Get Ready! Get Set! Grow Wildflowers!
What? You do not plan to plant wildflowers this year? You are afraid it is too difficult?
Planting wildflowers or other native plants is not as difficult as you might think. Planting native plants in a “wildscape” is widely recognized as important step toward conserving water, wildlife and retaining the ecological balance of life in nature. Native plants are hardier, require little or no fertilizer, and need substantially less water than cultivated plants. In some locations, you might be able to get discounts off your water bill for planting drought tolerant native plants. Aside from the conservation benefits, planting native plants – especially wildflowers – will bring you joy when you see them bloom in the spring. I strongly urge you to consider planting native plants whether in a pasture, a wildflower meadow, restored prairie, pocket prairie, wildscape, backyard garden or just in a planter box.
For those who do want to plant a wildflower meadow, garden, or rock garden, August is the time to get that area ready. You can start at any time, but you need to have your area ready before the early fall rains come in September for most spring wildflowers – especially for Texas.
Selecting a site for planting: You should find an area that drains well and gets plenty of sunlight. There are shade tolerant species of wildflowers, but most wildflowers will need at least 5 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. In rural areas, check the area for existing wildflowers. If none are growing there now, then you will have a greater challenge. You will need to do further evaluation to determine why no wildflowers are growing there now.
Types of soil: I have found wildflowers growing in sand, gravel, and rocks, but the best results I have observed were growing in sandy loam soil with at least a 6” depth. Determine what soil you have and see what native plants will grow in it. The catalog from Native American Seed Company gives a chart for each wildflower showing the type of soil and amount of sunlight it needs.
Prepare the area for planting: The main thing you need to do is remove as much of any existing competing vegetation as possible without destroying the natural balance of the land. So do not remove all vegetation, but rather remove mainly the dead vegetation and especially any invasive species. You can do this with mowing or very light disc tilling. If your area allows controlled or prescribed burns, then you can use that method to reduce dead vegetation. Prescribed burns should only be attempted by trained professionals and only where permitted!
You should have in hand the seeds you want to plant. Selecting which species to grow is important, so again consult the catalogs of Native American Seed Company and Wildseed Farms for charts of what will grow in your region. Native American Seed Company only carries true native species. Wildseed Farms carries both native and "naturalized" species. You should also plant species native to your region and never introduce species not native without careful consultation with experts. Introduction of non-native species to a region can result in propagating invasive species that can destroy native plants. The bastard cabbage (http://www.texasinvasives.org/plant_d...php?symbol=raru) is one such invasive species that has taken over entire pastures removing any other plant in the process.
Plant the Seeds!
The most important tip to remember in planting wildflower seeds is: “Do not bury the seeds!” Wildflowers seeds in nature merely land on the top of the soil. Through the summer months they get dried out and might get covered lightly with soil. When the fall rains come the seeds will germinate right near the surface. Good contact with the soil is the key, so some tamping or rolling of the area might be needed.
Get the details!
I have only given you the basic steps on how to get your wildflower haven started. There is plenty of help available online and in person that will give you the necessary details to succeed in establishing a beautiful wildflower haven. Here are just a few links to some of those resources: