Maintaining Your Wildflower Planting
In-Season Meadow Maintenance
During the growing season itself, your meadow will actually be quite self sufficient (especially beginning in its second year). The work you do during this time can help to reduce the growth of aggressive weeds and can also encourage your flowers to bloom more frequently.
Controlling Weeds That Are Growing Among Your Wildflowers
Part of the attraction of wildflowers is their ease of care; however, when weeds begin to take over your planting (usually an outcome of skimping on site prep work, or overseeding) it can be difficult to pull the weeds without damaging flower roots and disturbing the overall feel of your planting. The easiest way we've come up with to restore balance to your meadow is to cut your weeds with scissors. Just lean in and snip - as low down on the weed plant as you can. A few passes with your scissors every other week will greatly reduce the threat of weeds and put your wildflowers back on top as the dominant species in your meadow. This is especially effective in smaller spaces.
Adding More Wildflowers to an Existing Meadow in Fall
The easiest and most effective way to add more seed is to take a steel rake and rough up small areas, or "pockets," throughout the planting site. You can then sprinkle the seed directly over these roughed-up areas, giving it a quick compression with your foot to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.
A common mistake that people make, is that they’ll just take more seed and throw it out into an established area. This approach is somewhat doomed, as very few seeds will actually make it to an open area on the ground, and those that do will have a better chance if they’re pressed firmly into the soil.
Although you may be hesitant to remove or disturb any of your existing wildflowers, you will need to create some space for additional plants to take hold. In the end, this is the path to more vibrant color in your meadow!
End of Season Meadow Maintenance
A hard frost signals the end of the season for many flowers, but there is not one perfect time to mow your wildflower meadow. You can determine a mowing schedule that works for you.
Many gardeners will mow once a year. Wait until late fall, until all your flowers have ripened and dropped their seeds. Then with a weed trimmer, or your mower set on a high setting, mow the whole area. (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.) Be sure to leave the clippings in place to break down and feed the soil. This way, it will be primed to come up green and new the following spring. If possible, in spring, rake the clippings and debris away then to open up the ground to some much-needed sunlight.
You may prefer to leave your meadow standing as important habitat for local wildlife and pollinators. In this case, you can adopt a looser mowing schedule. Some mow every other year, alternating which half of the meadow they leave standing as undisturbed habitat. Others mow 1/3 of their meadows every third year, so that each section is only trimmed back every nine years.
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