In the spring and summer, there are numerous flowers in bloom. Just like the article last week which talked about flowering bulbs, there are other plants in flower at this time of the year.
One group of flowers that is becoming more popular is wildflowers. The Department of Transportation in Georgia and South Carolina has increased the awareness of wildflowers by planting them in the median of Interstate 20. These patches of bright blooms are a delight to the weary traveler.
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 for blending turf and traditional landscaped areas into wooded areas.
If you are thinking of starting a wildflower meadow or a small wildflower garden, think about what wildflower mix that you want to plant. The beauty of wildflowers is that there are so many different types in the area. This allows you to have flowers over a longer period of time, since the different plants don't bloom at the same time.
In a wildflower mix, you want perennial plants and annuals that will reseed. If you get the right selection, you should be able to go a few years before having to reseed. However, this is dependent on weather conditions. If you are thinking about planting a wildflower garden, start with a seed mix that has plants adapted to the southeastern United States. Another option is a landscape color mix. Both of these work for the person who is just starting a wildflower garden.
In Georgia, we like to plant wildflowers in late fall and winter. The soil temperatures are beginning to fall, and we normally get most rainfall this time of year. The perennial plants and winter annuals in the seed mix will germinate and grow during the winter months, and when the temperature starts to rise in the spring, the summer annuals will germinate and start to grow.
You can start wildflowers in the spring and summer, but you have to irrigate them more to keep them growing.
How much seed is needed to start a wildflower area? The recommended seeding rate is 10 pounds per acre or four to five ounces per 1,000 square feet. If you want more intense color in a smaller area, you can double the rate. I would encourage most gardeners to start with a small area since wildflower seeds cost around $30 a pound.
Since wildflower seeds cost so much, you need to make sure that you prepare the planting area properly.
Proper preparation will increase the chance of these wildflowers repeating for a number of years. If you get a chance to start early enough, September or early October, you can spray the vegetation in the area with a herbicide such as Roundup to kill the weeds. If the soil pH is below 5.5, you will need to add lime. The amount can be determined from a soil sample test. The lime needs to be applied to the soil and lightly tilled in.
Most of the time when I talk about planting, I recommend deep tilling, but when planting wildflowers, you need to lightly till. When you deep till, you bring up weed seeds that are deep in the soil.
If fertilizer is needed, you can apply in the spring or early summer. A soil sample will give you the recommended rate of fertilizer to use.
Once you have sown the wildflower seeds, make sure that they are in good contact with the soil. This can be accomplished by raking in the seeds. Then you need to add a layer of mulch. The mulch needs to be a small-grain straw such as wheat or rye, pine straw or wood chips. The mulch will help maintain soil moisture and protect the young wildflower seedlings. The mulch needs to be applied at 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick.
One maintenance practice that will aid the growth of wildflowers is mowing. You can mow around the edge of the wildflower bed to help define it. Also, you can mow in summer when the bloom fades. This can cause some species of wildflowers to re-bloom. You need to mow high, at 4 to 6 inches, and apply a light fertilization to help with re-bloom. The last mowing should be a dormant mowing, when the seeds have matured. This will help with reseeding.
Also, you can reseed at this time to help thicken up the wildflower stand.
Wildflowers are low-maintenance plants that add beauty to the landscape and give you many different flowers in a small space.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at email@example.com. The extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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