Conservation Management –Wildflowers & Conservation Crops
One third of our bee species is threatened from extinction in Ireland. Due to habit loss we have reduced the amount of flora food and nesting sites in our natural environment. Ecologica Environmental is committed to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan as part of a sustainable strategy. We continuously work with farmers to local authorities, schools, gardeners and businesses to support our pollinators to survive and thrive.
The common enemy of wildflowers is grass which will out-compete wildflowers on many of our soils but given a little fertiliser, wildflowers will gradually disappear until most simply disappear. If ground is very fertile it is unwise to add wildflowers to existing grassland. The grasses will simply outcompete any seed that is added. However, when Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) is introduced to a meadow this plant will reduce grass ingress by over 60% to the benefit of wildflower growth.
Wildflower Meadow Mix
A wildflower mix should contain native wildflower species which are particularly suited to the soil type thus creating a diversity and nectar/flowering with minimum cost to traditional grass management moving regimes.
Beetle banks reduce run-off and soil erosion on gradients.They are also used to reduce and provide a habitat for beneficial insects e.g. beetles, spiders, lacewing, ladybird and hoverflies which act as a form of biological control while also serving as a habitat for ground nesting birds e.g. skylark, yellowhammers & grey partridge.
Grass Free Pollen & Nectar Mix
Planting of a flowering pollen and nectar mix adjacent to the beetle bank strip to encourage pollen and nectar feeding insects is considered best practice. Many of these insects will then lay eggs in the vicinity and thus increase the numbers of insect larvae available to birds as food. Hoverflies are especially attracted to these strips and will lay eggs wherever there is an abundance of aphids for their larvae to feed on, thus helping to reduce numbers of these pests adjacent in adjacent wildflower meadows.
Straight crop species provide a great deal of flexibility and can be planted alone or with other components as required e.g. Cornfield annuals, phacelia & sunflowers.Straights give you the opportunity to try varied species of flowers. Sunflowers for example added to a Cornfield Annuals brighten up a crop and help farmland bird species too. Phacelia is an annual species that grows well in most locations and very attractive to pollinators.
A common mistake in perennial wildflower/grass mixture establishment is not to cut them hard in the first year. Regular cuts suppress annual weeds. Look to remove the cuttings in late summer / early Autumn.
For advice on wildflower meadows or conservation crops contact ecologica.ie on (086) 812 0435.