailey.

She advocated that once some oilseed rape crops are seen well into flower, it’s a good indicator that soil temperatures are suitable for sowing wildflower annuals. “You need workable soil to create a fine seedbed, and the small seeds like to get up and away in good growing conditions,” she added

Belinda pointed out that the fast growing Syngenta Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower mix has proven especially valuable for bees and other pollinators when planted near to oilseed rape fields, as it provided an important continuity of essential pollen and nectar when the OSR had finished.

Bumblebee on annual wildflower mix

Some stocks of the purpose designed Operation Pollinator seed mix from specialist seed suppliers, Kings, are still available with the Syngenta special offer of £35/pack to sow up to one hectare.

Hampshire farmer, Simon Butler, has found annual wildflowers have proven straightforward to establish and consistently reliable in the matrix ecological habitats created around the 550-hectares based at Huntley Park Farm near Alton.

“With the annual wildflowers we find it is important to wait in the spring to ensure soils are sufficiently warm to encourage germination and establishment,” he advised.

Simon (below) highlighted that creating a reasonably fine seedbed can help the wildflowers to establish quickly, and reiterated the importance of just sowing the seed on the surface. Rolling in the seed can help conserve moisture if conditions are dry, but always with an eye on the weather - since heavy rain can cause the farm’s greensand soils to slump, which would be detrimental.

Simon Butler - annual wildflower margins

“We have seen that it is possible to get two years out of the annual wildflowers from the natural regeneration of the mix,” suggested Simon, “but it does tend to grow back with more of the dominant species and you lose some of the diversity. We would prefer to re-sow each year with a more floristically enhanced mixture to get the colour and interest, and the full benefit for the insects.”

Belinda Bailey also highlighted that growers can start now with seedbed preparations for establishing a Bees ‘n’ Seeds mix, which would typically be sown in May or early June.

Bees'n'Seeds sunflower margin

The Operation Pollinator seed mix, also available from Kings with  a limited Special Offer of £50 per hectare pack, includes species selected to provide end-of-season flowers for pollen and nectar, followed by a good supply of seeds as an overwinter feed source for game and farmland birds.  

Farmers wishing to take advantage of the Syngenta Operation Pollinator seed special offers should contact Kings direct, or email [email protected]

Watch leading independent ecologist and pollinator specialist, Mike Edwards, explain the value annual wildflower margins are bringing to the environment:

Annual wildflower margin video screen