So you've decided to plant a wildflower garden. Where do you start? Here are our top 5 tips for wildflowers in the garden.
- Select the best seed for your area. Read the label carefully to be sure the plants are suitable for your growing conditions, or better yet, purchase wildflower seeds from a local grower. Native plants support a healthy, diverse ecosystem, unlike invasive or exotic plants that can crowd out useful native plants, destroy wildlife habitat and upset entire ecosystems.
- Choose a planting site carefully. Wildflowers require six to eight hours of sun per day, and well-drained soil is absolutely critical. Start with a small area, as your wildflower garden may require more maintenance than you expect, at least at first. Wildflowers naturally reseed themselves and your wildflower garden will soon begin to expand.
- Prepare the soil. Remove weeds, rake out rocks and large clods, and then dig the soil to a depth of 12 to 20 inches. Dig in manure, compost or other organic material if the soil is poor, but don't bother with fertilizer; wildflowers don't need rich soil and may not survive. Rake the soil smooth before planting wildflower seeds. If the area is weedy, consider waiting a couple of weeks, and then remove weeds that have sprouted before planting your wildflower seeds.
- Plant seeds in spring or fall. Late fall is best in most climates because some seeds require a dormant period before they can germinate. Many wildflower seeds are tiny, so mix the seeds with sand for more even distribution. Once planted, tamp the seeds down lightly with a board or roller so they make contact with the soil, but don't cover them, as wildflower seeds can't germinate without sunlight. If squirrels or other rodents are a problem, cover the area with wire mesh. A layer of straw or mulch prevents moisture loss and discourages seeds from eating newly planted seeds.
- Water regularly until plants are established. Thereafter, wildflowers are drought-tolerant and can survive very dry conditions. However, an occasional watering produces bushier plants and showier flowers. As a general rule, about ½ inch of water per week during warm, dry weather is plenty.
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A Credentialed Garden Writer, Mary H. Dyer was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, publishing articles as early as 2007.
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