Wildflower Garden: Planning and Prep
A wildflower garden is a beautiful addition to your home. With proper planning and preparation, a wildflower garden can require almost no maintenance, reseeding itself every year. However, without such care it can be just as difficult to manage as any other type of lawn or garden. Below are several planning elements to consider
Choose your location. Most wildflowers are going to want a sunny location, so a corner of your yard that is shaded by a tree or building most of the day is not the best location. If you only have a shadier area available, it might be possible to choose plants to suit, but don't pick a random mix. You want this garden to take care of itself, so provide it the best environment to succeed.
Choose your flowers carefully. Don't just accept a random mix sold somewhere without considering that it contains. Choose plants that will grow well in the location you chose. Also, some plants will do well in your local environment, others will not. Native species to your area will require less maintenance and be more likely to fully reseed themselves. Native species will, additionally, attract and support native wildlife, especially birds and butterflies, which will enhance your garden experience.
Consider mixing in some wild grasses for variety and to fill in gaps in the growth patterns. Weeds should not be a problem if you mix your garden right. The flowers and grasses should grow so vigorously as to choke out any weeds.
When to Start
Wildflowers set in for the long run best if planted in the spring. You can clear the area the previous fall, or that spring. It depends on whether you can resist the urge to skip steps to hurry things along in the spring. The clearer the area before you plant the flowers, the better their chance of establishing themselves.
Prep Your Site
Clear your location. Your new wildflowers will grow more quickly without any competition from previous plants. If the area is small, you can simply pull everything out by hand. If not, consider damping the area then covering with plastic for several weeks. This will kill anything left on the ground. You can also hit the area with a herbicide, but it might linger to damage the wildflowers, many of which are considered weeds.
Once the ground is clear, rake up any plant remnants and till the soil to a depth of a 3 inches. This gives the seeds a clear space and freshly aerated soil to sink into. Rake and level the soil, leaving furrows that will help the seeds make contact with the soil.
Prep the Soil?
Don't fertilize. This may seem like a contradiction when it comes to growing beautiful plants, but the point of a wildflower garden is to be easy to care for. Most wildflowers are known for surviving in harsh conditions and poor soil. Don't let your wildflowers become dependent on nutrients that won't be in the soil naturally.