Although the focus on biodiversity and saving the bees is topical now, one man has been working away quietly on this for many years.
John Howard of Sunnyside Fruit and Seeds in Rathcormac, Co. Cork, who is the sole Irish agent for Bright Seeds of Salisbury, has come up with two really good insect and bee-attracting wildflower meadows.
Sunnyside farm is managed 100% for game and wildlife. Game cover crops such as John’s Delight and his basic Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) wildbird cover seed and wildflower meadows, attract hundreds of rare and endangered species, as well as game birds.
John said that a few years ago, he also decided to stop using rodenticides because of the presence of both long-eared owls and barn owls on the farm.
“We sealed up our stores better and use traps outside critical points when necessary and have not had any pest problems since, so our voluntary ban on rodenticide on the farm will remain and the owls will do our pest control while also eating better and so produce more and healthier offspring,” he said.
Sunnyside wildflower mix
A flourishing wildflower meadow can be expensive to establish and, if poor wildflower meadow mixes are used, they are soon taken over by grasses and weeds. After one year, the ground is almost back to a grassy wilderness.
Wildflowers grow best on poor, dry soil, and should not be mixed with grass, nor should fertiliser be applied – to any wildflower meadow in fact.
The Sunnyside Wildflower Meadow Mix will overcome most of these problems and it is especially attractive to bees.
In fact, the mix helps to establish meadows that are attractive to everyone and loved by all kinds of wildlife. They host thousands of insects, moths, bees of all descriptions and butterflies all summer, and then feed finches by the thousand during the winter and early spring days.
It contains some game crop seeds to give extra colour and add feeding value for finches. The chosen varieties should last longer, as well as making the crop more attractive to bees, insects and butterflies.
The wildflower meadow mix should be sown into a clean patch of ground that is clear of perennial weeds such as nettles, thistles and docks. This is vital before you begin, otherwise you are going to be struggling for the year.
A dry and fine seedbed is essential to give your wildflower meadow a good start. It is best to sow in May when conditions are right.
After sowing, the ground should be carefully very lightly covered, rolled or raked in. Take care not to bury the seeds too deep.
In the spring of year two, cut down to ground level and give the soil a very light tilling. This will help to mix the fallen seeds into the soil for germination.
The seed is ideal for use in private or public areas where there is an opportunity to introduce a little bit of rewilding. Wherever you plant your meadow, you will be doing your bit to support biodiversity and you will not be disappointed.
This wildflower meadow seed mixture should be sown at the rate of 6kg/ac. Sunnyside Fuits provides the mixture in 1.5kg packages, and in 150g packets to sow 100m2.
Native Species Perennial Pollinator Wildflower Meadow Mix
This specialised native-species wildflower mix has been designed to support our precious pollinators.
The 12 native wildflower species in our Native Species Perennial Pollinator Wildflower Meadow will attract all kinds of native insects, butterflies, moths and bees.
This high-quality native meadow mix, based on perennial pollinators, will turn into a permanent meadow in year two as it is recommended to mow it back a few times in year one to help it build up good, sturdy plants, that will last almost forever.
It will go on to play a crucial role in supporting Ireland’s native species so that your land is contributing to restoring to biodiversity. Sowing and maintenance guidelines again, are online.
The mix contains 12 species: Birdsfoot Trefoil; Red Clover; Devil’s Bit Scabious; Field Scabious; Lady’s Bedstraw; Knapweed; Meadowsweet; Oxeye Daisy; Purple Loosestrife; Selfheal; Ragged Robin; and Vetch.
For anyone wishing to top up existing meadows or just wishing to source some of the colourful species, i.e. poppies or cornflower, it can be bought in 50g packets here.
For bee-attracting species, Phacelia and Borage are regarded as absolute magnets for attracting bees to your garden and will flower over a long period.
These are available online in large or small packets.
GLAS-approved wildbird cover
John deliberately did not include oats in the mix because it only draws rats and crows, and triticale is the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s preferred cereal element for the wildbird cover crop anyway – with good reason too according to John.
He is not saying that rats will not be attracted to his mix if rats are a problem in a particular location, but because the triticale stays standing all year without lodging, the feeding is off the ground and so does not draw them in big numbers.
The other seeds are so small that the vermin won’t go mad for them. Also, the triticale grain is enclosed in a large layer of chaff, which makes it less attractive to crows who find it difficult to extract the grain and so they leave it alone until they are finding other food sources scarce in mid-winter.
If oats are used they tend to lodge early drawing all sorts of vermin and crows and will be cleaned out by autumn, depriving the smaller birds of the food that the scheme was intended for.
This is a very affordable and good mix, which contains the exact ratios and varieties of seeds recommended by the department of agriculture. Simply called the GLAS Wildbird Cover, it contains 88kg of seed/ha made up of Triticale (75kg), Linseed (7.5kg), Mustard (5kg) and Phacelia (.50kg) to give it colour and life, as well as attracting many endangered bumble bees and butterflies.
It is packed in 22kg bags and the recommended rate is four bags/ha if drilling and five bags if broadcast.
The phacelia is an absolute magnet for attracting bumble bees and John would like to see it included in some way in the bee options of the scheme in future years. The reason for using both Mustard and Linseed in the mix is that is all about guaranteeing a good take after sowing. If soil conditions or a particular plot are not suitable to one species then you have the chance of the other striking thus ensuring a decent crop.
The mixture is priced at €40.00/bag, on this website, and discounts can be availed of for group purchasing or bulk deliveries.
Present stockists for the GLAS Wildbird Cover:
- McDonnell Bros, Coolagown, Castletownroche and Saleen, Co. Cork; 025 31166;
- Creamery Farm Supplies, Croom, Co. Limerick; 087 4155233;
- O Sullivan’s Beaufort Bridge, Killarney, Co. Kerry; 064 6644397;
- Pat Tierney Supplies, Kilkishen, Co. Clare; 086 2406035;
- CC Agricultutal Consultants Ltd., Drumamry, Killeshandra, Co. Cavan; 049 4334462;
- Ward Agricultural Consultants, Doontas, Killasser, Swinford, Co. Mayo; 087 9193371;
- P Coffey and Sons Ltd., Lecarrow, Co. Roscommon; 090 61114.