Auburn, Alabama— Wildflower meadows are a rich and colorful habitat full of beautiful flowers and various grasses. They also create a home for biodiversity.
“Large or small, the benefits of a wildflower ‘patch’ are numerous. Environmentally, the pollinators will love you. Honey bees and native bees, along with butterflies, and other pollinators will enjoy the continuous food source- nectar,” said Dani Carroll, an Extension regional agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System specializing in home grounds, gardens and home pests.
Backyard wilderness can preserve the best local flowers and encourage wildlife to visit the garden, according to Carroll.
Reasons to Grow a Wildflower Meadow
Carroll offers the following reasons to grow a wildflower meadow.
- Attract pollinators like honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds with a border of wildflowers near a vegetable garden.
- Create an interesting conversation spot by planting colorful and unusual specimens in clay pots and wooden barrels near seating areas .
- Enhance gardens with native perennials and reseeding annuals. They are prolific bloomers with few disease and pest problems.
- Brighten a flowering border with the addition of striking wildflower perennials.
- Make a roadside more welcoming with the addition of easily maintained wildflowers.
How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow
If you are looking to create a meadow in your backyard, the best time to plant wildflower seeds is in October, said Carroll. Wildflower mixes perform best in full sun with well-drained soil. Planning accordingly specifically to your wildflower seed mix is important. The most challenging part about starting a wildflower meadow is soil preparation, according to Carroll. Removing the existing vegetation from soil is crucial.
“Wildflowers adapt to many conditions,” said Carroll. “Test your soil to determine its pH of the soil.”
“The soil pH will determine whether you should amended the soil before planting. In addition, knowing soil conditions will help you decide what type of wildflower seeds to plant.”
Additionally, purchase seed mixes containing a high percentage of wildflower species native to the specific area is best. “Try to stay away from generic wildflower mixes. Many contain seeds that may or may not do well in your area. Opt for specialized seeding mixes,” said Carroll.
Ask your wildflower seed supplier for a seed mix specifically for your area. A great resource to check for seed supplier information for the Southeast area of the United States is Xerces.
An interesting tip when it comes to planting is to mix the seeds with damp sand or a similar source. Then disperse them by or hand with a seeder. The sand helps evenly distribute the seeds over a large area. After spreading the seeds, lightly rake the area for good seed to soil contact.
“After seeding, apply a thin layer of mulch, preferably weed-free, grain straw, pine needles or composed pine-bark mulch, to conserve soil moisture and to protects seeds and young seedlings from bird damage. Avoid using hay mulches that are often infested with weed seeds,” stated Carroll.
Sowing the seeds in the fall, when the soil temperatures are below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, allows perennials to become established for early spring bloom. As well as with the germination of annuals which will be delayed until the Spring when soil temperatures rise.
Water Newly Plants Seeds
Watering newly planted seeds is crucial to their germination. Also remember young seedlings can easily dry out quickly. “Keeping the area weeded and watered for establishment is crucial. Give the area a chance to grow and naturalize for a couple of seasons,” said Carroll.
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