What is a Wildflower Meadow?
A wildflower meadow is a mix of hardy flowering native plants and grasses that recreate a natural habitat space in your yard.
A wildflower meadow provides habitat for birds, numerous insects (including pollinating bees) and other wildlife.
Why Build a Wildflower Meadow?
Wildflower meadows are a great way to reduce the maintenance needs
of a large yard, restore an unkempt field, or simply develop natural,
A wildflower meadow will help to manage stormwater, filter
stormwater, promote groundwater infiltration and even prevent flooding.
Developing a meadow can reduce lawn space, minimizing the amount of fertilizers and chemicals used in lawn care.
Wildflower meadows are particularly suitable for steep slopes, where
they can prevent erosion and reduce the need for mowing or landscaping
Photo: Robin Sasek, CDM
How to Create a Wildflower Meadow
Step 1. Site Selection
Choose a suitable location, preferably an open, sunny site that gets six hours of sun every day. An already cultivated site such as field, garden plot or lawn is ideal. Avoid an abundance of aggressive weeds if possible.
A wildflower meadow can be a small space (1,000 square feet) or cover an entire yard, hillside or field.
Step 2. Plant Selection
Select plants that will work well on the particular site, according to the amount of sun, shade and moisture.
It is crucial to have a diversity of native, flowering species, including grasses and flowering plants. You can create your own mixture of wildflower seeds or buy a quality seed mix from a reputable supplier.
Choose perennial plants species, rather than annuals. Perennials will take a longer time to become established and develop a colorful flower display, but they will return yearly and out-compete many weeds.
Step 3. Site Preparation
Remove all weeds and minimize the regrowth of weeds by either tilling the soil or smothering the remaining vegetation with black plastic, leaves, newspapers or cardboard for a season.
For a lawn, remove the sod using a sod-cutter or spade.
Step 4. Sowing or Planting
Sowing or planting can take place in spring or early summer.
Keep the new meadow watered as often as you would a newly seeded lawn for the first month or two.
Many seeds will either not germinate until the following spring, or germinate and not grow until then.
If you sow seeds in the fall, is best to plant annual rye winter cover crop at the same time.
Avoid sowing in mid or late summer when there may be droughts or seeds drying out before germinating.
When sowing, aim to spread 80 seeds per square foot.
Seeds should be sown at a 1:3 ratio of grass to flowering species. This equates to nine pounds of flowering species seed and three pounds of grass species seeds per acre.
For a small (less than 1,000-square foot) site, consider using germinated small plants bought in trays as “plugs.”
Step 5. Management
For the first two years, intensive weed control is necessary. Do not pull weeds, as this may disturb wildflower seedlings. Do not use herbicides, as this will also kill adjacent wildflower plants.
Keep weeds cut back to at least four to six inches, and never let weeds grow over one foot in height. A weed whacker / string trimmer works well for this.
In the third and fourth years, mow the meadow close to the ground in the late fall or early spring, and remove debris after mowing. This will expose the soil to rapid warmth from the sun in the spring, encouraging wildflowers over cool-season weeds.
In later years, the wildflowers should achieve a natural advantage, and you can selectively pull out any weeds or woody plant seedlings.
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