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tips on starting a new wildflower meadow?

Posted by kaaryn NS / 6b (My Page) on
Fri, Apr 13, 07 at 17:49

I'm planning to plant a wildflower meadow over my septic bed. I figure I'll loosely enclose it, but I'm not really concerned about creeping. I actually WANT this to take over most of my yard. Later when there's more $$ to invest, I'll put in a sunken edging all around but for now I'm thinking of timbers or narrow logs. More of a visual barrier than a really productive one. I do need to maintain a strip of grass all around that's wide enough for a mower, but that's about it.

I am thinking to build a slightly raised area over my septic bed (I'm waiting for an okay from my service man). The sod is thin over it so it shouldn't be a problem to add a few inches of topsoil.

For plants, I thought I would start by getting some seeds for fast-growing grasses and perennials, plus a few cans of wildflower mix. See what comes up from those, and then work on filling it in as the summer progresses.

The thing is, because of the location I can't plant things that need a lot of watering. Keeping it damp for germination should be okay, but nothing that needs a regular soaking. And they can't be deep-rooted plants, because of the risk of clogging the drains.

I can't remove the sod because it would expose the septic bed more, but I suppose I can probably kill it off with repeated light applications of Roundup. It's as much weed and some kind of creeping groundcover as it is grass, it's all just pretty bumpy and ugly at this point.

I'm developing a list of things that would be okay to plant, but I'm looking for tips and suggestions on how to get it started, preferably quickly. :)

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: tips on starting a new wildflower meadow?

You will need to kill the grass. One or two applications of Round-Up will work. If seeding you will need to plant a very fast growing cover crop like annual rye to help keep away weed seeds until the desired plants come up.

The "wildflowers in a can" contain mostly non native annuals, they will look okay year one but not much year two. Wildflower Farm has a Septic Bed mix and planting instructions on their web site.

Also check out Prairie Moon Nursery for detailed instructions, they also have a variety of mixtures for various locations. If you e-mail or call them and describe your soil and location they should be able to recommend a mix.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wildflower Farm

RE: tips on starting a new wildflower meadow?


This website has alot of information for you, check out their planting tips via their home page. A couple of important things to make a successful planting are site prep and patience. Good luck with your planting


Here is a link that might be useful: planting tips

RE: tips on starting a new wildflower meadow?

Native plant nurseries typically have a mix that is specific for septic systems. Check out Wildflower farm mentioned above or Prairie Nursery.

Septic fields are made to drain quickly, so even though they get excess water, sometimes the moisture conditions will vary greatly from excessively to moist to excessively dry. Plants there need to be able to withstand those types of conditions.

I would not get a canned mix from the store. You will be disappointed.

And you also need to forget about the word quickly... get some patience and do it properly and you will be much more pleased in the long run. It takes about three years for a quality wildflower planting to mature and look striking.

RE: tips on starting a new wildflower meadow?

Thanks for the responses, you've been really helpful! :)

After talking to my husband (since he's got to do most of the work) and to my septic maintenance man, I've got the okay to go ahead and kill the grass and then put down new topsoil on top of it.

But we're looking into something new - I came across this "Fleur de Lawn" mix online, and some other "ecology mixes" which are grass, clover, some flowers, all of which grow less than six inches. We're thinking that might be a better idea, considering we will probably sell this house in the next couple of years. Someone else might not see the same charm in a wildflower meadow as I do... but these lawn mixes are just pretty. I can't see anyone not liking them :) I've talked to the people who sell some of these mixes and they're telling me they would work in this area and in the specific location, so I think we're going to give it a try and see what happens...

RE: tips on starting a new wildflower meadow?

If this mix is partially lawn and you're selling the house in a couple of years, I would for all practical purposes just leave it as lawn. I think the "Fleur de Lawn" people are just trying to market their product and sell you someting you really don't need and isn't practical.

Besides, the fact that it's not native, many people would not be attracted to having clover in the lawn. They would see it as a weed that needs to be eliminated not to mention those with kids - clover stains set and are hard to get out in the wash if they're playing in it. And what are these low-growing flowers. If it's anything like what's in the cannister wildflower mixes they usually don't work out as many of them are annuals advertised as perennials and usually only linger for about a year before copping out. Plus, the clover is very aggressive and will choke pretty much anything out even other lawn grass.

I'd say either stick with the lawn or make the commitment and go with a native mix.

If you're craving color, why not add some colorful pots around the house, go crazy with the plantings. Plus, these you can take with you when you move and you don't have re-renovate to area to make it saleable.

RE: tips on starting a new wildflower meadow?

If you are not going to live there long, then I would go with the ecology mix that includes clover. But I also would buy enough of the mix to overseed your entire lawn and not just the area distrubed by the septic system. Clover only looks bad in a lawn when its "patchy". If its uniform throughout the lawn its quite beneficial. Prior to selective broadleaf herbicides, clover was considered integral to a premium lawn mixture.

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