MASTER GARDENER — Grow wild by planting a wildflower garden
Published 12:02 am Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Gardeners, it’s official … fall has arrived — don’t smirk!
According to the Farmer Almanac, the autumnal equinox arrived Saturday, September 23rd. Of course, if you’re working outside as I have the past few of days, clearing garden and flower beds of withered plants, accessing damage to shrubs and trees, adding soil amendments by top dressing beds with composted manure, turning soil and sowing fall vegetable and flower seeds-fall’s arrival seems to be a bit of a sham…it’s still too dang hot!
Over the course of the next several months, we will notice fewer hours of daylight, and this gardener will begin grumbling about the lack of daylight hours (what can I say, I’m a creature of habit).
Muttering and complaining as to why the U.S. (more over Texas) remains on Daylight Saving Time (DST) and the negative effects on life and health … OK, OK, it’s an argument for another day!
Fun Fact: Did you know Daylight Saving Time (DST) was initially implemented in the US as the Standard Time Act of 1918 (contrary to popular belief it is before my time). It was implemented for 7 months to conserve energy resources.
During the energy crisis (oil embargo of the early 70s), then President, Richard Nixon enacted a DST law, though the law was retracted in 1974.
As outdoor temperatures slowly return to pleasant, the many facets of gardening become most satisfying. If you enjoy Texas wildflowers, and have always wanted a wildflower garden, now is the time for wildflower lovers to plant their favorite varieties for spring flowering.
Planting in the fall, which is traditionally the beginning of rainy season for us in SETX, provides wildflowers enough time to germinate and develop a strong, robust root system before going dormant for the winter months. Use a wildflower seed mix with various flower species to ensure year-round interests, rather than a mix for the spring.
Doing so will deliver a multitude of colors but will also demonstrate which wildflowers perform especially well in your wildflower area. If you allow them to form seed pods, you will be rewarded year after year.
Depending on the wildflower seed type, it is important to select a garden site which receives at minimum 6 or more hours of direct sunlight. Note, if you enjoy bluebonnets, they require full sun and well-draining soil.
The garden area soil needs to be adequately prepared, ensuring seeds meet the ground by tilling or raking. Once the soil is prepared the seeds are dispersed and gently tamped down into the ground.
After planting the wildflower seeds, lightly water the area to settle the seeds into the soil.
Wildflower seeds are spread over the prepared soil according to packaging instructions for the type of mix selected. For ‘dense’ clusters of wildflowers, as found in meadows or hillsides, increase the seed density while sowing seeds.
Once seeds are planted, lightly tamp down the seeds or simply walk around the area to press them into the ground. Do not bury or cover the seeds, as they require exposure to the sun for good germination to occur.
Finally, it is also important to note that wildflowers do not require fertilizer and should not be over-watered.
Remember, a slight bit of care goes a long way for almost any type of wildflower, especially for bluebonnets. Remember fertilizing wildflowers encourages weed growth at the expense of wildflowers.
Step by Step Guide:
- Select a location with at minimum 8 hours of full sun, which is well-drained.
- Remove weeds and mow existing vegetation as short as possible, then remove clippings.
- Select and purchase the highest quality wildflower seeds.
- Prepared seedbed by raking or lightly tilling the surface to a 1-inch depth.
- Mix wildflower seed with corn meal, sand, or potting soil to allow for even distribution (4 parts to 1 part).
- Increase seed coverage by broadcasting in one direction then the opposite direction.
- Press seed into the ground with a flat blade shovel, holding shovel parallel to the ground and tapping, or simply walking upon the seeds.
- Gently water multiple times in short time intervals to alleviate runoff.
Wildflowers add an amazing amount of color and natural beauty to our landscapes. They are low maintenance, require little water once established and will seed themselves year after year.
Our environment is ever-changing, adverse weather conditions (drought and excessive rainfall) will affect wildflowers. Flowering will be plentiful and robust some years, meager and sparse other years.
Gardeners remember, patience is crucial, as they will return.
There are numerous reputable Texas companies where you can purchase wildflower seeds.
Here are a few: Wild Seed Farms (Fredericksburg), Douglas King Seed Company (San Antonio), Justin Seed Company (Justin), Native American Seed Farm (Junction), Turner Seed Company (Breckenridge) and David’s Garden Seeds (San Antonio).
So long for now fellow gardeners, let’s go out and grow ourselves a greener, more sustainable world one plant at a time!
Send comments and questions to Texas Certified Master Gardener John Green at jongreene57gmail.com.