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A Backyard Meadow? Wildflowers for a Season or More Can Be in the Mix


How about planting a wildflower meadow? It needn't be large, for even a backyard can be brightened by a small patchwork of wildflowers. Neither a large nor a small meadow demands the weekly mowing, midsummer watering or annual fertilizing of a lawn.

Wildflowers for a meadow can be a mix of annual, biennial and perennial flowers sown at the rate of 2 ounces of seeds per 1,000 square feet. Besides flowers, meadows need some grass, but not lawn grass. They need bunch grasses, such as sheep fescue or chewing fescue, which do not spread but do stabilize the soil. Use about half a pound of seed per 1,000 square feet.

Annual flowers bloom the same season they are planted. Those such as the plains coreopsis, cornflower, Iceland poppy and corn poppy need to be sown only once and then will re-seed themselves yearly.

Biennial and perennial flowers start to put on a good show in their second season. Good choices include yarrow, chicory, perennial gaillardia, purple coneflower, butterfly weed and evening primrose. And just because they are common is no reason to overlook such beauties as Queen Anne's lace and various goldenrods.

You can buy seeds blended for specific geographic regions and amounts of rainfall and sun and shade. Generally, sow them in early spring or late fall. If the mix lacks annuals, sow in early spring or late summer.

Planting a wildflower meadow is not like planting a flower garden. You cannot just till up an area, sow seeds and then keep weeds down between neat rows of plants with a hoe or rototiller.

Nonetheless, weeds, especially aggressive grasses, need to be kept in check from the start. One way to begin is to kill existing vegetation with a herbicide such as Roundup, wait a week, then rough up the surface of the soil just enough to embrace the seeds you sow. Another way is to till the soil, then smother weeds through the summer with successive plantings of buckwheat. For a small area, just strip sod, rake lightly and plant.

Once established, a meadow needs mowing once a year. An occasional hand-weeding will get rid of especially pernicious weeds.

A wildflower meadow is a way to create a pleasant, colorful transition between lawn and a stand of trees, a stream or a property line. Paths cut into your meadow will invite strolls for close-up appreciation of the diversity and beauty within.

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