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Planting a wildflower garden

By Sheri Bethard 

Orange County Master Gardeners

 

A lot of us take trips to the Hill Country in the spring to see the bluebonnets and other wildflowers bloom. Well, did you know you could grow them right here in SE Texas also? 

Not many people do as they think it is to wet, but if you have an area that is in a drier part of your yard, you will be surprised so see what wildflowers can grow there. All you have to do is to get the area ready.

Some questions you need to ask yourself before getting started:

  1. Is this area in a sunny location, as wildflowers love the sun? They need at least 8 hours of full sun per day. When you see them along the highways, they are in full sun. 
  2. Does anything already grow in this area such as grass, weeds, etc.? If so, then it will more than likely support wildflowers. If it is a bare piece of ground and nothing has grown there, then it is very doubtful wildflowers will grow unless you plan on amending the soil.
  3. Can this area be reached by your hose so you can supplement with water during seed germination during times lacking sufficient rainfall?
  4. How is the soil in the area you have selected, is there good drainage? Is the soil compacted? If compacted, then you will have to till the location to loosen it so the seeds will be able to set their roots into the soil.

 

Now that you have answered these questions, let’s get started planting:

  1. If necessary, use a herbicide to eliminate any vegetation which may compete with the wildflowers (optional)
  2. Mow the existing vegetation as short as possible. And remove clippings and any other debris from the site. 
  3. Prepare your seedbed by lightly tilling the soil to a depth of about one inch. This will help keep from disturbing any dormant weed seeds.
  4. Mix your seeds with masonry sand, potting soil, or vermiculite to help aid in the more even distribution on the site. 4 parts of inert material to 1 part seed is a good mixture.
  5. Sow half of your seeds going from left to right, then sow the other half from top to bottom, this way you can get a uniform and maximum coverage.
  6. Press the seed into the soil by using your hand, walking on or rolling over the area. Lightly dust the area with sand or potting soil to cover seed no more than 1/16th of an inch. Some seeds will remain visible. 
  7. DO NOT plant wildflower seeds in areas of clover, winter rye or other grasses that grow during the winter, as they will be to overwhelming for the wildflower to become established.

Wildflower seed will require ample moisture to germinate and grow into seedlings. Keep the area moist, not soggy, for 4 – 6 weeks after sowing. Once your seeds have sprouted, do not let the bed dry out, but avoid watering too much. If you water too much, the soggy soil will rob the roots of needed oxygen to survive. Hopefully, rainfall will take over and you will not have to water as much.

Now all you have to do is wait until spring and watch for your wildflowers to bloom. Once they have bloomed, you should wait at least 2 weeks after the full bloom period for the seeds to mature. When the foliage turns brown, that is the signal you can start trimming the stems. Mow or cut the area at a height of 4 – 6 inches. Going lower that 3 inches will sometimes damage perennial varieties. This will disperse the mature seeds and give sunlight for the new seeds to start germination for next year’s blooms. 

A few Texas sources for quality wildflower seeds: 

Bamert Seed Co., Muleshoe, Texas www.bamertseed.com

David’s Seeds, San Antonio, Texas https://www.davids-garden-seeds-and-products.com 

Douglas King Seed, San Antonio, Texas www.dkseeds.com 

Justin Seed Co., Justin, Texas http://www.justinseed.com 

Turner Seed Company, Breckenridge, Texas www.turnerseed.com

Wildseed Farm, Fredericksburg, Texas www.wildseedfarms.com

Willhite Seed Co., Poolville, Texas www.willhiteseed.com

The Orange County Master Gardeners meet the 2nd Thursday of each month at the Orange County EXPO Center on FM 1442 in Orangefield. At 6 p.m. we have a potluck supper and social, 6:30 p.m. is our business meeting and 7 p.m. is our speaker. 

The public is welcome to attend any of our meetings free of charge. 

If you have gardening questions, please contact our HotLine at 409 745-9708 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursdays or leave a message and someone will get back with you. 

Check out our website at https://txmg.org/orange or our FaceBook page Orange County (Texas) Master Gardeners.