If you’re a small-scale farmer with limited space, it can be hard to grow enough crops to feed your family and make money. It is likely you’ll have every square inch planned to pack in productive crops to maximise your harvests. But did you know that planning in some areas of wildflowers on your land could actually help boost crop growth?
What are wildflowers?
The simplest answer to this question is that wildflowers are species of flower found growing naturally in the wild. Traditionally they have not been intentionally planted or seeded and the mix of flowers is different for different locations around the world.
The benefits of wildflowers
Wildflowers are often thought of as being useless, perhaps a waste of valuable farmland, but don’t be too quick to judge…they can be incredibly beneficial. Here’s how…
- They provide a source of food for bees and other pollinators
Unfortunately, modern farming practices of large monocropped areas covered in herbicides, fertilisers and pesticides have been devastating to insect populations. However, positive wildflower planting can help to reverse this change.
The more food for pollinators in the area, the more pollinators that can be sustained. This means more insects available to fertilise your food crops, which is crucial for the growth of seeds and fruit.
A study from the WWF stated that in full bloom, one acre of wildflower meadow can contain 3 million flowers which produce around 1kg of nectar – enough to support 96,000 honey bees per day!
- They attract birds
Wildflowers act as shelter and nesting space for many birds which feast on the pests which can damage your crops before they have a chance to ripen. This can reduce the need for harmful and costly pesticides.
- They help control soil erosion
This is great news if you live in a location prone to flooding or drought. Reducing the amount of open soil space and introducing wildflowers has many benefits for soil.
With their complex root systems they will:
- help to hold loose soils together
- increase the organic matter
- improve soil pH
- reduce the speed of water evaporation in dry times
- help to absorb excess water in times of prolonged rainfall.
In locations prone to soil compaction, for example soils with a high clay content, the roots of some wildflowers can also help to break up the soil and improve drainage.
Where to plant wildflowers on your farm
Wildflowers are great for filling unused patches of land on your farm, for example, edges of fields, in strips between rows and up to and in hedgerows.
If you have the space, permanent wide margins and corners of plots generally provide better habitat than thinner or smaller areas, especially if they are close to and can connect pre-existing areas of habitat such as hedges or woodland. These protected ‘corridors’ help wildlife to move around the landscape.
If you don’t have space, every little helps and you can really get creative – instead of having solid pathways between raised beds or fields, could you grow low lying wildflowers such as clover?
When is it best to plant wildflowers?
To let wildflowers establish and meet their full potential it is best to plant them in prepared soil (free from weeds and grasses). They should be planted in damp ground at the time of year when the ground begins to warm up. In the UK this would be spring time, March/April, but this varies around the world.
The varieties of wildflowers you plan to grow also impact when you should plant them – it’s always a good idea to check the seed packet or research growing seasons for specific flowers if you are unsure.
Examples of native wildflowers for UK farms
It is important to research the best wildflowers for your location, but as an example we’ve looked into common species that grow in the UK:
- Oxeye daisies
- Common knapweed
- Cow parsley
- Wild carrot
If you want to add something unique and beautiful to your small farm or garden whilst also increasing your production, growing wildflowers is a great way to do it.
Will you be actively adding wildflowers to your plans for the next season?
A mission to support small-scale farming
At Futurepump we have a mission to support small scale farmers into becoming more productive in a sustainable way. Through our blog we share tips and information about farming techniques and ideas for transforming your farm.
If you are looking for more information on specific techniques for your farm and locations we would recommend speaking to a local agronomist.
We offer a range of solar water pumps to meet the needs of 1 to 2 acres farmers. All our solar pumps come with a market-leading 10-year warranty promise, so you can be confident that you are getting quality products that will irrigate your farm for years.
You can find out more about which of our solar water pumps is best for your farm along with details on where to buy at shop.futurepump.com