Spring is just around the corner, which means now is the perfect time to make plans for your garden. And if there’s one thing you should be thinking about adding into the mix this year, it’s wildflowers. Gardeners are forever trying to change things back to the way they were before — before bulldozers, before Lewis and Clark, before Eve took a bite of that silly apple and got us kicked out of Eden. We stroll through arboreta and botanical gardens and resolve to make our own gardens as beautiful, and when finished, to start on the abandoned lot in the next block and the park on the corner. And maybe no plant embodies that desire so well as the lovely wildflower.

Wildflowers aren’t just pretty — they’re good for your garden, too. Flowers like oxeye daisies, red clovers, poppies, and wild carrots can serve as all-natural pesticides by attracting useful insects to your garden.\

Wildflowers are a “secret” that farmers have relied on for years, planting the pesticide alternative on the perimeters of their farms to protect crops. But more recently, many farmers have begun experimenting with a new method: planting strips of wildflowers right alongside their crops and vegetation.

Seed companies happily cater to the dreams of amazing wildflower fields by selling wildflower seed mixtures which, to believe the packaging, you need only scatter upon the ground, rake lightly and then wait for your garden to become saturated with colorful blossoms, attracting a plethora of rare and beautiful butterflies and hummingbirds.

There are two important realities that these fantasies conveniently set aside; namely, soil preparation and weed control. Thus, if you have visions of converting your entire chemical and mower dependent lawn into a “carefree” meadow, I offer two simple words of advice: start small.

For your own mini-meadow, choose a full-sun location (minimum six hours). It need not be irrigated, but within hose-dragging distance is helpful for in the beginning. Next, clear any plants or weeds from the site, turn over the soil, and rake it level. It is important to get an even spread of flowers, so mix up all the seed in a bucket, and add sand to it to make distribution easier. Sow the seed evenly, and then gently rake it in. Plant the ox-eye daisy plug plants in among the seed. Water the plants in well, and keep them well watered during the first few weeks. The bed will need frequent light watering (twice daily) for the first couple of weeks. Once established, it should require little beyond what Mother Nature provides.

After flowering, allow the seed heads to ripen before either shaking them onto the soil for the following year or collecting them in paper bags to be sown later. Remove all the plants except for the ox-eye daisies, and add them to the compost heap.

If you are interested in finding out what flowers are native to your own area – visit the National Wildlife Federation at https://www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinder/Plants

David Brown
Mulberry Seed Design