Replacing Lawns with Wildflowers Part 3

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
Note: This is part 3 of a series. See Part 1 and Part 2 for previous information on this subject.

An underlying goal of most wildflower gardens is to extend flowering through as much of the gardening season as possible. For Payne County, a stretch goal would be to have at least one species flowering from mid-March through late October or possibly even early November.

To provide flowering over a season this long, a diverse seed blend containing both annuals and perennials is required. High quality seed mixes, from quality sources who select species suited for our region, provide a great foundation for the planting. Beyond this base mix, it is easy to add a few additional species to fill in the flowering voids that you may have. Keep in mind this is something that can be done over time as the garden matures.

Many of the earliest flowering species are perennials. These plants tend to perform best when seeded in the fall. Even when fall planted, some of these may not bloom until the second year. Given these characteristics, you’ll either need to be very patient with a new spring planting and/or supplement with a few more annuals than a mix contains.

Annuals can either be cool season or warm season. Cool season plants can endure cooler weather with some being able to withstand light frosts or freezes without damage. They can be planted as early as late February/early March. Warm season annuals should not be planted until after threat of frost/freeze is past, meaning at least April 15th for Payne County.

Suggested seeding rates can vary greatly, depending on seed size and plant growth characteristics. Trust the supplier’s advice here as they will suggest the proper rate for their mix depending on the species it contains.

Seeding rates can also vary due to the inert ingredients added to the mix. This could be spreading agents (such as ground-up corncob), compost, or even fertilizer. While these additions to the mix might (or might not be) beneficial, they tend to add quite a bit of expense to the cost of the seed. Check the label carefully to insure you’re purchasing enough actual seed to do the job.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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