If you’re a regular reader, you’ll be aware that we’re joining forces with the RSPB ‘Give nature a home in your garden’ campaign. With 60% of the UK’s wildlife species seeing decline over the last fifty years, the campaign aims to encourage us all to take small, achievable steps to help nature in our own green spaces.
We’re going to be sharing our experiences as we try out lots of fun family activities to make a home for nature in our own garden. This month we’ve been sowing wildflower seeds to create a mini-meadow that will attract all manner of wildlife to our garden.
Wildflowers are fantastic for wildlife; they provide food for pollinating insects, wild birds and bats, as well as dense shelter for other small animals. They’re fast-growing, low-maintenance, help to control weeds, and look fabulous too – what’s not to love?!
You can sow wildflowers in a patch of ground, or a container. We’re quite limited on space in our garden, so we’ve gone for sowing seed in containers there, but we’ve also sown a wildflower patch at our allotment.
This is just one of the fun nature play projects in my book, ‘A Year of Nature Craft and Play’ (co-authored with Becky Goddard-Hill). There’s an activity for every week of the year and it includes fun crafts, gardening, games, art and science experiments – perfect for inspiring kids to get creative with nature.
We used the RSPB’s ‘sow a poppy patch’ guide to help us get it right. Here’s what we did to sow wildflowers in a patch of ground; if you’re sowing in containers your job will be easier in terms of preparation, but the sowing method is the same.
First of all we chose our patch of ground. A sunny spot works best, so we went for an exposed but neglected area next to the shed.
Once we’d picked our spot, we prepared the ground by getting rid of as many weeds as possible. As you can see from the picture above, it was full of nettles and weeds, and there were some old paving stones and bricks to move; quite a workout!
Removing weeds will not only give the seeds a better chance of germinating, it will also ensure that when they do start to grow, we don’t confuse them with weeds and pull them out. Because we had so many stinging nettles the grown-ups did the weeding, but kids could easily help out with this stage if the weeds are less prickly.
Once all the weeds were cleared, it was time to dig the area over, and then rake the surface to create a fine layer of soil. This provides the perfect environment for the seeds to germinate and is an easy job for the kids to get stuck in with.
Then it was the exciting bit: seed sowing time! We used a wildflower mix containing lots of native species including cornflower, oxeye daisy, red campion, corn marigold and poppy. You can buy mixed packets of wildflower seeds from garden centres; at this time of year you’ll probably be able to find them in other shops selling seeds too, such as supermarkets and DIY stores.
We popped the seeds onto a plastic saucer, to make it easier for Lily to hold while she scattered them finely over the surface of the soil. The aim is to sow the seed quite thinly, which can be tricky for little hands to manage. Lily did well, but I think next time we’ll mix the seed in with some sand, this creates a bulkier mix which is easier to scatter evenly.
You don’t need to rake the seeds in, just press them into the surface of the soil by walking across it; the aim is to get the seeds in contact with the soil. After we’d done this the whole patch just needed a drink and we were done!
While Lily has been busy sowing wildflowers at the allotment, Sam has been sowing them in containers for the garden. No weeding required here, so it’s a really easy way to plant up a mini wildflower garden.
Once the seeds are sown, there isn’t really any work required; if we have a particularly dry spell we’ll water them, but the general idea is to let nature do it’s thing. Hopefully by the time we get to early Summer we’ll have a lovely display of flowers that will also be a welcome habitat for all manner of insects, birds and small mammals. We can’t wait!
We’ve found sowing wildflowers a really fun, easy gardening activity. The whole family has been able to get involved, and it feels good to be making changes that will make our garden and allotment more nature-friendly. And the only cost was a packet of seeds!
I hope we’ve inspired you to create a welcoming wildflower patch in your own garden, if you’d like some more ideas for family activities there are lots on the RSPB website. You might also like my post on how to garden for wildlife, which has 50 simple ways to make your garden more wildlife-friendly.
If you’d like some more inspiration for fun things to do in the garden with the kids my post on 60 fun garden activities has lots of great ideas!