Gardeners have been intrigued for a number of years by these advertisements for Meadow in a Can or Wildflower Gardens, an Alternative to the Traditional Lawn and the ever popular Wildflowers, Effortless Gardening. A red flag should go off in your head when you see effortless and gardening in the same sentence.
Wildflowers are species of flowers that are hardy, self-producing plants that need little attention from the gardener. They seem to thrive in poor soil and thrive on neglect. It should then seem easy to bring together flowers that get along in nature and let them intermingle in the garden. So, what is the problem?
The truth is that wildflower gardens are beautiful little garden jewels but they are not effortless. You need to plant wildflowers that are indigenous to our zone 4 or 5 and you need to plant these flowers in a site in which they will thrive. Some wildflowersneed shade, some need moisture and some need full sun. Wildflower gardens take planning, preparation and maintenance.
Using wildflowers in your landscape
As with any new project plan to start small, you can always enlarge your garden as you gain experience. Your site should have full to partial sunshine which will allow a wide variety of wildflowers.
The second step, site preparation, is the task in which the wildflower gardener will expend the most effort. First, remove all existing vegetation. This could be done either with herbicides or removal of the sod by hand. For a large wildflower garden the gardener can kill vegetation by covering the area with clear plastic sheeting for 6-8 weeks.
After the vegetation is removed, the next step is to till the site to a depth of 3 inches. The tilling will bring weed seeds to the surface which can then be controlled with herbicides. Rake and level the site leaving the marks from the rake to give the seeds good soil contact.
Step three is planting the garden. Always use high quality seed for good germination. Rake lightly after spreading the seed and keep the area moist until the plants are a few inches high. Mulching the area will help keep the wildflowers moist and give protection from birds, a technique used when starting grass seed.
Once the garden is established, it will need watering during dry spells. Weeds will try to invade the garden but the dense growing habit of the wildflowers should discourage this. Until the garden is established you will need to weed by hand.
Mowing is a fall maintenance chore. After the annuals have gone to seed, mow the garden to a height of 4-6 inches. This will allow the seed heads to drop and at the same time make a tidy appearance of the garden.
Some considerations for a large wildflower gardens are walkways that will allow family and friends to enjoy the garden. Ponds or bogs also add interest to your garden and will give the gardener more situations in which to plant wildflowers.
A wildflower garden attracts butterflies, birds and beneficial insects to the natural habitat. Here family and friends can enjoy the beauty of the garden in a natural setting A rustic garden bench will provide a perfect spot to watch the seasons change in your own personal meadow.