Want to create an eye-catching sight and help wildlife at the same time? Convert that empty field or part of your sprawling lawn into a dazzling wildflower meadow.
Planting a field full of colorful wildflowers not only gives you a season full of fresh-cut flowers and a place to reflect on nature’s beauty, it offers passing drivers a reason to slow down. More important, a meadow brimming with flowers provides vital food for a wide variety of birds and insects.
Annuals or Perennials?
So what should you plant? Annuals tend to produce more flowers and many perennial varieties won’t bloom until their second year. However, perennials don’t have to be planted every year and will often spread from their own seeds.
Not sure? Combine them. Plant perennials, but overseed each spring with easy-to-grow annuals like zinnias, bachelor’s buttons and larkspur for a variety of color.
No matter what you choose, some flowers will do better than others in your soil type. Consider planting several types the first year or two until you learn what works best. Just make sure they are compatible with your region, the soil type and the amount of sunlight they will get.
Prep The Site
Any seed you choose needs to come in contact with the soil. If the selected site is covered with living plants, you’ll need to kill them with a non-selective herbicide. Do that when plants are actively growing, give them some time to die and then disk them into the soil. You don’t need to spend too much time disking, just enough to expose some bare dirt. Burning that dead plant matter is a good option, too.
Plant The Seed
Annuals can be planted any time after the last frost, but it’s not a bad idea to wait a few weeks. Your soil has a bank of weed seeds just waiting for the ideal conditions to sprout. Let them emerge and then spray the field one last time. Sow your flower seeds right before a rain if you can.
Annuals should be planted in the late summer or early fall so they can become established before the winter.
Keep the Weeds Down
Weeds are inevitable. You will need to keep them in check or they will overwhelm your flowers. Grasses can be controlled with a selective herbicide like sethoxydim, which kills grasses, but not broadleaf plants. Other weeds either need to be pulled by hand or spot-sprayed with a non-selective herbicide. Use a backpack sprayer and a long wand to carefully spray individual weed plants between your flowers.
Buy Lots of Seed
Instead of buying small packets of seed from your local garden or big-box hardware store, order bulk seed from online retailers. They typically sell seed in large quantities, a quarter-pound or more, which means you will pay far less per seed. Places like American Meadows, Ernst Seed Company, Vermont Wildflower Farm and Eden Brothers carry lots of varieties.