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The Secret to Successful Wildflowers: It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!


First Year Annuals

"How do I get best results from my wildflower planting?" It’s a question I get over and over. So assuming you purchased a quality wildflower seed mix with a nice variety of annuals and perennials and may (or may not) have read the instructions that came with the mix, here are the three most important factors for a successful meadow.

Know what you sow!
When speaking with people who may have purchased a wildflower mix in the past and had mixed results, I’ll usually start with where they purchased their mix and what it contained. I think it’s crucial to know the species and understand the lifecycles of what you’re sowing. If you’re dealing with annuals and you’re concerned that you didn’t have much color the second season; that’s to be expected, depending on where you live. If you sowed perennials and you’re disappointed that you didn’t get much color the first season, that’s not unusual as perennials from seed produce few flowers the first season. Knowing the flowers/lifecycles of the wildflower seed you’re sowing will give you a better understanding of what you should expect to see blooming and when. This is critical when you’re working to exceed your customer’s expectations.

Don’t skimp on the preparation!
Proper preparation takes time, so it often gets short-changed in the process. I know the thought of having to fire up the roto-tiller or work the ground with a spade for a few hours doesn’t appeal to most, but it’s the most critical step for success with your planting, both long and short term.

No matter if you’re sowing 5 acres or 5 square feet, the better you prepare the area; getting rid of weeds, grasses and other established vegetation, the better results your planting will yield. I wish I had a nickel for everyone who told me, "I just threw the seed out there in my field" and they’re disappointed they don’t have wildflowers. You’re not giving the seed a good chance of survival if it has to compete with existing root structures in the soil. A properly prepared area enables two very important things to happen:

  • The seed to germinate in soil with very little competition to start.
  • It gives your wildflowers the upper hand in competing with weeds and grasses that might try to grow back.

Please don’t cover!
Once you’ve prepared the area, you’re ready to sow. After you’ve broadcasted your seed I always like to recommend a compression of the seed into the soil to ensure good seed to soil contact. It will also speed up germination. The most common way to do this is with a roller which can be commonly found at your local garden center or hardware store and is inexpensive to rent for a day. If not you can simply step on the seed if you’re only sowing a small area.

What we don’t want you to do is rake or cover over the seed once you’ve sown. I get a lot of people that make the mistake of "raking" in their seed or "covering" it with soil. Wildflower seeds are very tiny and even the slightest coverage can hamper results.

So whether you’re one of those gardeners who like to learn from trial and error or reads instructions twice over, remember; know what you sow, put a little more effort in the preparation and don’t cover your seeds and you’ll be well on your way to a successful wildflower planting.

The Seed Man


Mixed Lupine

September 21, 2010 · Mike Lizotte · 3 Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Wildflowers

3 Responses

  1. theresa - September 22, 2010

    How do you prevent the wind from taking the seeds away? How do you prevent the birds from eating the uncovered seeds?Does soaking the seeds help with quicker germination?

    Thanks for your tips.

    RSVP
    Theresa

  2. Mike Lizotte - September 22, 2010

    Hello Theresa,

    Great questions!

    I would certainly recommend sowing on a day where there isn’t much wind in the forecast if possible. If the area you’re seeding is exposed to winds, I would recommend a light coverage of straw to protect the seed while at the same time allowing for germination to take place.

    Don’t worry about the birds as there’s aprox. 500,000-750,000 seeds per lb. in our wildflower mixtures so if they eat a few, it shouldn’t really have an impact on the end results of your planting. (I haven’t come across a flock of birds yet that can eat that many seeds and that includes Big Bird!)

    As for soaking the seeds for quicker germination it’s really not going to make that big a difference. Assuming you’ve purchased a quality mix and are sowing at the proper time with optimal ground temperatures your seed should germinate within 7-10 days and be just fine. Unless you’re sowing specific specie that might contain a hard outer shell such as Lupinus perennis – Perennial Lupine or Lathyrus odoratus – Sweet Pea, which I do sometimes recommend soaking 24 hours prior to sowing to soften the shell and speed up germination; most other seeds are just fine to sow without having to worry about this.

    Thanks again and Happy Gardening!

    Seedman

  3. Lara Jarrell - September 29, 2010

    Hi Mike, we bought and planted 3 acres of perennials last fall. we used a planter attachment on our tractor. It raked the ground, when hand tossed the seeds mixed with sand and then used the roller to cover them. I wasn’t expecting any flowers this spring but we had some Black Eyed Susan’s, Daiseys and another white flower. Things were looking good until our cows got out of the fence and ate every last bloom. It looks like we mowed the area. I was wondering if we would have any flowers next spring or should we plan to replant the area?

    I told my husband it was a very costly mistake his cows made for him. :)

    Thanks, Lara