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Wildflowers give a boost to landscape

Posted: November 20, 2011 - 1:09am

I was traveling in North Carolina this past week and there were patches of daylilies and wildflowers in the medians along Interstate 95. Although they were not in bloom, these areas were still attractive.

There are a number of gardeners in the area who are planting wildflowers in small and large areas to increase the beauty of their landscape. Wildflowers are good at blending turf and traditional landscaped areas into wooded areas.

Gardeners who are thinking of starting a wildflower meadow or a small wildflower garden need to think about what wildflower mix that will work best in our area.

In a wildflower mix, perennial plants and annuals that will reseed are the best to use. With the right plant selection, a wildflower garden should be able to go a few years before having to reseed.

However, this ability to survive is dependent on weather conditions.

In Georgia, wildflowers do best when planted in late fall and winter. The soil temperatures are beginning to drop and this typically is the time of the year with the highest rainfall.

The perennial plants and winter annuals in the seed mix will germinate and grow during the winter months. When the temperature starts to rise in the spring, the summer annuals will germinate and start to grow. Irrigation is needed to keep them healthy.

The recommended seeding rate is 10 pounds per acre, or 4 to 5 ounces per 1,000 square feet. In smaller areas, the seeded rate can be doubled to give a more intense color.

I would encourage most gardeners to start with a small area since wildflower seeds can cost around $30 per pound.

Because wildflower seeds cost so much, it is important to prepare the planting area properly. Proper preparation of the soil will increase the chance of these wildflowers reseeding for multiple years.

Weed control is important in having success with wildflowers. The existing vegetation can be sprayed with glyphosate. This will kill the weeds and grasses in the area.

If the soil pH is below 5.5, lime should be added. The amount of lime needed can be determined from a soil sample. The lime must be lightly tilled into the soil.

Most of the time when I talk about planting I recommend deep tilling, but when planting wildflowers, till to a depth of 2 inches. Deep tilling brings up weed seeds that are deep in the soil.

Any fertilizer needed should be applied in the spring or early summer. A soil sample also will give the recommended rate of fertilizer to use.

The best way to put out the wildflower seeds is by broadcasting. In small areas, this is best done with a hand spreader. Next, make sure that the seeds are in good contact with the soil by raking them in.

Add a layer of mulch to the site, such as a small grain straw, wheat, rye, pine straw or wood chips. The mulch will aid in maintaining soil moisture and protecting the young wildflower seedlings. The mulch should be a quarter to a half-inch deep.

One maintenance practice that will aid the growth of wildflowers is mowing. Mow around the edge of the wildflower bed to help define it. This will provide a place to walk so the wildflowers are not trampled. Also, they should be mowed in the summer to remove old blooms. This can cause some species of wildflowers to rebloom. Mow at a height of 4 to 6 inches and apply a light fertilization to help with rebloom.

The last mowing should be a dormant mowing when the seeds have matured. This will help with reseeding. Also, new seed can be put down at this time to help thicken up the wildflower stand.

Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at cphillipshort@comcast.net, or at (706) 836-2152.

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