The Lazy Gardener's Guide to the Wildflower Meadow The Lazy Gardener's Guide to the Wildflower Meadow

Nothing brings to mind the lazy days of childhood quite like a wildflower meadow. Nothing is as tantalizing as a colorful tumble of golden black-eyed susans, native daylilies, California poppies, blanket-flower, catch-fly, chicory, and cosmos, along with a host of other perrenial and annual bloomers waving in the summer sun. A wildflower meadow will carry you blissfully from spring through summer and into fall.

A wild-flower meadow can be as small or as big as you desire or have room for. But how to start? How to till the ground? How to keep up with the weeding? What to plant? And all that digging, who does that? The answer, of course, is to keep it simple. Remember wildflowers are weeds, after all. You don't "weed" weeds. You don't "till" the ground. With wildflowers you are working with the top two inches of soil. You don’t dig, especially if you’re feeling lazy. A wildflower meadow is supposed to be wild.

Choosing a location: Choose a site that has at least six hours of direct sun, preferably a strip that will grow from east to west. Imagine rectangles and curves. Once you have chosen your area, you will need to prepare the ground. Do this in winter for a spring sowing, or in spring for an autumn sowing.

Preparing the ground: This is perhaps the easiest part of all. Go to your warehouse garden center and buy yards of black plastic, if you want a large meadow. If your area is small, then go to a discount store and buy a round, oblong, or rectangle vinyl tablecloth, the biggest you can find. You want enough light-blocking plastic to cover the entire chosen area. Cover the area for your meadow, completely. If the ground is soft enough, tuck in the edges with a small shovel or edger. If the ground is frozen, lay down heavy boards, bricks or rocks to keep the plastic in place. This will warm the earth as it kills the weeds.

Choosing the wildflower seed: If your chosen spot is large, as mine is, buy in bulk, either through your county farm bureau store or online. A good online search engine will give you a limitless list of bulk wildflower seed resources. Do some online price comparisons, and choose the best mix you can afford, for your region. Don't forget those much desired tall grasses. A good mixture of wildflowers and beautiful grasses make the perfect meadow. If your area is small, then buying at your local garden center will suffice. Buy more than you think you need, and don't buy the "easy shake" cans. Usually the canned seeds are mostly fillers, with about 11 percent seed.

Peeling away the plastic: When you pull back that black plastic in mid-spring every blade of grass, every weed, and most of the weed seed will be killed. What will remain is the bare earth, like a blank canvas, tilled by the freezing and thawing of winter. Now you are ready to broadcast your wildflower seeds.

How to broadcast seeds: You want to mix all seed, both perrenial and annual, along with ornamental grass seed. A meadow is not supposed to look planned. Always mix your seed with builders’ sand. You can broadcast using your hand, by sprinkling or you can use an inexpensive grass seed broadcaster. Be careful here, since some seeds are airy and can be damaged by a broadcaster. Broadcast generously. Don’t be afraid. Even the best wildflower has only an 80 percent chance of actually germinating. Some at only a 40 - 50 percent rate. Generously mix your annual seed with your perennial seeds. The annuals will bloom in summer and fall, while the perennials will begin growing in the first year and bloom the following year.

Watching the blooms: The show starts after the tulips and daffodils have said farewell, and after the forsythias and lilacs are spent. Just as you’re wondering where the blooms are, early poppies and alyssum begin to burst forth. The panorama of blooms from early summer through fall can be breathtaking. A small amount of effort in March or April will pay you back handsomely with sheer pleasure. From year to year, incorporate something new, like butterfly bushes, at the back of your meadow. Remember that they can tower to 12 feet within five years, so make certain that they do not block the sun. Plant daylilies at the front or sprinkle a low growing annual mix every year to highlight the edge.

Whatever your situation, whether housebound because of illness, or simply feeling lazy on your back porch, your wildflower meadow will not let you down. Keep a watchful eye on your meadow from the first blooms until last, and you will behold a breathtaking spectacle of blooms, wild birds, and butterflies. Include a birdbath, and those colorful creatures will come back year after year. By next spring, one mowing is all you need, along with a quick sowing of annuals, and then the cycle begins again. For the lazy gardener that is as close to heaven as it gets on earth.

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