Wildflower patch

jgarzasrMarch 22, 2005

I know that this may have already been addressed in other posts - but just want some opinions. I plan on about an 80' X 80' wildflower patch on my property. I have about an acre behind by house that I have not done anything with since I moved there which is about 5 years. Currently it is covered with mostly Bramble, Goldenrod, QAL, Wild strawberry, milkweed, and a lot of weeds. What I plan on doing is mowing it down as close as I can get it and then tilling it up - and then planting the seed. If all goes well I will continue with the rest of the property. Any suggestions?

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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Don't Rototill..you will bring more weed seed to the surface, where it will sprout, plus, when you chop up the roots of some plants, each little piece will form a new plant.

From what very wise people here have told me, you want to disturb the soil as little as possible.

You can either mow it down, and cover with a clear sheet of plastic and let it bake for an entire year (smothering or solarising)or, do successive treatments with Glyphosate(Round/Up) at about 5 week intervals or whenever the plants get about 8-12 high, and sow your seed in fall at least 2 weeks after your last round/up treatment.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2005 at 12:58PM
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Thanks for the reply April. One thing I was thinking about doing - and if anyone can give me their opinion of this idea - because maybe it will not work. But - I would like to start planting the wildflowers this spring and not wait to smother the weeds for a season. And I would rather not use Roundup or any other herbicide. But what I was thinking about doing was tilling up the area I am going to plant - and like a Vegetable Garden - plant in rows. This way I can over the summer weed in between and rid of most of the weeds and then maybe in the fall - plant the remainder of the seeds or next spring plant more rows until the area is full. Does this make sense to anyone.... or not!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 9:43AM
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I don't think your plan will give good results. It's hard to be patient, but there is no substitute for good site preparation. (You haven't done anything with the area for five years, so why the rush?)

For an 80 by 80 foot patch, I think you should seriously consider using herbicide (roundup or equivalent). This would be a very large area to use the smothering technique. And you have some pretty tough customers established in the area.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 12:58PM
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Thanks again for the reply. Yes you are right - I have no reason to rush - but this 80X80 patch is just a part of my property that I want to start landscaping. I was hoping that it could be started this spring. I am leery of Herbicides for environmental reasons - I have honeybee hives and a pond on my property and do not want the chemicals to be a part on either.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 1:21PM
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I don't mean to question you committment to a chemical-free environment, but I think you need not worry about use of Roundup adversely affecting your bees or your ponds.

For what it's worth, I am an environmental toxicologist and I have done some research on glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) and on other chemicals (surfactants) that are added to the formulations intended for terrestrial use.

Glyphosate has very low toxicity to invertebrates and other animals and is bound tightly to soil upon contact, where it is biodegradable. It's herbicide effects are restricted to plants where it is applied directly to growing tissues (green leaves and stems, or cut bark) and it does not affect other plants once it enter the soil.

The surfactants are slightly greater concern, especially in aquatic environments, because they are somewhat more toxic than glyphosate. But this is only a concern if you apply high doses directly into a pond or streams, or apply near surface waters during or immediately before heavy rain. These chemicals, too, are rapidly bound to soil or aquatic sediment and are readily biodegraded.

Good luck with whatever approach you choose!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2005 at 9:42AM
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Thanks for all the advice. I am going to think about which route to take.... any which way sounds like a challenge. I am just looking forward to the warm weather and working the land.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2005 at 11:03AM
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Juliana63(z5 MI)

I'm just curious, when you say wildflowers, what are you planning on planting? Goldenrod, milkweed, and QAL all fall into the wildflower category for many people and are the start of a great native habitat. I'm working on enhancing a natural area in my garden and have found great information from Prairie Moon Nursery and Prairie Nursery.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2005 at 5:48PM
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Ditto John_MO. Be patient. I have made some costly learning mistakes by being in a rush and cutting corners. I too am as concerned about chemicals and environment as anyone, but I am convinced Roundup is the way to go on a plot your size.

Also as Juliana mentions above, "when you say wildflowers, what are you planning on planting? I hope you are talking about natives/locals, not "general wildflower mixes." There are plenty of good suppliers out there--So GO NATIVE and you [and the environment] will be much happier in the long run. Happy prairies to you!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 11:01PM
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Thanks again for replies. Yes the Goldenrod, QAL, Milkweed are all fine wildflowers - but it's the other weeds in between that I want replaced. I have ordered native wildflower seeds - so I am looking at planting in sections/ patches. I am hoping for more variety and color. Actually the Goldenrod is a beautiful display late in the summer. I am not looking for a manicured flowerbed - I just want to be able to see more color.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2005 at 8:51AM
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Queen Anne's Lace is not native and should not be included in a native prairie garden, which is what you are planning. What should be included, however, is grasses, which you have not mentioned. PLEASE do some reading on prairies--what they are and how to create and maintain them. They are not wildflower meadows and will not remain indefinitely without maintenance. Good places to start are Sarah Stein's two books and the catalog of Prairie Nursery.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2005 at 12:33PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Elaine is correct..QAL is NOT a native plant, and you will need to plant grasses, too. april

    Bookmark   April 4, 2005 at 11:07PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

i might suggest you take the time to do the proper site prep on most of the area for seed bed. but go ahead and carve out a small spot to mulch and plant some plugs in. that way you get something started now while you are waiting for the site to be ready for seed in the fall.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 9:52PM
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