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How can I plant around native woodland wildflowers?

Posted by
katy-did Michigan
(gw:katy-did) on
Sun, May 21, 06 at 0:25

I have a wooded lawn featuring a huge old White Oak, which I love, and lots of Red Maple, Big Tooth Aspen, Sassafrass, and some pines to name a few. One area of our yard, near the Oak, hardly had any good turf grass, so we stopped mowing it. To our delight several wildflowers suddenly appeared, including Columbine, violets, and some others I have yet to identify, plus some beautiful ferns. My question is this - how can I plant some more native plants and flowers in that area without digging up/killing the already existing ones? I am completely new to gardening, but have a strong desire to use only native plants and return much of our turf lawn to a more natural state. Any advice and encouragement is greatly appreciated!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: How can I plant around native woodland wildflowers?

You can dig and weed around native plants as long as you don't get TOO close. If a plant is kept in place, you could dig a weed as close as the outer edges of the leaves without damaging the roots too much. You could add woodland wildflowers in spots that currently have lawn grasses or weeds. You probably will find some weeds like dandelions, plantain, and other lawn weeds. You could dig these up and put new wildflowers instead.

If there is not too much lawn grass to remove, then it could be done with small tools (hand trowel, etc) close to existing wildflowers. Larger areas could be turned over with a shovel.

If you want to convert areas that don't have many wildflowers you can simply cover the grass and weeds with lots of fall leaves. The leaves will smother most of the grass and decay to enrich the soil and make it more like a woodland soil, which will help encourage woodland wildflowers. If you have an area with only a few wildflowers, you could move the wildflowers then either turn over the grass with a shovel then mulch with leaves, or simply mulch with leaves and wait. To move a wildflower dig up a piece of the ground with the wildflower in it and move it intact to a new location. I use a standard garden shovel to move a piece of ground about a foot in diameter at the surface and about a foot or s15 inches deep. This works for most large wildlfowers. For really small ones you could move a smaller piece of earth. If you keep the ground intact and therefore preserve the contact between the roots and the soil you should be able to move most wildflowers. Try to avoid separating the roots from the soil - there are many very small roots and even smaller strands of fungus that connect a root to the soil which are destroyed if a plant is moved bare root. Some plants will recover, but some may not so it is best to keep the soil and the plant together. Place the wildflower and soil in the ground so that the surface of the soil matches the surface in the new location, and carefully fill cracks around the edges of the soil ball with more soil.

RE: How can I plant around native woodland wildflowers?

  • Posted by
    organic-kiki Zone 6
    (gw:organic-kiki) on
    Mon, May 22, 06 at 15:09

I have a flower bed on the edge of the was a blackberry thicket. I have wild iris still coming up in it and also sassafrass tree/bush. I am planting around them with deer resistant flowers. I will add compost to topdress plants and will use leaves and chipped wood as mulch. I don't really need to dig anything up and move it and composting and mulching aren't hurting the native plants. The only digging is to put in new plants. I have not, however, gotten rid of all the blackberry vines, those roots must go to China, lol. Newspaper is a good idea to smother out unwanted 'weeds'. I need to try that, too. Maybe it will help with the blackberries.

There is a site that sells native wildflower seeds

RE: How can I plant around native woodland wildflowers?

I try to use a slit trench when planting now. Step on a shovel to cut into the earth. Then use your body weight on the shovel to tilt it back a bit to make a slit just wide enough to slide in the plant. Insert the new plant, and pull out the shovel so the ground closes around the plant.

This way, the existing plants, ground covers, or even grass surround the plant. I planted a bunch of shrubs, some by digging a big hole, adding the plant and filling with dirt. Other shrubs I planted with slit trench.

The trench plantings did better. They didnt dry out as much. I think a mulch of living sod kept the moisture levels better.

The traditional plantings got tons of weeds that I had to keep after so they didnt choke the new shrubs, but that seemed to be too stresssful for the new shrub.

After 2 years, the slit trench plantings are doing better than the dig-a-hole plantings.

For some soil, I have to stand with both feet on the shovel while holding onto the shovel handle and use my full body weight by leaning back to open the soil.

This year I transplanted some redbud and elm seedlings using slit trench and they are ding quite well.

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