by Mike Lizotte
As the seasons change and we enjoy the last few weeks of meadow color, it’s time to begin preparing for next season. We usually recommend mowing your wildflowers down once a year at the end of the growing season for a couple of reasons:
[caption id="attachment_1902" align="alignright" width="200"]
A hard frost signals the end of the season for many flowers.[/caption]
1. Combat natural succession.
If your meadow is bordered by a wooded area or previously had trees growing on it, tree saplings will soon begin re-colonizing the area if you don't mow it.
2. Disperse seeds.
Mowing helps scatter ripened seeds that the flowers produce at the end of their growing season. As you cut the flower stems the seed falls to the ground so it will be ready to germinate the following season.
I’m often asked, "When should I be mowing?" There really isn’t “right” time and I will usually tell people to cut the meadow when YOU feel that the color has past and things are looking brown and dried. There are factors out of our control, such as the timing of the first hard frost, that can influence when blooming is done for the season, so you really can’t put an exact date to the mowing process. Some people mow right after the flowers have faded because they don’t want to look at the dried up stalks. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this, although you are missing out on the ripening of the seeds as they won’t be ready that early. The next person might leave the flowers and let the stalks dry and wither before they cut the area back. In this case the seed will have had time to ripen.
In both scenarios I would recommend leaving the cuttings on the ground through the winter months as next season your wildflower will grow right up through them. The cuttings will decompose over time and you won’t notice them by late spring. Also keep in mind that when we do recommend mowing, it doesn’t necessarily mean your mower is at a 4” setting. All we’re really trying to do is knock down the dead plants at the end of the season. This can be accomplished with a mower, brush hog or even a weed wacker. It can be cut to 3” or 8” and both accomplish the same end result.
Now that our wildflower area cut down for the season, stay tuned for next week’s post on suggested wildflowers to add this fall for great color next season!