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wildflower field...need suggestions  RSS feed

 
Ray Cecil
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Location: Taylorsville Kentucky
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All,  
  I have a 1 acre area on my 5 acres I am turning into a wildflower meadow. I have the seed (10lbs) from American Meadows. Its their midwest mix. Anyway, this area has been in continual mowed grass for 20 years. I just bought this place. Anyway, I spent the weekend tilling this area. I used what I had, a rear tine 18" wide path tiller. I installed a new engine as it was 20 years old and crapped out. Was a lot of work.

Here is the big question, I know there are spots that I missed and did not dig up well. I don't want to go back with the tiller. That would be crazy. Is there any natural method to kill the grasses/weeds that may still grow when spring comes around? I don't want to spray chemicals. But I don't want 1 acre of cardboard lol.

Suggestions?

Ray
 
Tyler Ludens
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It's ok to have some grass and weeds left as long as you seed heavily enough for the wildflowers to outcompete the grass.  10 pounds of seed is probably about half the amount you need, and in my experience, seeding twice as heavily is much more successful.  Places where I've tried to "stretch" seed have been failures.  So if you can possibly afford it, you might want to buy more seeds. 

Hooray for wildflowers!
 
Casie Becker
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I had some success with wild flowers by dropping them on untilled, compacted, sun baked exposed soil in fall and grinding them into the dirt under my feet.  It's not the best practice, but that should give you an idea of how forgiving wildflowers can be.  The important thing is to get good contact with the soil.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Yes, stomping them inn is super important.  I do a little shuffling dance all around.  But on a field you might want to rent a roller.

 
Ray Cecil
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Thanks everyone. I did mis-speak, I said 1 acre, I meant to say 1/2 acre. So I think the 10 lbs on half acre will suffice. I tilled early. I wanted to see if by tilling and weeds germinate and pop up like American Meadows says will happen on their website. They state that by tilling you disturb weed seeds and they will germinate. They say to let them grow a little while and kill them off, thus preparing the least competitive field for the flowers. So.....Maybe I will start taking some photos and sort of doing a write up on my experience. Would you all like to see photos of all the stages?

Ray
 
Tyler Ludens
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Yes please!
 
Simone Gar
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How about birds, mice and deer eating the seeds? I have a similar project but I am concerned they eat all seeds
 
Anne Miller
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We use our tractor and a golf cart to roll over the planting area to get a firm seed to soil contact.  

I agree, pictures would be great.
 
Ray Cecil
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Simone Gar wrote:How about birds, mice and deer eating the seeds? I have a similar project but I am concerned they eat all seeds


I was kind of wondering the same. However, if you sow at the right time, it won't be long before the seeds germinate and grow. At which point the birds probably won't be interested in them.
 
Ray Cecil
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Here are some photos. So far not much to show but a bunch of dirt. So I threw in a photo of one of my little helpers...





 
Ray Cecil
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Oh, I had to install a new motor on the tiller. The old one had sat for 15 years with gas in it....so....meh....I didn't feel like poisoning myself cleaning it up.



 
Tyler Ludens
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That is going to be a gorgeous wildflower meadow along the road there!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Ray Cecil wrote:Is there any natural method to kill the grasses/weeds that may still grow when spring comes around?


One person's grasses/weeds are another person's wildflowers.

 
Ray Cecil
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Ray Cecil wrote:Is there any natural method to kill the grasses/weeds that may still grow when spring comes around?


One person's grasses/weeds are another person's wildflowers.



Don't worry, I've got plenty of other space full of weeds and grasses! Hahaha. This is the beginning of my 5 acre permaculture farm. I wanted to establish this space for pollinators. Ive got a back hoe coming this weekend I am borrowing from a friend and we are building swales on the back side of the property.

I am ordering a bunch of trees from DNR this week.
 
Shane Kaser
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Don't go into this with the expectation that you can eliminate and outcompete grasses. Grasses are naturally a part of the "seed-bank", both in the soil and with what blows in on the wind. Grasses are specially evolved for high-disturbance high-exposure sites, such as an open wild-flower field. I highly recommend you select native/well-adapted grass-species to include in your wildflower mix. I am not familiar with the grasses of Kentucky, so you will have to do your own research there.

Also (you're probably already good on this, but it's important): make sure you include at least one bomb-proof nitrogen-fixer in your mix.  Around here, that is White Clover.  Perennial, deep-rooted, drought-tolerant, beneficial-insectory, nitrogen-fixer.

Yes you will need to mow it once or twice per year, or you'll probably start getting tree/shrub saplings overtaking. Get some sheep/goats?

It'll look real nice. Tall meadow is very beautiful. Try mowing corridors and rooms into it. That's fun.

-B
 
Ray Cecil
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Shane Kaser wrote:Don't go into this with the expectation that you can eliminate and outcompete grasses. Grasses are naturally a part of the "seed-bank", both in the soil and with what blows in on the wind. Grasses are specially evolved for high-disturbance high-exposure sites, such as an open wild-flower field. I highly recommend you select native/well-adapted grass-species to include in your wildflower mix. I am not familiar with the grasses of Kentucky, so you will have to do your own research there.

Also (you're probably already good on this, but it's important): make sure you include at least one bomb-proof nitrogen-fixer in your mix.  Around here, that is White Clover.  Perennial, deep-rooted, drought-tolerant, beneficial-insectory, nitrogen-fixer.

Yes you will need to mow it once or twice per year, or you'll probably start getting tree/shrub saplings overtaking. Get some sheep/goats?

It'll look real nice. Tall meadow is very beautiful. Try mowing corridors and rooms into it. That's fun.

-B


Shane, I have been following American Meadows planting instructions. They suggested to till the site, then sow after my last frost date. I am going to buy some Red Clover and sprinkle a hand full of that into the mix. Not much, just enough to get those pretty blooms and without it taking over. So yeah, there is my N-fixer.  White clover does well here also.

The neighbors have goats!!!
 
William Schlegel
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Plant in the fall. Include some native grasses in your mix. Buy seed from prairie nursery or prairie moon nursery instead of American meadows. Or buy species separately and make your own mix. I looked at American meadows Midwest mix just now, I didn't like half the species in it for one reason or another but a lot of the species could be summed up by a word or two "non-native, native but not to the Midwest, will die out, weedy, cheap seed, etc". Some species in the mix are good but why pay for the other stuff?! Find out what kind of grass you have in your field. Kentucky Bluegrass would be good but if you have smooth brome or tall fescue you may have to do a longer more intensive period of site preparation. Also good to pay attention to what species of weeds pop up.
 
Ray Cecil
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William Schlegel wrote:Plant in the fall. Include some native grasses in your mix. Buy seed from prairie nursery or prairie moon nursery instead of American meadows. Or buy species separately and make your own mix. I looked at American meadows Midwest mix just now, I didn't like half the species in it for one reason or another but a lot of the species could be summed up by a word or two "non-native, native but not to the Midwest, will die out, weedy, cheap seed, etc". Some species in the mix are good but why pay for the other stuff?! Find out what kind of grass you have in your field. Kentucky Bluegrass would be good but if you have smooth brome or tall fescue you may have to do a longer more intensive period of site preparation. Also good to pay attention to what species of weeds pop up.


There are annual, biennial and perennial species in the mix. Annuals should self seed and come back. At least that is what American Meadows website states. Can you give me a list of the species included in the mix that you don't like? Also, please give a reason for not liking them. "Non-native" species is not a good reason to dislike them in my humble opinion. Why not plant "non-native" species? If they do well, than who cares? I thought one of the main premises of permaculture is biodiversity? Are you worried I won't get what I am paying for, or achieve my desired results with the meadow? Please give me a reason I should buy from the other two companies you listed. Which species in the Mid-West mix is weedy? Which is cheap? I've looked at all the species and the blooms are beautiful on all of them, in my opinion that is.

I cannot wait until this next fall, I have already tilled the field. Spring planting is just fine for me.

The reason I ask all this; I have no idea who you are and what gives your opinion credibility. You made some pretty concrete suggestions. I need details. Are you a specialist of some sort? A botanist? Maybe you are a well respected member of this online forum? Have you planted a large area of wildflower meadow before and have learned from experience? Or is this all just an opinion and your preference? Thanks!!

Ray 
 
Tyler Ludens
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I agree, many of the species in that mix are not Midwest natives:  Cornflower, Siberian Wallflower, Shasta Daisy, Cosmos, Sweet William, California Poppy, Baby's Breath,  Scarlet Flax, Red Poppy are those which leaped out at me.

 
Ray Cecil
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I agree, many of the species in that mix are not Midwest natives:  Cornflower, Siberian Wallflower, Shasta Daisy, Cosmos, Sweet William, California Poppy, Baby's Breath,  Scarlet Flax, Red Poppy are those which leaped out at me.



Okay. Will someone explain to me why that is a bad thing? I am not being a smart @$$, I really want to know why its a bad thing. Thanks
 
Casie Becker
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I don't care if a species is native as long it can thrive without pampering, or becoming a monoculture. If there is a native variety that will do the same job as well as a non-native I will still give it preference in my planting schemes. I am assured that a native plant is prepared to deal with the variables and extremes of my region. With a mix that is highly dependent on non-native plants you run a greater risk of seeds failing to germinate or thrive in your conditions. We've had some beautiful non-natives naturalize in my region though. The mix happily with the native wildflowers every spring. Red poppies are one of them.

I will give you my own word of warning. Part of the reason such mixes have so many annual flowers is that many of the perennial flowers won't bloom until the next year. After the perennials have time to establish they will begin to cover all the available land and leave little room for the annuals to come back. Don't think the plants have failed if you fail to see certain blooms the first year. They might be focusing on establishing a strong plant for the future. And expect the composition of your flower meadow to change considerably over the years. If your perennials are happy and well adapted you won't suffer any reduction in blooms, but you may lose some of the annuals completely.


 
Tyler Ludens
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My only beef with non-natives is that they typically don't support native insect populations.  Without sufficient insects other wildlife such as birds, reptiles, and amphibians, may decline.  Habitat loss in the present time is extreme, so although I'm not with any kind of "all natives or else!" program, I think it is best to include as many natives as possible in any planting. 
 
Ray Cecil
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Casie Becker wrote:I don't care if a species is native as long it can thrive without pampering, or becoming a monoculture. If there is a native variety that will do the same job as well as a non-native I will still give it preference in my planting schemes. I am assured that a native plant is prepared to deal with the variables and extremes of my region. With a mix that is highly dependent on non-native plants you run a greater risk of seeds failing to germinate or thrive in your conditions. We've had some beautiful non-natives naturalize in my region though. The mix happily with the native wildflowers every spring. Red poppies are one of them.

I will give you my own word of warning. Part of the reason such mixes have so many annual flowers is that many of the perennial flowers won't bloom until the next year. After the perennials have time to establish they will begin to cover all the available land and leave little room for the annuals to come back. Don't think the plants have failed if you fail to see certain blooms the first year. They might be focusing on establishing a strong plant for the future. And expect the composition of your flower meadow to change considerably over the years. If your perennials are happy and well adapted you won't suffer any reduction in blooms, but you may lose some of the annuals completely.




Yes, as long as the species isn't invasive to the point it is injuring the native species in the environment around it, I am okay with it. As far as the mix goes, I am aware that the annuals will be out competed eventually. The reason I went with the mix, is to get some blooms the first year. I will probably over seed some annuals into the field every year or two to help get that look I want.

Tyler Ludens wrote:My only beef with non-natives is that they typically don't support native insect populations.  Without sufficient insects other wildlife such as birds, reptiles, and amphibians, may decline.  Habitat loss in the present time is extreme, so although I'm not with any kind of "all natives or else!" program, I think it is best to include as many natives as possible in any planting. 


I don't know a lot about insects, but I am willing to bet a field of mixed wildflowers, some being non-native, is probably better than a field of mowed grass....So, yes, you raise a good point. However, the non-natives in this mix are more than likely not going to cause any negative impacts on the birds, reptiles etc. I will take your suggestion and do more research to sow more natives into the field. Maybe the annuals I over seed can be the native species.

 
Ray Cecil
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Here is a pretty good read on just this subject, from American Meadows website:

http://www.americanmeadows.com/problem-plants

 
William Schlegel
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I do work as a botanist and I often hand collect native wildflower and grass seed for a living.

The thing I find most troubling about the American meadows seed mix is the longevity. You are doing a lot of work. You need species that will give you a good return on that investment of time, energy, money, and fossil fuel. I don't think that mix will do a good job of it.

I reccomended prairie moon nursery because their seed mixes should last longer as plantings and support more pollinators. However, only if planted in the fall or winter. I've seen articles and pictures of plantings in fall versus spring. Spring planted gets far fewer species from the same seed mix to grow.

Given that you've already got the seed you could go ahead and plant it. It isn't terrible I'm just worried it may dissapoint after a few years.

If you overseed you might do so with native perennial wildflowers planted in the fall. Annuals will only compete if you keep an area disturbed for them. As long as you don't have extremely aggressive grasses like smooth brome and tall fescue this should work. Though it may take ten years for them to bloom if things are really competitive. Tallgrass prairie restorationists tried this and it worked- but it took ten years.
 
Ray Cecil
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William Schlegel wrote:I do work as a botanist and I often hand collect native wildflower and grass seed for a living.

The thing I find most troubling about the American meadows seed mix is the longevity. You are doing a lot of work. You need species that will give you a good return on that investment of time, energy, money, and fossil fuel. I don't think that mix will do a good job of it.

I reccomended prairie moon nursery because their seed mixes should last longer as plantings and support more pollinators. However, only if planted in the fall or winter. I've seen articles and pictures of plantings in fall versus spring. Spring planted gets far fewer species from the same seed mix to grow.

Given that you've already got the seed you could go ahead and plant it. It isn't terrible I'm just worried it may dissapoint after a few years.



Great! Its good to hear an expert opinion. Where do you work as a botanist? I'm curious!

Ray
 
William Schlegel
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I work wherever I can get work. California, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona so far. I garden in Montana.
 
Tracy Wandling
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To address your question of how to get rid of the weeds before planting your wildflower mix - what about flame weeding? It's a pretty big space, but it is a better option than poison. And much less work than going over the whole area with a rake or hoe. Just a thought . . .
 
Ray Cecil
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Tracy Wandling wrote:To address your question of how to get rid of the weeds before planting your wildflower mix - what about flame weeding? It's a pretty big space, but it is a better option than poison. And much less work than going over the whole area with a rake or hoe. Just a thought . . .

I LIKE PLAYING WITH FIRE!!! DIY MODE ENGAGED!!!
 
Tracy Wandling
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LOL!! Oh, no! I've created a monster!! Happy torching!
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