How to Grow Wildflowers
by Michael J. McGroarty -
past few years I've read about, and have seen more interest
in wildflowers, so I figure it's about time I jump in and
add my two cents.
have watched in despair as some of my friends have created a
wildflower bed in their yard, and have ended with the
biggest, ugliest patch of weeds I have ever seen. Why did
they get weeds instead of wildflowers?
they were armed with a lack of good information, and two,
they were lead to believe that planting a beautiful bed of
wildflowers is so easy that a child could do it. Actually, a
child could do it, and with great success. But only if that
child were extremely lucky, or had a basic understanding of
exactly how to plant a bed of wildflowers and achieve
the next few minutes I intend to arm you with enough good
information so you can successfully plant a beautiful bed of
wildflowers, and have your neighbors hanging over the fence
asking you how ya did it.
of all, you've got to understand what kind of a neighborhood
wildflowers like to live in. They tend to prefer wide open
spaces with at least 8 hours of sunshine each day. It's
true, they are sun worshipers. They also like the soil to be
rich in nutrients, and well drained. They don't like hard
packed soil, and they don't like to get their sneakers wet,
only for short periods of time.
you have an area that tends to be wet, wildflowers are not
Wildflowers can be used for weed control, and with a great
deal of success. But you have to give the wildflowers a
running start, or the weeds will keep the area "Wildflower
Free". Weeds and wildflowers are both sun worshipers, so who
ever reaches the top first wins. Neither will grow well
without adequate sunlight. If you use this to your advantage
you can have a beautiful bed of wildflowers that requires
secret is proper bed preparation. You must create a bed that
is as weed free as possible. You can do this by removing all
the vegetation from the area you intend to plant in, and
then prepare the soil for planting by tilling or raking to a
depth of just one inch or less. Do not disturb the soil any
deeper than that, or you will just disturb dormant weed
seeds that are just waiting to be brought back to the
surface so they can grow. You should consider spraying the
existing vegetation with Roudup before you remove it. This
will kill all the roots that might still be in the soil.
in mind that you need to spray the weeds or grass with
Roundup at least three days before you disturb them. If you
feel that the area you have chosen has significant amount of
weed seed near the surface, you might consider letting the
soil sit for about six days after you work it, then work it
again. Do this over and over, but don't work the soil more
than one inch deep. The longer you continue this process the
more apt you are to get the bed as weed free as possible.
weed seeds germinate rather quickly, so when you bring them
to the surface through your cultivation efforts, you are
giving them a chance to germinate. But then when you work
the soil again in six days, you will actually interrupt the
germination process and the seed will be spent. The longer
you continue the process, the fewer viable weed seeds you
will have to contend with. Of course additional seeds are
blowing in all the time, so it's unrealistic to think that
you can create a planting bed that is free of weed seed.
most important aspect of this process is to have your bed as
ready as possible, at the ideal time for planting wildflower
seeds. The secret of success is to plant the wildflower
seeds at the ideal time so they take off growing
immediately, and beat the weeds at their own game.
ideal time? Depends on where you live. If you're in zones
one through six, you should plant in the spring. If you're
in zones seven through 11, you should probably plant in the
Wildflower seeds like warm soil. They will germinate best
with a soil temperature of 68 to 70 degrees F. So if you
live in a cooler region, you should wait until later in the
spring to plant. There's no point planting when the soil
temperature is 45 degrees and have the seeds just lay there
while some of the weeds seeds germinate. You'd be much
better off to continue working the soil as described above
until the soil temperature is up to 68 degrees.
say it again, just in case you missed it earlier. Don't work
the soil any deeper than one inch.
for planting the wildflower seeds.
best way to plant your wildflower seeds is to distribute
them with a small hand held broadcast spreader, or to apply
them in a manor that mimics that technique. In order to get
the best coverage you should thoroughly mix the seeds with
dry sand, vermiculite, or potting soil to increase the
volume before you spread them. It's a lot easier to evenly
distribute five pounds of granular material over an area
than it is 8 ounces.
you spread the seeds walk in straight lines from one end of
the bed to the other. Then do the same thing from the side
of the bed in a criss cross pattern to the first set of
footsteps you made. This will give you thorough and even
distribution. This is why you should mix the seeds with some
sort of filler material before you start, so you have plenty
of volume to work with, and will be able to cover the area
completely and evenly.
urge you to visit www.wildseedfarms.com and ask for a
catalog, or call their toll free number. 1-800-848-0078 This
company publishes one of the most complete and informative
catalogs I've ever seen. They have a color photo of each
variety, along with a good description. They even tell you
what percentage of seeds you can expect to germinate, and
this varies from variety to variety, so they list this
information for each variety.
also tell you how long each variety takes to germinate, and
what the ideal soil temperature is. They also tell you how
many seeds are in each pack, how many seeds in a pound, and
how much seed you need to cover a given area. Wildflower
seeds have germination periods of 6 to 28 days, so you have
to keep this in mind as you plan your garden. If you select
a variety that has a 28 day germination period, you should
select a second variety with a much quicker germination
period and mix them together before sowing.
you were to sow only seeds with a 28 day germination period
the weeds would get a jump on the wildflowers, and you would
likely end up with a weed garden. When you mix seeds with
different germination periods, the faster germinating seeds
will come up very quick, and act as a nurse crop for the
seeds that need more time, keeping the weeds and birds at
bay until all the seeds can germinate.
luck with your wildflower garden! Have fun, and enjoy.
Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit
www.freeplants.com and sign up for his excellent
gardening newsletter, and grab a FREE copy of his
E-book, "Easy Plant Propagation"