Planting wildflowers is an easy way to enhance a yard, particularly with mixed-flower meadows and border gardens.
Nowadays, planting a small wildflower garden or large meadow is relatively simple, thanks to ready-made wildflower seed mixes such as the new line from Pennington Seed Inc.
Each mix is designed around the needs of specific planting environments, with general purpose, regional and specialized varieties available. There are special mixes for northeast, southern and Texas gardens, as well as mixes that focus on hummingbird and butterfly gardens.
The mixes are available at Lowe’s, Home Depot and independent garden centers that carry Pennington products.
Here are 10 tips for creating a wildflower garden, small or large, courtesy Russ Nicholson, senior agronomist for Pennington Seed Inc.:
• Know your wildflowers. Annual wildflowers live one year and grow quickly, while perennial wildflowers return each year from the same colony of roots, and some may eventually build a community of flowers.
• Plan ahead when planting. Annuals bloom quickly. Once planted, they will likely fade before other wildflower species. Perennials can be planted at any time of the year, best in early spring or fall, but most need a winter before blooming. When planting a mix of annuals and perennials, you should plant in the spring or fall for the annuals to bloom the first year and perennials the second year.
• Select the right varieties. For optimal performance and beauty, it’s best to select varieties based on your specific climate and landscaping needs.
• Find a suitable planting bed. It’s important to choose a planting area where water does not stand after rain. This ensures seed health during the critical phases of germination and establishment.
• Test the site. A soil test is used to evaluate soil condition and nutrient levels, namely pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. A soil’s pH determines how well plants are able to access the nutrients they need. Homeowners can purchase a home soil test kit or have their soil tested by their local extension service. Because soil pH tends to change over time, you should test regularly, about every other year.
• Correct pH issues in soil before planting. Depending on the results of your pH test, apply a soil amendment, such as lime or gypsum, to correct any issues in the soil. This will create a better environment for roots to grow and may improve nutrient uptake. If desired, you can also add compost to the soil to improve the overall health, or tilth, of the soil.
• Conserve water. You should strive for a landscape that is more water efficient, uses less water over time and is healthier. Along with being more resilient, plants receiving proper nutrition have healthier, larger root systems that make best use of available water. This allows your wildflowers to remain bright and colorful during periods of drought.
• Monitor weeds. Frequently monitor flower beds, especially in the early stages, and keep brush away from beds to prevent weed or grass encroachment. If weeds become an issue, it’s best to spot treat with a weed control product as needed.
• Combat plant-damaging insects. The best defenses from problem insects are healthy, actively growing, well-maintained plants. Healthy plants have an enhanced ability to thrive under stress, including damage caused by insects, with no adverse, long-term effects.
Remember to stop and smell … In following these steps, everyone from enthusiasts to master gardeners can take more time to enjoy their beautiful wildflower gardens and landscapes each year.
Learn more about Pennington Seed Inc. at penningtonusa.com.
Kathy Van Mullekom is gardening columnist for the Daily Press, Newport News, Va.; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her at roomandyard.com/diggin, Facebook.com/kathyvanmullekom, Pinterest.com/digginin and Twitter.com/diggindirt.
Distributed by MCT Information Services