Sow a poppy patch for nature

Fast-growing annual plants grow from seed to a mass of flowers in a few months, providing a buffet for bees, food for birds, and dense cover for other creatures.

Activity time:
Less than 2 hours
Difficulty level:
Easy
Suitable for:
Balcony/roof, Small garden, Large garden, Medium garden
To help:
Hedgehogs, Lizards & snakes, Bees, Dragonflies & damselflies, Butterflies & moths, Birds

Fast-growing annual plants grow from seed to a mass of flowers in a few months, providing a buffet for bees, food for birds, and dense cover for other creatures.

Pollinating insects, birds and bats are having a tough time finding food to eat, as many of their natural habitats are being wiped out.

 

By sowing a poppyfield for nature, you'll create a lively and colourful feeding ground that is bound to prove popular with wildlife near you.

 

Fast-growing annual plants grow from seed to a mass of flowers in just a few months. It's really easy and the results can be stunning!

 

Are you doing this activity as part of your personal plan? Either take a look at your progress or create your own easy-to-follow personal plan to help you give nature a home where you live.

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What you will need

  • A suitable spare patch of earth, or a large pot or planter filled with peat-free compost
  • Mixed annual seeds - look for packs that contain Common (Field) Poppy, Corn Marigold, Corncockle, Cornflower and Corn Chamomile. They are often called 'cornfield annual seed mixes'.

Bee and bug biome

This three-tiered bug house is designed to encourage bees and bugs to feed and nest in your garden

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Step-by-step guide

  1. Decide where you are going to sow your seeds. You need:
    • somewhere that gets lots of sun. Ideally, it will be at least a square metre for real effect, but this is an easy activity to do over an even larger area
    • if space is limited, use a large plant pot, but just be aware that the smaller the area the less likely it is to attract wildlife. So think big!
    • soil type doesn't matter. It doesn't need to be a poor soil, unlike when planting a true wildflower meadow – remember, this is a poppyfield or cornfield, not a meadow
  2. Work out the size of the plot. This will help you decide how many seeds to buy. It takes just 2-5 grams of seed for each square metre. You might even like to add barley, oats and wheat seeds for the real cornfield effect. 
  3. In autumn or early spring, prepare your sowing area. This bit is important - you need to make sure the area is as free of weeds as possible. If you're using a pot and fresh compost, this won't be a problem. If you're digging an area of ground, you might have to work a bit harder! Some people use a weedkiller, but it's much more environmentally friendly to cover it with old carpet or black plastic for a few weeks to kill anything trying to germinate. Then lightly dig the soil surface over and rake it to create a 'seedbed' (you want the surface to be fine granules, not big clods!)

  4. Sow the seeds evenly across the seedbed surface. If including barley, oats or wheat seeds, sow them first in drills at a depth of 2cm before surface sowing the flower seeds. There is no need to rake the seeds in - just press them into the surface using your hand if using a pot, or walk across the surface if you've sown them in a bed. This makes sure the seeds are in contact with the surface. Water, and give them the odd bit of extra water in dry spells. And that's it; job done!
  5. Now sit back and watch them grow and flower. There should be flowers from June to September. Be prepared that more poppies will flower from an autumn sowing. At the end of the flowering season, let the plants set seed and die. Dig over the ground in autumn to ensure weeds don't get a hold. Then repeat next year to make sure your flowers are back again next summer.  
  6. What you should see: Bumblebees on the poppies and cornflowers; smaller pollinating insects such as hoverflies on the other flowers; beetles and birds will forage among the stems
  7. What to do next: Show everyone your amazing display and inspire them to do the same

Sowing a poppy seed patch for nature

Sow a Poppy seed patch for nature/Weed/Sow/Bed down/Chill

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Watch our video clip on sowing the perfect poppy patch

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