Are you looking at getting into re-wilding, or in other words, looking to ‘grow wildflowers wherever you can’? Then you are going to want to grow Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor or ‘meadow-maker’). But how do you effectively do so, and when is best? Here is the exact approach to take.
So how do you sow yellow rattle? Although yellow rattle can be a pain to establish, with a few easy steps like preparing the soil properly, sowing at the right time of year, and keeping the area moist for the first 6 weeks after sowing your yellow rattle should take root fabulously.
Yellow rattle will send out little roots ink search of the root systems of our grass.
Once found they will attach themselves to the grassroots, diverting all the nutrients and water in the soil from the grass to themselves.
This process weakens and eventually kills off surrounding grass and leaves room for new wildflowers to take root and flourish.
And as such, it is incredibly beneficial to wildflowers that are fighting grass for nutrients and water.
But if you are sure you want to grow this magnificent wildflower, read on further to find out exactly what you need to know.
When Should You Sow Yellow Rattle Seeds?
Yellow rattle is an annual that must be sown in mid to late autumn, and at the very latest sown into the earth by November.
If you want your yellow rattle to establish itself well and start sprouting in the spring you must sow this seed at the right time.
Yellow rattle needs at least 4 months of freezing temperatures before sprouting season if it is to germinate.
This process is called vernalization and without it, the growth of your yellow rattle will become very unreliable.
That’s not to say yellow rattle can’t grow well if it’s sown late, it just becomes more likely that your seeds will fail.
The best outcome of late sowing would be your yellow rattle seeds sprouting and flowering far later into the Spring and maybe even early Summer, the drawback to this is that your yellow rattle will have a much shorter season to do its good grass clearing work.
This could be a really important drawback if you are planting yellow rattle to clear your area of unwanted grass to improve conditions for other wildflowers.
This delay could also impact how well your yellow rattle sets seed, a process that usually happens in August.
Worst case scenario, it just won’t grow at all.
How Deep Do You Sow Yellow Rattle Seeds?
The best thing about wildflowers, like yellow rattle, is that their seeds don’t need to be dug down into the soil like other variations of garden flowers. All you need to do is sprinkle them over freshly prepared soil, press them in gently so they have good contact with the soil, and let them do what they do best.
If you want to, you can scuff the soil over them, before you give them a light press, and once you have prepared the soil but it isn’t completely necessary. It really is lazy gardening at its very finest.
Unlike many other popular garden-grown flowers that need to be pushed at least 2-3cm into the soil and then covered up.
Yellow rattle seeds are fairly low maintenance in regards to their sown depth. Their need for freezing temperatures means this less covered way of sowing seeds makes far more sense.
Soil can still maintain some warmth, even in the depth of winter, and with your yellow rattle seeds being slightly more exposed to the elements by residing in the topsoil of your prepared area, they have far more chance of getting hit with the freezing temperatures they so sorely need for proper germination in the spring.
Can I Sow Yellow Rattle Onto Grass?
No, yellow rattle seeds can’t be sown directly onto well-established grass. Although yellow rattle is an utter beast when it comes to killing off the grass, in its seed and sproutlet stages it’s actually a very delicate, sensitive, and particular plant.
To grow yellow rattle well from seed in your garden there are a few things you need to do to ensure that your area of choice is perfectly prepared for this bold plant.
Firstly, at the end of the summer, you will need to mow your lawn area down as short as your lawnmower will allow.
Following that, you will need to scarify the area.
No, you don’t have to don a Halloween mask and try to get your lawn to screech. Scarifying literally means removing all the debris and loose material.
So any grass left behind your mower, loose leaves, and any other material that isn’t physically growing out of the ground.
The process of scarification also means you’ll need to get a rake or garden fork to hand.
Be prepared, You are about to make this area look a lot uglier than before. However, things have to get worse before they get better when it comes to growing wildflowers.
At the very least you’ll need 50% of your chosen area to be bare soil.
However, the more you can leave as bare soil the better for your yellow rattle seeds. If you’re feeling particularly bold you could clear the entire area of any grass.
This is because you need them to be able to come into full contact with the soil.
So the more space that’s cleared and left bare, the better to ensure a beautiful swathe of yellow rattle in the following Spring and Summer.
Keeping an eye on this area is of the utmost importance over the following couple of months. Grass is a persistent little fiend and it will try its damned hardest to recover.
You may find that you need to whip out the lawnmower, even as far into the winter like Christmas, to keep the grass level that’s been left behind below ankle length until the yellow rattle has really taken root.
However, if the area is overly soggy or wet, you can skip the extra cut until a time when the soil has had a chance to dry up a little.
Best Practices When Sowing Yellow Rattle
Once established yellow rattle can be a beautiful prolific addition to your garden but there are a few general best practices you will need to adhere to to ensure this plant gets every chance you can give it to grow well and vicariously.
Firstly, is seed buying. It is possible to find yellow rattle seeds in the wild. They tend to go to seed in August and you can harvest the seeds any time from then.
The best way of telling if the yellow rattle plant is ready to be harvested is by giving it a good shake. If you hear the rattle of the seeds in their pods you’re good to go.
They didn’t get the name yellow rattle for no reason.
If you can find them in the wild, you’ll want to buy them as fresh as possible. Any good, reliable seed seller will be able to tell you exactly when they were harvested.
Poor Soil Is Desired
Poor soil is the best soil for wildflowers like yellow rattle.
If you have very fertile soil you may find, although the yellow rattle takes off well in the first year, it will slowly disappear during the years that follow.
Another important best practice is to always sow your yellow rattle seed anywhere from September to November, any earlier, and your seeds may get picked off by hungry birds or germinate too early.
Any later and they won’t have experienced cold temperatures for long enough to germinate effectively.
The last tip we have for you is don’t go gung-ho when sowing yellow rattle.
You need far less seed sown than you probably think you do.
A very small handful of seeds per square meter will be more than plenty.
You only need a few plants to grow in the first year as they will produce more seeds for you, year after year.
Yellow rattle is an incredibly versatile and useful wildflower plant if you are planning to say goodbye to a boring, monoculture grass lawn and hello to the rainbow beauty of a wildflower meadow.
It’s not for everyone and yellow rattle itself can be a little picky during its sowing and early growth seasons but once established it will provide you with some seriously beautiful blooms and leave room for a wide variety of colorful wildflowers to join in, year after year.
Hey there – I’m Jesse, a professional florist, and gardening enthusiast. I created MyGardenFlowers to share all that I can about the flowers that I have planted and managed to grow in my garden.