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Backyard Landscaping Ideas – Wildflowers

Beautifying your property with wildflowers is something you can do whether you’re a beginner or seasoned gardener; whether you have a half acre or fifty acres.

It’s easy.  Takes little work.  Brings bees and other pollinators onto your property. And is one of the cheapest as well as one of the most rewarding landscape projects you can do.

Island bed of California Poppies in full bloom.

California Poppies in bloom. These wildflowers literally glow in the landscape.

The ways you can do this are limited only by your imagination.  Here are some suggestions based on what I’ve done in the past.

  • Choose a row in your garden for wildflowers.
  • Make a new island bed in your lawn or in an adjoining field.
  • Choose a section of your existing flower borders and scatter wildflowers throughout.
  • Add a row of wildflowers next to your garden.

Soil Preparation

After choosing a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sun and has good drainage, remove all existing growth. That’s it.  No double digging.  No deep turning or tilling.  No adding of organic matter.

Method: Shovel or Tiller

For these new island beds planned for my wildflowers Bill turned the soil with a shovel and then took out the weeds and grass.  He worked on it sporadically during the winter about 30 minutes each time out.

Still needs to have the clods of dirt knocked apart in the bed in foreground. Other bed is finished and covered with straw. Bill worked 30 minutes at a time off and on in January and February to finish these beds. The largest bed is about 30 feet x 6 feet. The smaller one is about half.

A tiller would work as well.   In order to keep work to a minimum, till only deep enough to remove all old roots of existing growth.  Deep tilling will bring up dormant weed seeds that will compete with your wildflowers.  You’ll have a few come up anyway, but it’s not much work to pull out a few.

After You Prepare the Soil

If it’s going to be a while before you sow your seed cover the bed with an inch or so of straw when you’re finished to keep weed seeds from germinating and moisture in.

When to Sow

If the wildflowers you choose would be killed by a hard frost, then sow your seed after danger of a hard frost is past.

Weather  – The Risk Factor

I never let the risk posed by unpredictable weather stop me.  Nonetheless, I am aware when I sow the bed that if rain comes, the seed germinates and then the rain stops followed by a hot dry period ——I could loose many of my plants and possibly all of them.

If you are able to provide supplemental watering to keep the ground from drying out you won’t have this problem. If not, I’ll give you a great tip to help with this after I tell you how to sow your seed.

Sowing the Seed

Broadcast one half of your seed as evenly as you can over the area.  In the opposite direction, sow the other half of the seed to help insure even coverage. In other words, sow the remaining seed in a direction perpendicular to the first sowing.

If the area is in a place where the soil was already deeply prepared — like your garden — just pat it with your hand to firm the seeds into the soil. If it’s an area newly prepared for this purpose, you can firm the seed by walking on it.

Don’t cover the wildflower seeds any deeper than 1/16 of an inch.

Unconventional TIP:

You’ll recall that I covered my bed with an inch or so of straw after it was prepared.  When I get ready to sow the seed I pull most of it back, leaving just a thin layer of straw.  I sow the wildflower seed over (on top of) this straw and then tamp with the back of my shovel to firm in the seeds.

You’d be amazed at how this helps keep moisture in the soil if the rain dries up for a while.  And my experience has been that it doesn’t hurt the germination of the seed because it’s very thin.  And the seed is sown on top.

Island bed of red poppies in foreground. The yellow/orange California Poppies in the bed on the other side are almost finished and therefore not as vibrant as they were earlier.

Red corn Poppies, also know as Flanders Poppies, are beautiful even though the heat has set them back.

Wait and Enjoy!

Other than to pull the occasional weed or grass that’s all there is to it.

More Return on Your Investment

While you enjoy the display put on by your wildflowers, you might want to be thinking about how you can get even more from the work you’ve put in.  Here are some ideas.

  • Let the annuals drop their seed.  Also — collect and save some seed. (I call it ‘backup’.) No cost next year or when you decide to do it again.
  • If you’re only using annuals rather than a mix of annual and perennial wildflowers, mow after bloom and cover with a light layer of straw.  This will keep weeds at bay. Straw will deteriorate by next spring when its time for the seed to germinate.
  • If you are (or were) in the process of preparing gardening beds but don’t have the time to do all you want, this is an easy way to start one.  Plant annuals the first year with minimum preparation and finish the deep soil prep after the show is over.

Easy Annuals

If you’re new to this, here are some of my favorite annual wildflowers to help get you started. They’re easy, easy, easy and make a great show.

  • poppies
  • chicory (recommend using with others)
  • cosmos
  • zinnias
  • catchfly (recommend using with other).

A Source for Seed

Vermont Wildflower Farm is an excellent source for seed.  They offer over 140 individual wild perennial and annual flowers.  And their seed comes from within the United States.

If you want a bed (or meadow) that continues to bloom year after year take a look at their mixes. They contain annuals for first year color and are followed in successive years by long lived perennials.

Their exclusive mixes have been put together based on working with — to use their words — “hundreds of thousands of customers for 30 years”! So I know they’ll have one just right for you.

No fillers or grasses in these wildflower mixes.  All varieties are open pollinated and non-GMO.  Germination and purity rates are well above industry standards.

And what’s really nice is they don’t put in a lot of the cheaper species or skimp with the more expensive ones just to lower prices. And that’s good because you want those prime wildflower varieties as well as the cheaper ones. So remember when you compare prices — you usually get what you pay for.

Explore their site or go right to the wildflower mixes or individual wildflower species.

You might want to check it out now and save a bit a money. Last time I checked their site they were offering some great specials.

Final Thoughts

Why not think about how you can incorporate some of these ideas with wildflowers into your landscape.  You could get started on the project in the fall and with a minimal effort you’d be ready to sow seed in the spring.  The wildflower show that follows will have everyone talking —- and enjoying!

Part of the blossom of the California Poppy is yellow and part is orange. They actually glow.

 

Red Corn Poppy. Also known as Flanders Poppy.

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All content including pictures is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.


2 comments to Backyard Landscaping Ideas – Wildflowers

  • Jackie

    Hi, I’m up here in Baltimore (city). I’m an avid, sometimes “rabid”,(meaning outreach)gardener.
    Your site looks great… Where in Virginia are you? Like what zone are you in? Do you think it’s too late to put in cole crops?

    My yards have diminishing sunlight. The trees surounding me are getting taller and are blocking it.
    So, I’m going more toward woodland gardening, inviting wildlife and looking for crops that can handle less light. Any ideas? Thanks much, Jackie
    m

  • Theresa

    Hi Jackie,

    Welcome to TMG. Hope you’ll find it helpful.

    I’m in zone 7a. Baltimore City (zip code 21201) is also in zone 7a.

    Cole crops could go either way for us now depending on the weather. I started planting mid-August, but I’m still planting some things now even though it’s chancy.

    Most vegetable crops like at least 6 hours of sunlight or more. If you’re referring to flowers then you have lots of choices — just do a search for shade loving plants.

    Hope this helps.
    Theresa

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