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Is it Possible for me to Have a Wildflower Meadow?

 
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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I don't have a lawn, I have what I call a rock meadow.

Is it possible for me to have a wildflower meadow?



Over the last few years, I have sown various wildflower seeds in several different areas.

Some years, mother nature turns on her charms and grants me many wildflowers.  This year, she must have gone on vacation as we had no wildflowers.

The reason I call this my rock meadow is that it has a lot of rocks. My other challenge is the rocks that are too big to remove. The rocks don't show up too well in the pictures because of the tall grass, they are big!



The plants will need to be drought resistant, deer resistant, tall, and can compete with grasses and croton.

I there any way I can turn this into a wildflower meadow?



This is our water hole aka a tank or a pond.

As you can see my soil is mostly caliche so it is alkaline



This is one of my trees, we have lots of junipers, live oaks, and various other oaks.

 
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This is laid out very well, thanks for the detailed description and pictures....  While you do have some grass growing, creating a relatively meadow-like effect, it also looks like your location probably gets less than 20 inches of rainfall a year?  In arid locations where that's the case, a traditional meadow can be almost impossible to achieve.

By traditional meadow I mean one where flowering perennials as well as grasses come back year after year, and are a constant presence throughout the growing season. In more arid climates, many perennial species are only able to flower when the conditions warrant, which usually means shortly after good spring rains. Also, sometimes dry-tolerant plants don't even appear each year.  In an ecosystem that can support a true meadow, the flowering forbs and grasses are present every year regardless of weather or other environmental factors.

That said, what you've been doing – scattering in seeds, is a good technique to see what you can get to grow. However, in dry ecosystems, only flowering perennials that are truly adapted those conditions tend to survive... and those are the same species that also typically appear in passing and don't stick around.  

Did this help answer your question?  Let me know if I missed anything or if you have any other questions!  
 
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I feel your pain Anne! I have random summers- wet, dry, in between. I am still trying to find what perennials (ideally flowering) will grow consistently. Clover and dandelion do fine, for the most part. I too scatter various wildflower seeds, hoping some will catch and thrive. This year is turning wet, so I’m trying to get wild roses established. My experience is that once they are well rooted, they do great in almost any scenario.
 
Anne Miller
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Owen, thank you for the detailed answer.  I now have a better understanding of what is going on with my meadow.
That area had some mealy blue sage that bloomed in October the year we moved here.  It has slowly increased every year since then.

Most of the seeds I have sown have been blanket flower which appears after the spring rains.

I also have tried a wildflower mix.  Like you mentioned I may be seeing a few in early spring.


Julie, thank for sharing your experiences.  I have found some of that to be true, too.
 
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Knowing nothing about the land in your part of the world, I can only suggest that you plant native species and give them an extra boost. Maybe amend a small patch, water it (not too much) and give your favorite natives a chance to catch hold. Maybe they will build a fertile or even a water-harboring spot and take hold and spread.

This post reminds me of the homestead
Featured in Gaia’s Garden, where the family carefully directed their water and created an amazing, lush, shady, beautiful homestead right in the middle of the desert!
 
Anne Miller
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Thanks, Anne for the suggestions.

I have about given up on the meadow and decided to let Mother Nature provide whatever she will.

I do have other native species that I have planted in my butterfly garden:



I have Blue Sage.




I call these Blanket Flowers though they may be called something else.




I have Autumn Sage, these are on my fence line with Turk's Cap, honeysuckle, and blackberries.  


I have lots of these that Mother Nature planted along my driveway:



Mexican Hat.
 
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Keep scattering seed and watching the landscape.  Wildflowers from seed can take years to grow into something you recognize.  I don't know how long ago you started,  but it might be that you have some successes out there that are just waiting for the perfect wet spring to bloom.
 
Anne Miller
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Thanks, Mk

Most of the seeds I have scattered are the blanket flowers.  I am happy to see one every year and hope that next year I will have two.

We have been here since 2013 so every year I happily throw out several handfuls in different locations.

Mealy blue sage was here when we moved here and has continued to live in the same spot.  The plants were multiplying until last year's drought took a toll on the 6 plants so I am back to one plant now.
 
pollinator
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Location: Central TX, Zone 8b, multi-generational suburban homestead
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Perhaps you could try some Texas Sage bushes. We just purchased land that was not cultivated and have a sage bush growing at the base of our driveway. I think it blew over from our neighbor a few plots down who planted it as a hedgerow.

I often see ‘Indian Paint Brush’ growing on the side of the road here where many other wildflowers seem to not bloom. This leaves me wondering if they’re a bit more resilient... or maybe it’s happenstance.

Try some Salvia along the edges of the meadow or around larger grasses/bushes where they’ll get a bit of shade. Maybe even leave a brush pile somewhere and plant them amidst that. We have salvia growing from some random juniper brush pile the previous owner had made. There and along the ‘woods edge’.

They seem to be growing on the southern side of the brush pile and wooded area. This also is downslope from where the water would come- so maybe the water is being slowed down there causing enough moisture for the salvia. Or they like the southern side. Could be either, as my salvia in my suburban garden also grow on the south-western side of bushes and they don’t lack water.

Have you ever grazed any animals there? You could do that or put out deer corn to have the deer come fertilize and trample the grasses for you. Do this in late spring when things are seeding and the deer may even bring you some seeds that will take off... just don’t feed them year round so they hopefully don’t stick around a ton!

I’m not particularly experienced at any of this, that is just some observations and a thought from all of what I have read.
 
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Like Rebecca Blake I too was thinking about grazing. I didn't catch the size of your meadow but perhaps you have a neighbor with a herd of cattle who could walk across the road and graze it for half a day or some such to bring in fertilizer, to trample dead grasses, and to disturb the soil to bring up the seeds that are hiding which we call the native seed bank. You might visit with your local NRCS rangeland specialist if there's one in your county or close by. In Texas you've got Ladybird Johnson wildflower seed bank who I'm sure can tell you what's local to your area.
 
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Like Rebecca and Denise said, a short period of grazing, or even a small prescribed burn early in the spring, may help reduce ground cover and any invasive grasses/weeds, which would help let wildflower seed sprout.  

Many seed packets don't mention it, but a lot of native wildflowers need as much as 8-10 weeks of cold/moist stratification before they'll germinate.  Seed sown in March (or even February) may not have a long enough dormancy period to germinate that year, and may be eaten by birds or rodents before the next season.  

If you have public land nearby with similar habitat conditions, I'd take a walk there and see what wildflowers you can find, get an idea of what will grow in those conditions locally.  Even roadside seed collecting during late summer and autumn, from flowers adapted to local conditions, could benefit your situation. I'd scatter the seed in late autumn or winter, and mow or graze the area the following summer- that will some of the wildlflowers hold their own against more competitive grasses and weeds.  

There may also be local sources for seed and/or live plants, you may check your local university extension or state fish and game agency.  One thing I've done with prairie/grassland plots is buy a couple of live plants of a half-dozen species and see how they do over the course of a season.  If they thrive, I'll purchase seed and broadcast it after the growing season.  

It looks like a tough site, but I think it could be managed, and I think it would look great.  Best of luck!
 
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