May Monthly: Taming the Wild Flowers OFA 2015 May 5, 2015 | The Old Farmer's Almanac

May Monthly: Taming the Wild Flowers

The Editors
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A wildflower planting will give you years of enjoyment and need very little attention. Here’s why you should plant wildflowers in your backyard!

May Monthly: Taming the Wild Flowers

Many gardeners are planting wildflowers as a beautiful, low-maintenance alternative to a manicured lawn or as a colorful ground cover for areas that are difficult to mow. Wildflowers provide waves of color and sweet fragrances and are a haven for butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and songbirds.
You can purchase wildflower seeds by the packet or by the pound at garden centers and from seed catalogs. Choose a wildflower mix of native plants that have been blended for your region. Natives will adapt best to your soil and climate conditions and are more resistant to insect pests and diseases than introduced species. Special blends include wildflowers for dry areas, low-growing plants for slopes or other hard-to-mow sites, and selections that attract birds and butterflies.

Once established, a wildflower planting will give you years, even decades, of enjoyment with very little attention. But, as with any successful planting, site evaluation and soil preparation are key. Most wildflower mixes require good drainage and 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day.
Prior to seeding, mow down and remove weeds and vegetation from the area. Prepare the seedbed by raking the soil to a depth of no more than an inch. Deeper cultivation may bring dormant weed seeds to the surface. Cultivate especially weedy sites three or more times over the summer as weeds resprout, then sow in the fall or following spring.

Wildflower seeds are tiny—it takes only one-quarter pound of seed to cover 1,000 square feet. An easy way to spread the seed is to mix it with a carrier such as sand or vermiculite, or any fertilizer that is recommended for the planting. For even coverage, broadcast half of the seed in one direction and the other half perpendicular to the first sowing. Lightly rake or roll in the seed, covering it no deeper than 1⁄16 of an inch. A light mulch of salt marsh hay or weed-free straw on top will help to retain soil moisture and prevent erosion. Water the new planting lightly when the soil surface appears dry.

Wildflowers give a seasonal progression of color and require only a single, late-season mowing. Whether you’re covering a 10-acre meadow or filling a tiny backyard, it’s easy to be wild about wildflowers.

–George Lohmiller

To find a full list of our favorite native plants and find out what’s right for your area, see our digital May Monthly, out now!