Wildflower garden/help with planting

Kristen HallockMarch 8, 2004

2 years ago my husband used a rototiller to rip up some sod on the side of our front yard so I could plant a small wildflower garden.I guess its about 30' x 8'. He ripped thru the sod and afterwards I tried to get in there and pick up as much of the broken up sod as I could. I planted a wildflower mix, plus cosmos, black eyed susans, etc.

Anyways, the first year the cosmos and other annuals came up great. The next summer I forgot to put annual seeds down again so all I got were coneflower & black eyed susans. And a bunch of tall grasses.

This year I want to do the annuals again, but I am worried about the overgrowth of grasses. We live in Vermont and our property is 30 acres and it borders a swamp/marsh. So it seems like the perfect place for some nice wildflowers. I dont want to rip up the sod again because that will damage my perennials, right? Should I just try to throw down the annual mix or will they have a hard time growing because there isn't a layer of dirt on the top? What can I do to make it "right"? Thanks!

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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

Rototilling is not a good way to get rid of sod, as it leaves many tiny root bits behind that will each grow into a stand of grass. Using Round Up on the grass will kill the roots. You will have to paint it onto the grass leaves if you do not want to disturb your perennials.

The annual seed mix can be planted 7 days after applying Round Up.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2004 at 10:33PM
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FYI: There is a semi-generic lowercost version of ROUNDUP called "CLEAR OUT 41"! Roundup at my local HD is $159 for 2.5 gal.. Clear Out 41 was $89 for the same 2.5 gal. at a local farm/feed store. Same percentage of Glyophosphate (41%) but the Clear Out has a better surfactant, and, I think, worked faster than my old favorite Roundup.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2004 at 7:55PM
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Kristen Hallock

Thanks. Maybe I will try Round Up and kiss my perrenials goodbye and replant this summer and then try to take better care of my meadow.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2004 at 9:17AM
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My suggestion would be to NOT kill it off with round-up.
There is a spray called "ORNAMEC 170 GRASS HERBICIDE."
It will kill off annul/perennial grasses,but will not kill broadleaf weeds ect...
I have used it and it did no harm to flower seedlings or established plants. It cost about $20.00,and works in about 1 week.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2004 at 10:13AM
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franeli(z4 NH)

Here's an idea, since you are near a 'wetland' and any runoff of herbicides etc. is not a good idea, no matter how well controlled the application,
Dig up the perennials as soon as the gound has thawed, clear out the grass with a hoe, shovel, whatever. Then you can add any amendments and re-plant the perennials.(even divide them to make more)
I do this to my mixed garden in early spring alot.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2004 at 10:24AM
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Vera_EWASH(z5 EasternWA)

I like your plan better Franeli :)


    Bookmark   March 15, 2004 at 7:24PM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

Although I agree that avoiding chemicals is a good thing, trying to remove grass with a shovel will be doomed. Any tiny piece of root left behind will sprout into a new grass plant.

If you are willing to remove, pot and replant the perennials, use the newspaper method to get rid of the grass. In the spring, after removing and potting the perennials, cover the entire bed with 6 to 8 sheets thick layer of newspaper. Wet it and cover with 3 to 4 inches of mulch. Wait about 8 weeks. The lack of sun will kill the grass, roots and all. Then replant the perennials. The layer of mulch will help prevent weeds as well.

If you want annuals, you will need to start them as seeds in pots, then plant them along with the perennials.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2004 at 10:59PM
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Kristen Hallock

All your ideas are wonderful. However, the soil at my house is heavy heavy clay. There is no way I'm going to be able to dig anything up. Its so frustrating as it is to garden at my house. Its like trying to dig up concrete. No joke.

Also, I'm not sure how I am going to tell the perennials from the weeds. The perennials are just coneflower. In the spring they usually look like little sprouts.

I am lazy and think I may just use the Round up method of killing everything and starting over. It took forever for my husband to dig thru it with a huge rototiller and then the grass was still so hard to rip up. I dont want to go through that again.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2004 at 8:45AM
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Don't be so quick to give up.The Ornamec will not kill your coneflower (echinacea purpurea ?)and is a heck of a lot cheaper then r/up .You have a few problems here .Don't assume killing all and starting over will solve all your problems.Heavy clay soil can be a challenge for you and the wild flowers.
I personaly love playing in dirt ,so I'd dig in a lot of composted organic matter and turn that hard,heavy-clay soil into well-drained soil. You do know that grass(depending on type) in a wild flower patch looks very pleasing and natural,and would do more to attract birds then flowers alone.Perhaps you could start your flower seeds indoors in peat pots now,cut your grass very low at the end of April-mid june and plant.Nothing pleasurable comes with-out a little hard work.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2004 at 10:29AM
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Kristen Hallock

OK, Ornamec it is. I originally started this little wildflower garden by just throwing seeds down on the dirt and letting them go at it. The first year was beautiful with cosmos, morning glory, babys breath, etc...then I never reseeded annuals the next yeear and only 1/2 the garden had coneflower and the other part was pretty much weed/grass. Mostly grass. I know grass looks good with wildflower, but I need the kind that will also let my wildflowers grow and not drown them out. What kind is that?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2004 at 11:45AM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

You need bunch grasses like those found in native prairie, not sod forming lawn grasses. Canada Wild Rye, Panic grass, side oats gramma, little bluestem are some I would recommend.

See the link to Prairie Moon Nursery for their on line catalogue and instructions for planting.

Here is a link that might be useful: Prairie Moon Nursery.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2004 at 12:41PM
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i found i couldn't seed my perennial garden with annuals, they
get crowded with no room for their seeds to germinate. i love
cosmos and cleome so i had to give them their garden.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2004 at 4:25PM
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flowerchild2(z5 NH)

I have a very similar problem but on a BIG scale and don't know what to do. 3 years ago I planted a 50x110 wildflower garden with a mixture of annuals and perennials. Year one, sparce, only annuals. Year two, beautiful. Year three, very very wet spring, I think a lot of seeds/plants rotted. Again very sparce. I want to bring this back to life. There are way too many perennials to dig up and transplant. Can I throw seeds right on top of the grass (from the fall mowing), and hope they will grow to fill in the spots. Or should I at least rake the grass to expose a little soil before seeding? My only fear about raking is I may rake up some seeds. It sounds like we have a similar situation.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2004 at 5:01PM
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