The plan is to run the seed trials for 3 years and to see how the flowering behaves over time. This will be our second year and I have just finished the very minimal amounts of maintenance that I think give the mixes a fair shot at success. As you can see there are some flowers now but also a lot of weeds. All the mixes we are trialling are sold by their various suppliers with claims that the flowering should last multiple years; some are mixes of annuals that are meant to self-seed to renew and others have perennials that should flower every year.
The maintenance has involved the following:
* we let the sheep graze all the mixes in September; a bit later than the suppliers recommend but definitely should have allowed any seed to drop
* the worst of the invasive weeds - patches of solid dock and areas of 5ft thistles - have been removed with herbicide
* we strimmed any tall tough stems the sheep but left the strimmings on the ground
* a few large bare patches have been reseeded
In addition I have now sown a new patch of the 'French mix' in an area near the road that was grass last year. I collected some of the seed by hand to use for this and have done this for purely aesthetic reasons to have a reliable splash of colour at the entrance but it will also be interesting to see how the collected seed works.
Having had a close inspection at the weekend have a few observations:
1, I can see that the 20% wildflower mix has now established quite a few perennials amongst the grass but oxeye daisy and forget-me-not and a few campion appear to be the dominant flower species. (that is what the picture shows)
2, The bumblebee mix area has been very swampy during the winter and has had several weeks of being underwater so I am not sure it will survive. This was not something I was expecting to test but unforeseen things will happen. The results is grass, with the dock and nettles coming through strongly but no sign at all of any self-seeded borage or phacelia
3, the French mix was completely bare dry ground until very recently but now there are signs of a few calendula, cornflowers (see picture - right), oh and the ubiquitous nettles. We resowed one section with seed collected towards the end of last years flowering and this looks like it has a wider range of seedlings coming through but probably not the same ratios of the original mix.
4, the DEFRA recommended mix looks like pure grass at the moment with about 10% dock
The dock and nettles are going to continue to be a problem and I am not sure if we should leave them or remove what we can; torn between letting nature do its thing and wanting it to look nice.
I will update again when everything is in full flower and hopefully also has bees to report!