Maintaining A Control Over WildflowersCan a wildflower garden become established and continue to self-sow, without becoming too invasive? Actually, the perennials won't bloom the first year and if you are hoping to enjoy the garden for years to come, an occasional over seeding will help to maintain the balance of plants. This can be done every couple of years or whenever you notice an imbalance, perhaps due to unfavorable weather conditions.
If you are planting a large area and are going for a meadow look, you should consider including some grasses in your mixture to fill in thin spots and discourage weeds. Hardy Fescues are a good choice in Northern zones. In warmer climates, Kentucky 31 or Tall Fescue are preferred. Ryegrass and bluegrass tend to be too competitive with the flowers and are not good choices. About 25 pounds of grass seed per acre would do.
Once the plants are established they require very little care.
- Watering during dry spells will keep things looking their best and won't spoil the plants, making them dependent on your care.
- Weeds will try and invade, but wildflowers grow densely and initial weeding should be very minimal, becoming less and less as the garden fills in.
- "Mowing" is the major maintenance chore. In the late fall, after the annuals have gone to seed and the perennials are dormant, the whole area should be mowed down to a height of about 4-6 inches. If your area is too large to even consider chopping by hand, mow at the highest setting your lawn mower has. What you are doing is insuring the seed heads drop while tidying the appearance of the garden and discouraging the growth of any woody perennials that might take over.
Tips For Growing a Wildflower Garden
- Build your beds the fall before you intend to plant. You won't have to fight all the annual weeds sprouting in the spring and you won't get impatient and be tempted to skip steps in your preparation.
- The best time to plant wildflowers is in the spring, to give them a good long season to get established and set seed. If you are starting later in the summer, be sure you have at least 8 - 10 weeks before frost, if you want them to self-sow.
- "Frost seeding" is possible in Zones 6 and up. Wait until the ground begins to freeze and then broadcast the seeds. Or you can put it off until very early spring when the ground is just starting to thaw. The seeds will get adequate moisture from the snow and good contact with the soil through heaving. Of course, this also requires that you prepare the bed the preceding fall.
- Consider building in walkways in your meadow, so that you can get out there and enjoy the view. Here are some plant suggestions for attracting birds & butterflies to your wildflower garden.