Are you looking for the right procedure and the tips concerned with how to build a raised wildflower garden in a small backyard?
No garden or area is small to cultivate a raised wildflower garden. Even if you have the tiniest of the area to try your hands on, this one will definitely work.
- What you will need to follow this tutorial?
- Step by step instructions
- A Wildflower Garden In Your Backyard
- Creating Wildflower Gardens
- How to Start a Wildflower Garden in Your Backyard
- How to create a mini wild flower meadow
- How to grow wild flowers in container pots
- Top 5 Tips for Growing Wildflowers
- 1. Select the right wildflowers
- 2. Plant a meadow
- 3. Consider containers
- 4. Sow seeds
- 5. Grow cut flowers
- Want to learn more?
- Wildflower Meadow: Grow your own in a container
- Three ways to create a mini-meadow
What you will need to follow this tutorial?
As earlier said, acres of land aren’t required to create a wildflower meadow; even a small patch of lawn exposed to the open sun can be ideal for such a creation. Also, the maintenance of such a miniature wildflower garden is pretty much easier as compared to any traditional lawn. In order to create such an inexpensive and low-maintenance meadow, there are certain requisites to follow.
- The first and foremost need for such a beautiful meadow is to have a nutrient-rich growing area, well exposed to the sunlight. This will help in a proper growth of the flowers and keep them nutrients enriched.
- Moving ahead, you need to have the selective set of wildflower seeds or turfs to be planted on the meadow, you are planning to cultivate.
- Next, you need a hoe, a tiller that righteously helps in the tilling job and a gardening jug. Remember, you need to water the sowed seeds in a periodic manner for a perfect growth.
Step by step instructions
Now, let’s move further to the step by step instructions guide to cultivate your wildflower garden.
Step 1: Pick the appropriate area
To begin with, you need to pick the right patch or area that has an ample supply of both sunlight and nutrients. A nutrient rich soil is considered to be more favorable in nurturing your wildflowers in the garden. However, the size entirely depends on you and your capacity to maintain them.
Step 2: Choose the Wildflowers
Following further, you need to pick the wildflowers you wish to grow in your backyard. However, it is suggested to pick the native wildflowers, in case you plan for a local garden. This is mainly because the survival chances of such plants are higher in their local surroundings. You can visit your local nursery or purchase wildflower Seedles online.
Step 3: Prepare your Land
This one is amongst the major step to follow in order to set the foundation for your garden. Prepare the land and soil such that it offers the right platform for sowing the seeds. Start with clearing the extra weeds and grass using a hoe. Use a garden tiller to till the soil to about 1 inch deep. Add some potting soil for adding extra nourishment and nutrient to the tilled soil and mix well with the hoe.
Step 4: Planting the seeds of the wildflower
- If you wish to create your garden on a low nutrient soil, laying the wildflower turfs will help.
- For a 50-50% grass and wildflowers setup, including the turfs of bugle, ox-eye daisy, yellow rattle, yarrow and birds- foot trefoil can work.
- Sowing the wildflowers during the late autumn or early spring is recommended. Sow them at a traditional rate of 4 gm/square meter.
- Scatter the seeds on the soil in an even direction and press them gently using a garden roller or even by a gentle walk. Don’t forget to net the area to protect the seeds from the birds.
Step 5: Watering your seeds and grown plants
Make sure to water them well, but also be careful that you do not drown them. In such case, neither your seed, nor the grown plant will stay for long.
Growing your own adequately fostered backyard wild flower garden isn’t difficult with these simple steps to follow. Make sure you follow these steps religiously to be a proud owner of an amazingly setup wildflower garden that suits even the smallest part of your backyard. So, when are you creating your own garden?
Guest Post by Ann Sanders of A Green Hand
A Wildflower Garden In Your Backyard
There are few things in this world, horticultural or otherwise, that can compare with the simple beauty of a wildflower garden. Picture a gently sloping mountain meadow filled with the delicate blossoms of yellow Plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria), orange California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and lacey baby’s breath (Gypsophila elegans). Butterflies dance across the meadow in front of you as you make your way through the tall grass to a small stream flowing somewhere up ahead. It’s like something out of a dream. But with minimal effort on your part, it can become a reality. Keep reading to learn more about creating a wildflower garden in your backyard.
Creating Wildflower Gardens
In contrast to the formal English garden or even a traditional vegetable garden, a wildflower garden is truly inexpensive, easy to plant, and simple to maintain. You don’t have to spend endless hours weeding your wildflower garden because wildflower gardens are meant to be…well…wild!
You also don’t need to spend hours watering or fertilizing your wildflower garden because the plants you will choose for your garden will be native species to your particular region of the world. This means that they’re most likely already in love with the soil that is natural to your garden, and they don’t expect to get much more rain than you would get on average each year. Although for most of the wildflowers in your garden, extra water and fertilizer won’t hurt the plants; in most cases, it will keep them blooming longer.
How to Start a Wildflower Garden in Your Backyard
In order to get started with your wildflower garden, the most straightforward option is to buy a large bag of native mixed wildflower seed to spread in your bed or meadow. Simply loosen the soil with a hoe or shovel and remove most of the weeds and grass from the planting site. Spread your seed over the prepared area and rake it in gently. Of course, you will want to follow any other directions on your seed package. Then, water in the seed well; leaving the sprinkler on for 30 minutes should do the trick.
Continue watering the seeded area morning and night to ensure that it doesn’t dry out completely. Be sure to use a gentle sprinkler with a fine shower so that your precious wildflower seeds don’t get jostled around while they’re trying to sprout. Once the seeds sprout and your wildflower “toddlers” are on their way to being 3 or 4 inches tall, you may choose to water them only if they become very dry and look wilted.
Seriously though, don’t worry about weeds. Wildflowers are tough; they’re meant to do battle with nature’s harshest enemies. Plus, weeds such as grasses and other native species help bring fullness to your wildflower meadow. Of course, if the weeds are offensive to you or threaten to overtake the flowers, a light weeding really can’t do any harm.
In addition to native wildflowers, like purple lupine and white yarrow, you may want to consider other native species for your backyard, too. Ferns, shrubs, berry plants (like chokecherry) and other natives would look absolutely divine gracing a different area of your yard. Native ferns planted in the shade of a large group of birch trees would do well, or perhaps a new planting of wild ginger around your evergreen trees is more appropriate to your location. The bounty of native wildflowers and plants is practically endless.
Now, just lay back in your wildflower meadow, close your eyes and relax. Imagine yourself enjoying this wildflower garden for years to come. Oh, didn’t I mention? Most wildflowers freely re-seed themselves year after year so you don’t have to! Just a smidgen of watering and weeding each year, if absolutely necessary, is all your wildflower masterpiece will ever need.
How to create a mini wild flower meadow
Wild flower meadows at the Olympics
When Britain hosted the Olympics in 2012, I heard almost as many people talking about the colourful meadows at the Olympic site as about Sir Chris Hoy and Mo Farah. The perennial wildflower meadows in Stratford were the work of James Hitchmough, professor of the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield. He designed 25 acres on the steep banks of the Lea Valley, using British native perennial wildflowers – long-season stalwarts such as spiny restharrow, betony, common toadflax and field scabious.
The aim was to produce a meadow that would be as colourful as the very best examples you could find in nature. Everything was timed carefully so that it would all bloom at once, in a great exhilarating whoosh over the period of the Games. It went down magnificently.
Can a wild flower meadow work in my garden?
This style of “gardening” makes complete sense on an urban landscape scale. Gone are the days when local councils had the money to create expansive gardens with bought-in plants. It is much cheaper to grow from seed, and better still if areas can be direct-sown. Also gone are the public funds to keep up labour-intensive shrub and herbaceous beds, typical of our older parks, and the willingness to use gallons of water to keep them alive. That’s why native wildflower “meadows” and prairie gardens using exotic species are the way forward for urban landscapes.
This approach also makes sense on a smaller scale (think large garden or small field), and I expect many of us will be trying similar schemes in the next few years.If you’ve been inspired, learn how to recreate this look in your own garden with native British wild flowers …
How to create your own mini wild flower meadow
Make sure the seed mix you choose has the right ones relevant to your soil type.
If you’re combining flowers with grasses, or flowering up an area of existing grass, you need to reduce the strength of the grasses. It’s key to introduce Yellow Rattle. This is a hemiparasite, which fixes its roots onto the root system of an adjacent grass and extracts the water and minerals it needs. This weakens the grass and hence the competition, allowing more delicate and often more colourful and interesting wild flowers to thrive.
The Sarah Raven Wildflower Mix contains a great mix of native British wild flowers, and includes Yellow Rattle, so provides a great start to your meadow.
Clear the ground.
If on a small scale, dig out the coarse-leaved grasses such as Cock’s-foot, Couch Grass and Perennial Rye Grass. If on a large scale, consider spraying these off before you start. They out-compete the more delicate-growing wild flowers. Also make sure the area is as free of coarse-leaved grasses and robust-quick growing weeds such as thistles and docks before you sow.
Rotavate and then rake over to ensure a fine-ish tilth, and water if necessary.
Sowing wild flower seeds
Direct sow your seed (at a seed density recommended by the seed supplier).
Most of these plants are perennials so will not flower well for a couple of years. I was impatient for flowers in my own mini meadow, so grew some wild flowers in trays in the autumn, pricking them out during the winter, to plant out as plugs when the soil had warmed up enough in April.
Planting wild flower seedlings
Wild flower seedlings can be planted in enriched soil or an established grass area. Before planting the seedlings, mow the grass to less than 5cm and remove competition from any other long leaved grasses and flowers. Or remove the grass in a circle, using mechanical or chemical methods.
The planting hole should be the same shape and size as the seedling, i.e. an inverted pyramid. The planting hole can be quickly created with a suitably shaped dibber, but ensure that the surrounding soil is loose to allow the roots to spread easily. Keep watered until established if conditions are dry, and protect from slugs.
Cut or strim the grass in August, or leave it until September if you want species such as Agrimony and Betony to get a hold.
Leave the hay where it falls for a week, turning it over a couple of times as it dries, to help the wild flower seeds drop back down into the soil.
Rake all the hay away so as not to increase fertility and use it for compost.
Adding more varieties of wild flowers
Gather seed of the wild flowers you see and like in your local areas of grassland as well as lots of Yellow Rattle. You’ll need permission from the land-owner. Gather the heads, or just knock the seeds into a brown envelope or paper bag. Leave them somewhere cool but airy to dry a little more before sowing.
Scarify a few patches through the area and scatter the seed. Yellow Rattle needs to be sown in the autumn.
You can still sow your wild flower seed now in late autumn. Some perennials need the winter cold to spark them to germinate. If you sow them now, those species will join the other perennials as well as spring-germinating annuals and biennials, so everything should come up well.
Sow extra favourites – that you want lots of – into seed trays now for pricking out and planting out as soon as the soil warms up a little next spring.
For more Olympic wild flower inspiration, find out how to sow your own exotic meadow …
Browse our range of meadow seed mixes, or create your own mini meadow with our wild flower seeds.
How to grow wild flowers in container pots
There are so many reasons you might choose to grow wild flowers in container pots – perhaps you’ve got limited outside space, like the freedom of moving your plants around to keep things visually interesting (or away from shade and frosts), or would like to bring them inside. With pots, you can also micro-manage the soil type and climate of your plants.
Wildflowers can look really stunning in window boxes or container pots, growing in their beautiful multicoloured manner, delivering colour and pollinating life to an otherwise dull and blank space.
Tips for growing wild flowers in a container pot
Choose a good pot with drainage holes in the base, or create some drainage holes yourself in an existing garden pot.
Mix a little compost with your standard garden soil – this will encourage good plant health – and you could also add a little gravel to help drainage. Keep in mind that wildflowers do not like too rich a compost – they prefer poor soil with few nutrients.
Read your seed pack to determine how much seed to grow in your size of pot. Mix your wildflower seed with some sand to help you distribute it evenly.
Scatter the mix over the area, and water gently.
Keep the soil damp whilst the seed germinates.
Place the pot in a sunny spot, and don’t overwater.
Grow until it goes to seed. Save the seed and then cut back severely to about an inch. Wait for the following year’s flowers …
Read more about the importance of wild flower meadows for our pollinators …
Browse our range of meadow seed mixes, or create your own look with our wild flower seeds.
Top 5 Tips for Growing Wildflowers
Wildflowers are easy to love. These native or indigenous plants require little maintenance, and attract birds and beneficial insects . Wildflower meadows also don’t need fertilizers, pesticides or watering to perform well. Inspired to give growing wildflowers a try? Read these tips first!
California poppies photo by docentjoyce /Flickr Creative Commons
1. Select the right wildflowers
As with any plant, you’ll have the best growing success when you pick wildflowers that thrive in their natural conditions. For instance, just look at these gorgeous native California poppies blooming at Montaña de Oro State Park in Central California.
In your own garden, consider the type of soil you have. Some wildflowers grow in heavy clay soil, while others thrive in beach sand. How much sun does your garden receive? How about typical rainfall amounts? If you plant wildflowers that will like your growing conditions, you’ll be a happier gardener.
2. Plant a meadow
Even in small gardens, you can grow a wildflower meadow. In fact, wildflower gardens come in all shapes and sizes, according to Miriam Goldberger, author of Taming Wildflowers (St. Lynn’s Press; 2014). Generally, for a traditional meadow-style planting, she suggests one plant per square foot.
“In a small garden, you can plant as close as one wildflower per 6 square inches” says Goldberger. She adds, “That’s twice the number of plants you would find in a traditional meadow-style planting. In fact, growing wildflowers and grasses close together is beneficial to you and your gardens – less watering, weeding and fertilizing.”
When grown closely together, these plants shade one another and the soil. This reduces evaporation, keeps soil moist and reduces the need to water. It also means there is less room for germinating weed seeds.
That’s not all. “Planting a combination of wildflowers and grasses reduces your need to fertilize…ever,” adds Goldberger. “Flowers and grasses take up different levels in the soil and do not compete for the same nutrients. And these plants don’t need to be removed over the winter or cut down. So leaves, stems, flowers and roots can return their nutrients to the soil.”
For small spaces, consider smaller plants (width and height). Remember to place smaller plants near the front of the meadow so they aren’t hidden behind taller types.
Black-Eyed Susan photo by Jack W. Pearce /Flickr Creative Commons
3. Consider containers
Not ready for a meadow? Many wildflowers grow well in containers, with a minimum depth of 12 inches. The cheerful Black-Eyed Susan is one example.
For spring flowers, consider Pasque Flowers or Shooting Stars. Blanketflowers bloom well in summer containers. For flowers in late-summer and fall, try Sky Blue Asters in large containers at least 1 ½ feet deep.
You’ll need to water these containers regularly, as they dry out faster than garden soil.
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4. Sow seeds
Wildflowers are easy to grow from seed, if you remember a few things. Annuals – which germinate, grow, bloom and distribute seeds in one year – can be sown in late winter or spring for summer or fall blooms.
However, most hardy, perennial wildflowers – which bloom again and again for years – need cold, moist stratification. The cool, wet conditions of winter break down seed coats and allow for germination.
To facilitate this process:
- Sow seeds in winter or just before. Let them experience winter naturally by preparing the soil before it freezes and spreading out seeds where you want them to grow. The snow will fall on them, they will move into the ground with the spring thaw, and they will be watered naturally with melting snow and spring rains.
- If you do not have a snowy, cold winter, try this: Place seeds in labeled pots (or sealable bags) filled with moist, soil-less growing medium. Put them outside (if you have winter) or in your fridge (if you don’t) for 6-8 weeks. Then transplant seedlings as they become strong enough to hold their own in the garden.
You’ll need patience with long-lived North American perennial wildflowers, because they probably won’t flower the first year. “These plants prioritize differently than annuals,” explains Goldberger. “Hardy perennials can withstand snowy winters and freezing temperatures, but they don’t rush to get everything done in a season. The plant puts the majority of its energy first into producing deep roots to source water and nutrients from its new home.”
Some native perennials can be direct-sown in the garden in spring, including White Yarrow, Silver Lavender Hyssop and Bergamot. Although these plants will germinate their first year, they probably won’t flower yet. However, “they will return year after year,” reminds Goldberger, “and produce viable seeds, attract birds, butterflies and pollinators, and add low-maintenance beauty to the garden.”
Prairie Smoke photo by HorsePunchKid /Flickr Creative Commons
5. Grow cut flowers
Wildflowers make wonderful cut flowers. For instance, Prairie Smoke blooms in spring, and is pretty in small spring flower arrangements. The seed heads that later form on this plant last for months.
Some other wildflowers for cut flowers include Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Prairie Dock and Purple Coneflower, which can last up to 10 days in vases. False Indigo has different shaped seed pods that dry beautifully for everlasting arrangements.
Want to learn more?
Wildflower Farm has a step-by-step seed selecting guide that can help you find wildflowers for your growing conditions.
Wildflower Meadow: Grow your own in a container
The words ‘wildflower meadow’ conjure images of idyllic loose flowering landscapes, rolling through a valley, stretching on as far as the eye can see – but if you’ve got space for a container, you’ve got space for a wildflower meadow.
Not only are they great for pollinators and by extension the rest of the ecosystem, they also give us wonderful displays of interesting plants, beautiful flowers and enable close up views of the many interesting creatures, including bees and butterflies, that visit them.
A distinct advantage of a container grown meadow is that provided the container isn’t too large, it’s moveable – which helps you find the right spot for it in your garden and let’s you play around with placement and position next to other plants and features.
I’m a huge fan of container gardening for precisely this reason, especially in smaller spaces – as you really get to know plants through continually rearrange your pots and tubs into new displays, and helping you showing off plants at their best, and tucking them aside when they are resting.
One thing I strongly encourage is that wherever you are in the world, please use wildflowers that are native to your area – part of the point of growing your own meadow is to help repair the damage caused by large scale agriculture and to support your local wildlife.
It is also very important that you get your seed from a reputable supplier who knows where their seeds have come from, i.e. those grown specifically for sale. It’s not ok to take seeds from any wildflower meadow that you find as those seeds will be needed to regenerate the very meadow from which they come, and if that’s not enough to put you off, it’s often illegal anyway.
Keeping these things in mind, here is how to create your own wildflower meadow in a container:
Unsurprisingly you’ll need a good container – many different things will do but it must have drainage, if using a terracotta pot with a hole, place a few crocks over the hole so it doesn’t get blocked up. If you’re using something else, you may need to carefully make your own holes in the base, as a rough rule of thumb, I usually put between 2 and 4 holes just under the thickness of a pencil in a 30 – 40 cm diameter pot.
Wildflowers thrive where soil is poor, so you don’t want your container to be full of nutrients. If soil is too rich in nutrients, grasses tend to thrive, pushing out the wildflower species. If possible, use a combination of soil from the garden, or old soil from old containers that has some of the nutrients sucked out by former residents. You can also add a little compost and a few handfuls of gravel to increase drainage.
Water the container well BEFORE sowing the seeds to allow the soil to settle. This helps get rid of air pockets that may have formed during filling the container and ensures the soil is well distributed. It also makes the surface damp, and therefore sticky, which helps make sure your sees adhere to the surface when you sow.
Wildflower meadow containers can be sown in spring (March / April) or autumn (September).
It is both tempting and easy to sow seeds too thickly, there is absolutely no advantage in doing this you will only cause crowding and such problems later on if the seeds germinate at all. It is far better in fact, to sow the seeds at the amount per square metre as recommended on your seed pack.
If for some reason you don’t have the info to hand then as a rough guide, sow annuals at around 5g per square metre, and biennials and perennials at around 1g per square metre.
It can be quite tricky to sow the seeds thinly and evenly enough when seeding a large area but it is a bit easier in a container. Go steady, use your eyes and sprinkle thinly. Some people like to mix their seeds with a little sand so it’s easier to see where you’ve sprinkled. You can try it if you think it’s helpful.
Once sown, do not water the seeds immediately! There will be enough moisture in the soil as you pre-watered it. If you were to water now, the seeds tend to float up and become less well distributed. Wait for a day and then if you have a mist bottle, use this to create a delicate rain over the seeds again.
Place the container in a sunny spot and keep damp in the early stages. There is a risk of birds nibbling the seeds at an early stage, I usually leave this up to fate and accept a few losses but if it’s a serious problem for you then use a little netting to cover the pot while the seeds establish.
From here, allow the seeds to germinate and the plants will follow!
The final thing you need is patience…
If you’ve planted perennials, the plants won’t flower in the first year, don’t worry, this is normal! Just keep an eye on them and wait for year two when you should see flowers.
If you can’t wait that long, consider using a seed mic that also contains annual wildflowers too as there will flower in the first year while the others become established.
Once flowers go to seed you can collect the seed heads and begin the process again in another container or try sprinkling them in your garden.
Three ways to create a mini-meadow
A wildflower meadow is a beautiful addition to your garden and needn’t take up a lot of space. An annual meadow will give you a one-off display in summer, while a perennial meadow will provide colour from year to year. You can create the meadow look in your garden by three main methods.
Use wildflower turf
If the area you want to cover is small, a pre-grown wildflower mat is a good option. Pre-grown wildlflower mats are essentially wildflower turf, which is grown with a mat backing, to make it easier to lift, move and lay.
Making a meadow this way can be done at almost any time of year, although it’s trickier and more expensive to lift, ship and lay a meadow that’s in flower, so spring and autumn are the best times.
A mat of wildflower turf
Use plug plants
Wildflower plug plants can be popped straight into an existing lawn. It helps if the lawn is quite poor in the first place, with plenty of ‘weeds’ such as speedwell, clover, self-heal, plantain and bird’s-foot trefoil. These will become part of your new meadow.
A lawn full of ‘weeds’, indicates that the soil beneath isn’t too rich, which will suit the wildflowers and grasses well.
You can plant wildflower plugs at almost any time of year, as long as the plugs are available and the ground is neither waterlogged, bone dry or frozen solid. If you want to turn a small front lawn into a meadow, or want to add wildflowers to an area of bulbs naturalised in grass, plugs are perfect. They’re usually sold in multipacks.
Planting a wildflower plug into a lawn
Grow from seed
Creating a meadow from seed is the most cost-effective method and is equally suited to annual and perennial meadows. To prepare the soil for sowing, simply fork it over and rake to a fine tilth.
However, in a reversal of normal gardening process, you should not improve or feed it with compost. You don’t want a rich soil, as this encourages coarse grasses and broad-leaf weeds that can overwhelm the more desirable perennial wildflowers. Annual wildflowers always remain more compact and flower more freely on unimproved soils.
Tipping wildflower seeds from a pack into a hand
Kate Bradbury says
Sow yellow rattle among the flowers. This is a hemiparasite of grass, and will suppress its growth, allowing the wildflowers to thrive.