Gardening Guide

112 Wild Flower Gardening Section


 


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112 Wild Flower Gardening Article

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Wild Flower Gardening

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The growing interest and admiration gardeners have towards nature is the main factor in the increasing trend towards wild flower gardening. Indeed, many gardeners are no longer happy with their artificial gardening designs and they challenge themselves in undertaking the cultivation of a wild flower garden.

If you want to start a wild flower garden, as with all gardens, the first step is to choose a spot. Since what youíre looking for in planting wild flowers is a natural look, your best bet is to choose a place that looks semi-natural; along the back of your yard, or in an area that doesnít look carved out against a fence or next to the patio.

As for conditions, wildflowers are considered to be tough and hardy, existing in conditions which would be highly detrimental to cultivated flowers. Indeed, the sunnier, the better. The only thing that wildflowers really canít tolerate is standing water, so pick a place with good drainage.

Most wildflower gardening experts recommend using your soil as is, without adding any amendments (unless you have the worst soil on the planet). Indeed, if the spot you choose has anything at all growing on it, like weeds, then it will support wildflowers. If youíve chosen a spot thatís completely barren of life, well thenÖ.choose another spot.

Once youíve chosen an acceptable spot, you need to clear the area of everything thatís growing there. As with all other garden preparation, you need to dig out the area, turn the soil (this time, though, you donít need to add any organic matter, though some gardeners will suggest you do) and use a rake to make sure the area is flat and free from rocks and roots; differently from manicured gardens, wildflowers wonít mind it too much if some rocks or uneven areas remain, so you can expend a little less energy. Donít dig too deep because you may turn up weed seeds which will germinate and compete with your wildflowers; in fact, you have to try to eliminate as many grasses and weeds as possible (not every single one; after all, youíre going for that Ďnaturalí look) from your wildflower garden or your flowers will be overwhelmed.

Though wildflowers do not require fertilizer to grow, you can add some fertilizer to speed up the process. Just make sure you get a fertilizer low in nitrogen; perennial flower fertilizers usually work well.

So youíve prepared your site. Now where do you get your wildflowers to do your wildflower gardening? You can order packages or sacks of wildflower seeds from online catalogs or you can pick them up from your local nursery. Differently from other packets of seeds, wildflower packets will contain a mixture of different species of flowering plants (a mix of perennials, annuals, and biennials) to ensure that you reproduce what actually occurs in nature. If you take a look at the package of seeds you get, youíll see a coverage rate printed on it; this gives you an indication as to how much seed to sow in a given area. Many gardeners recommend planting two or three times the minimum coverage rate to make sure you get a heavy bloom. Donít go overboard, though, because if the seeds donít have enough space, they wonít grow. There are various sites on the Internet which will help you figure out the square footage of your lot and planting rates.

When youíre ready to sow your seeds, choose a day where there is as little wind as possible. Many gardeners donít simply sow the seed right out of the packet, but separate it into two equal parts and mix each part with about ten parts of light sand or vermiculite. The sand helps in spreading the seeds more evenly and it allows you to see where youíve sown seeds because of its light color. Take the first half of the seeds (mixed with the sand) and hand sow over the whole area youíd like to be seeded, as evenly as you possibly can, checking your progress by observing where the sand is. Once youíre done with the first half, go back and hand sow the second half (which has also been mixed with sand) over the whole area again; you shouldnít have any bare spots with this method.

Once youíve sown your seeds, donít cover them with soil (donít even rake the area). All you have to do is compress the seeds into the soil and you can either use a lawn roller for this or walk over the whole area. Once youíve done this, the time has come to sit back and wait. Some wild flowers will germinate in a week or so, while others will take months. Obviously, how fast the wild flowers grow will depend on the environmental conditions of the spot youíve chosen. If you see that your wild flowers arenít getting the water they need in the form of rain, you should try and water them yourself.

Even though wildflower gardens require very little maintenance, they do require occasional care. You should pull weeds as often as possible, to prevent them from competing with your wildflowers. And youíll need to mow your wild flower garden at least once a year. Make sure to look for spots in your garden that seem to be too grassy or where there is a particularly large cluster of weeds. Use a shovel or tiller to dig up the area, get rid of any intruders and reseed. Thatís pretty much it for maintenance!

If youíd like, you can make your own wildflower gardening mix by taking the seeds of flowers that are well-suited to your area. Since purchased mix has a good mixture of annuals and perennials, you should try to get as many seeds from as many different plants as you can. Remember that annuals die after one growing season, so if you want to keep a particular annual in your wildflower garden, youíll most likely have to reseed it every year. Some common annuals included in wildflower mixes are red poppy, annual baby's breath, cornflower, and cosmos, while some common perennial flowers are purple coneflower, lance-leaf coreopsis, dame's rocket and daisy.

After your wildflower gardening space has been established, you can mow a path through the area and put down stepping stones. Many gardeners recommend putting bird feeders, birdbaths, a bench, a bond, or any other adornment that suits your fancy.