A wildflower meadow is a fine alternative to a lawn for many organic gardeners. Once you’ve prepared your planting area and successfully germinated your wildflower seeds or established your wildflower plants, you can expect to enjoy your natural landscape for many years.
However, this doesn’t mean that wildflower gardens are maintenance-free. You must invest a certain amount of time in your wildflowers to ensure that your flowers will continue blooming vigorously, outperforming any weeds that may try to take hold.
Good weed control in a wildflower meadow begins with proper identification of both weeds and wildflower plants. In general, the larger your meadow the more tolerant you must be of weeds. Good weed control in the first growing season is critical, so you must watch your newly seeded wildlife meadow for germination daily. Your desirable plants will be widely distributed, while the weeds will be popping up in random places.
Hand pull weeds the first season, or use a weed-burning propane torch. If your weed problem gets out of hand, minimum control efforts must include deadheading the weeds to prevent their spread in the following growing season.
Wildflowers are desirable in green landscapes because they are native plants that generally grow well with the materials Mother Nature provides. That means you don’t need to fertilize your wildflowers, as most species favor lean soils.
Nevertheless, like all plants, wildflowers may increase their performance with an annual application of compost. This is especially important if your wildflower display is heavy on perennials, which can deplete the soil after several seasons.
If the size of your wildflower meadow exceeds your compost supply, pamper those flowers closest to the house to ensure a good flower show.
The first step in reducing supplemental irrigation for your wildflower garden is to choose varieties suited to your region. For example, gardeners that live in an arid alpine region shouldn’t plant thirsty wildflowers like trillium. That being said, many wildflowers benefit from supplemental watering in the first growing season, when the plants are developing their root systems. In subsequent seasons, withhold irrigation except in times of drought, when you should water infrequently and deeply.
Deadheading is a mainstay chore in the ornamental organic garden, a way to prolong bloom duration and keep the garden tidy. In the wildflower meadow, you can achieve the same benefits by deadheading flowers after the blooms have faded. However, your deadheading efforts may be curtailed if your garden is larger than ½ an acre. Furthermore, leaving flowers to set seed both feeds wildlife and allows self-seeding flowers like columbine and coneflowers to multiply.
After the first frost, you should mow your entire wildflower garden with a heavy-duty mower or bush hog. Put the remnants through a chipper, so they break down in the compost bin quickly. With the top growth removed, you can ascertain what bare spots need to be reseeded to ensure a splendid display in the spring.