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Wildflower restoration

 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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Hi all. We purchased a new lot last year a built a new house on it. The name of the area is called Wildflower Ridge, aptly named from all the wildflowers that grown on the backside of our property. It separates the farmers fields from our lot along a wood line. I purchased a perennial native wildflower mix so I can repopulate the edge of the lot, so it keeps weeds down, adds beauty and does all the other things to add diversity. The instructions basically say to use round up(yuck!) to kill all existing weeds, dig 3-4 inches, rake in the seed mix and then water heavily until it germinates. They then say to keep everything at 6 inches or below to keep annual weeds from taking over. Is this the best way or does anyone out there have a better method to re meadow an area. Thanks!

 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 855
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Depends on existing vegetation, the composition of the bag of seed you are holding and the growth habits of that mix, and the viability of your target plant community (as reflected in your seed bag) compared to the reality of the site, and what you are willing to live with in the end.

Native meadow restoration is a fine art.  There is a lot of grey between weed patch and native meadow.  There is a lot that could be said, but I'd find someone who really understands PA, as I would suspect your pasture may want to become hardwood forest, and meadow may be something for rocky balds and wetlands, or grazed pasture in your ecosystem, and that 'native meadow' may be an oxymoron, or more accurately described as a 'temporary forest gap' which is a different ecosystem all together.

Don't mean to be a downer... I have struggled with the 'native meadow' thing before.  You might be better off with a 'native and eurasian diverse flowering pasture' as your target.

 
                        
Posts: 40
Location: Berkeley,CA
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Putting aside any design questions, if what you are after is just to get your mix to germinate well and grow to the extent that it out competes the plants that are currently growing there then you can 1)wait for early spring 2) do a very shallow tilling to uproot the existing vegetation 3) soak your seed mix in water for a day or so to start the germinating process 4) sow your seed.

If they are native-ish wildflowers then everything else should self regulate, but you will inevitably get some "weeds" in the patch which is just more bio-diversity, eh.  As paul says there is a lot of grey area  there as to what it will be in the end depending on what seeds you have and such, but that would give you a good start.  Some seeds need to be scarified or don't germinate the first year as a survival mechanism and there are countless other variables.  You might think about flattening that strip a little bit if it's on a slope so that your seeds don't just wash out in the first rain.
Best of luck
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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Thanks guys. I wanted to clarify by what I meant by weeds. There is just a mix of farmer type things that keep popping up on the edge. It is like that because they stripped everything during construction so yeah the forest ecosystem had to start over. There are spots where pioneer undercanopy is already appearing, so my goal is just to help it along and get rid of the monoculture mix.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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By all means go forth and do good things.  I have found that the small seeds tend to go to the bottom of the mix bag... consider skimming the top, sowing, raking in, then sprinkling the remaining on the surface mixed with wet sand or compost to get more even distribution... who knows what will take where, so it can be nice to get a good distribution... some seed really likes sitting on the surface.  I like covering that kind of sowing with a thin layer of straw (70% of soil showing?) to create dead air to improve germination.
 
Dave Miller
Posts: 408
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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I agree with the other comments.  If the site has always been a meadow then you may have success.  Otherwise it probably wants to become forest.

I believe that the most successful way to keep a meadow a meadow is to set it on fire every once in a while.  However that is not really an option these days.
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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EricTheRed wrote:
Putting aside any design questions, if what you are after is just to get your mix to germinate well and grow to the extent that it out competes the plants that are currently growing there then you can 1)wait for early spring 2) do a very shallow tilling to uproot the existing vegetation 3) soak your seed mix in water for a day or so to start the germinating process 4) sow your seed.

If they are native-ish wildflowers then everything else should self regulate, but you will inevitably get some "weeds" in the patch which is just more bio-diversity, eh.  As paul says there is a lot of grey area  there as to what it will be in the end depending on what seeds you have and such, but that would give you a good start.  Some seeds need to be scarified or don't germinate the first year as a survival mechanism and there are countless other variables.  You might think about flattening that strip a little bit if it's on a slope so that your seeds don't just wash out in the first rain.
Best of luck


Any suggestions on how to till lightly? I dont have any tools apart from a rake and shovel.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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i wouldn't use the round up...rather I would take a little time to go through and pull out some of the existing grasses and weeds, with my seeds very handy and a bit of water.

reach down, pull up the weeds in an area, scratch in a few seeds, water well, and then put the mulch "around" the seeded area, not over top of it..most perennials take a while to grow to a complete adult size, so the mulch will protect the baby growing plants and will "mark" where they are..

if it is really dry go through and add some more water from time to time until they reach a size to where they can fend for themselves..

another thing is if you have any perennials growing that are wildlfowers, in spring you can often dig them up and divide them..or take cuttings from them to get bigger plants instantly..

the roundup will just do more damage than it is worth
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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Oh no roundup for me, never!!

The strip Im working on is about 100 feet long and 5 feet wide. Are you saying that I shouldnt do the entire section but just small parts of it? The hardest part is getting all of the existing thick vegetation out of the way so I can get to the earth.
 
                                
Posts: 30
Location: Ontario, Canada
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Rob S. aka Blitz wrote:
Oh no roundup for me, never!!

The strip Im working on is about 100 feet long and 5 feet wide. Are you saying that I shouldnt do the entire section but just small parts of it? The hardest part is getting all of the existing thick vegetation out of the way so I can get to the earth.


  I'm trying a sort of patch technique to get more native diversity into my meadow like area.  I only started last year so I don't know how well it's going to work.  I didn't want to till or scrape the whole area.  For one there is already some stuff in it and two it's a lot of work.    So what I've done is instead of clearing or digging the whole thing I clear a few 4X4 patches of most vegetation.  Just by digging and pulling.  In those patches I put in some native transplants and thrown down seed.  Then I just put down a thick layer of mulch material around those patches, enough to kill off the (mostly)  grass over a season.  So by late this summer  there will be more area without vegetation for the stuff in the patches to seed and move into more easily.  My hope is that if the plants in the patches get well enough established in terms of volume that they'll eventually start spreading out beyond the patches through their natural mechanisms. 

I also plan to take advantage of the mulched areas to grow some squash.  I've used this technique for the last two years as I've been expanding my actual garden area.  Mulch the area where I want the garden to expand to and just dig out enough to plant the squash.  The squash grows happily over the mulch while the mulch is killing the grass over the growing season and by next season there is a nice new patch of soil to work with.
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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If Im not mistaken that sounds really close to what Brenda was saying. It makes sense to me, I had the spreading theory as well, I just dont have any experience with it. Thanks for your input.
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
Posts: 488
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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I haven't done this yet, but in a similar situation, I'm going to try a technique that landscapers use - start the seeds in small flats, then when the seedlings show their first true leaves, transplant the entire flat. Hopefully, that will help me recognize which plants are keepers and which interlopers. I'll try transplanting the flats in a checkerboard pattern, and keep the "blanks" clear until the new plants are large enough to control the space. I think that if you get a good stand of your desired plants, in a controlled area, and work outwards from there you would have more success than successive broadcastings. More work though.
 
Randall Scheiner
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Burning the prairie is an effective method to restore native wildflowers and native grasses and eradicate non-natives intolerant of fire. This is not always enough though. The seedbank of "weeds" may have developed well over the years, and may survive the scorch of the grassfire, so a few years of additional burns could be necessary to improve the meadow further. In addition some invasive species such as crown vetch---introduced by the DOT to stabilize erosion where new roads are developed---loves fire, and pesticides are liberally applied where found.

Mulching is also effective and provides more control over exactly what you want to grow on a small scale. For a small strip of flowers, this might be all you will need to buffer the wildflowers from competitive non-natives.
 
Wenderlynn Bagnall
Posts: 73
Location: United Kingdom
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I've been looking round the foum for info on the best way to lay down wildflower seeds. This looked like the best thread but I want to be sure.

I want to do what Sepp does and just broadcast them and let them do their own thing. I won't know if that has worked if I see other species coming up which in this country are considered by most as weeds. How can I be sure that if I broadcast straight into the ground that the seedlings I am seeing are from the seeds I have spread?
 
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