How To Grow Wildflowers In Your Backyard
A wildflower garden offers a natural oasis away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and easily brings the rugged beauty of naturally occurring flower gardens into your own backyard. Considered plants that self-seed, require little maintenance, and grow in undeveloped, natural areas, wildflowers often grow mixed with other plants and grasses, especially in prairies or meadows. Many are natives to North America, although some are immigrants that naturalized successfully from other areas.
Walk into any garden center, and you can find various mixes of wildflower seeds, all claiming that with little care, you can have a bright field of flowers in your yard. However, like all gardens, wildflowers do require planning, preparation, and maintenance.
Planning your wildflower garden gives you the perfect excuse to browse gardening magazines, drool over seed catalogs, and visit websites specializing in seed mixtures.
- Size: Measure your square footage before visiting the gardening center, or the wildflower seed website. Make sure to purchase the right amount of seed. The packet or bag of seed will specify coverage.
- Region: What USDA gardening zone do you live in? Choosing wildflowers that do best in your zone or region will bring you the best success. Seed companies specializing in wildflowers have developed many blends for specific parts of the country.
- Placement: Where in your yard will you place your flowerbed? Wildflowers generally prefer full sun or perhaps a little protection from the strongest afternoon sun in regions with hot summers. Pick seed mixes that will thrive in your specific plot.
Now comes the most labor-intensive part of planting, but a little effort now will reward you later with a wonderful wildflower garden.
- Remove all stones, large dirt clods or other debris from the planting site.
- Water the area, wait for a week or two to allow any weed seeds to germinate, and remove those. Weeds are the enemy of your wildflower garden!
- Work the soil to a depth of three inches. Break up any large dirt clods.
- Add organic compost, and mix it in with the dirt. Rake the soil smooth, leaving raking grooves to hold onto the seeds.
- Spring is the best time to sow the seeds.
- Wildflower seeds tend to be very small, so mixing the seeds with sand will make it easier to handle them, and spread evenly over your flowerbed.
- You can cast the seed by hand in a small area, or use a seed spreader if you are covering a very large bed.
- For even coverage, spread the seeds in evenly spaced rows in one direction, then evenly spaced rows crossing the opposite direction. Gently rake over the soil once you have sown all the seeds.
- Water the area, and keep moist until the flower seed germinates. Most of the seeds should sprout within two to three weeks.
Now that your wildflowers have sprouted, basic garden maintenance will help them grow and continue to blossom season after season.
- Pull all weeds immediately. In the early stages, it might be hard to tell weeds from wildflowers, so err on the side of caution. Weeds will quickly smother your wildflowers if given the chance, so don't let them get ahead of you.
- Continue to water on a regular schedule, but cut back as your seedlings grow. Most wildflowers are relatively drought resistant once mature, but appreciate a weekly watering if there is insufficient rainfall, or extended hot weather.
- Most wildflowers grow naturally in poor soils, so there is no need to provide extra fertilizer beyond the compost worked into the soil when first planted, and annual additions of compost or mulch.
- In late fall, prune your wildflower garden down to a height of four to six inches. This tidies up the area, removes the dormant or dead plants, and helps spread seeds for next season.
- Some varieties may prove more aggressive than others, and crowd out other flowers. You can avoid this by adding new seed each spring, filling in any bare spots.
Put in a little time, labor and sweat, and your backyard can become a wildflower oasis. Your wildflower bed will be filled with an ever-changing display of color, as different flowers come in and out of bloom. The bees, butterflies and birds will thank you, and as you sit and enjoy the view, you will be thankful too.