Planting a wildflower garden is not for those who are impatient. First comes the preparation, the cultivation of the soil and finally planting the seed and watching it grow.
PREPARE YOUR SITE FOR SEEDING
Choose a site with a minimum of six hours of sun. Next, prepare the soil by removing all existing growth. The better soil preparation, the more likely that flowers will germinate successfully.
According to Brijette Pana, CEO and founder of San Diego Seed Company, “If you start with a small area, you can use a flat shovel or rent a sod cutter. We recommend for gardeners who might be new to planting wildflowers to start with a small plot of approximately 4 feet x 8 feet. Be sure to remove as many weeds and Bermuda grass by hand, since they will compete with the wildflowers.”
To complete the weeding process, the gardener must decide how they will kill the weeds that are still in the ground. Many gardeners choose a 30% solution of white vinegar, which is diluted with water and then sprayed on the area. Cover the entire plot with black plastic for one week, then remove plastic.
ADD COMPOST AND SEED
As Brijette explains, “After the ground is prepared, find a good source for compost such as Miramar Landfill in San Diego or Oceanside Waste Management. Since the compost is quite heavy, I use a colander with large holes to sift the soil, scattering it over the new bed.
“You can also use a product such as Fox Farm compost, but it does get expensive, and the landfill compost is free!”
Brijette’s seed company produces a Southwestern mix that includes Corn Poppy, Desert Penstemon, California Bluebells, Prairie Cornflower, Peruvian Zinnias, to name a few.
The seed from the San Diego Seed Company is harvested directly from their urban farm, so gardeners can be certain that it will be suitable for the North County area.
Other companies such as American Meadows Seed Company, Botanical Interests and High Country Gardens all have online websites with a wide variety of seed suitable for this area.
The seed is applied after the compost is laid down. Many gardeners place the wildflowers and fine sand in large plastic container with holes in the lid and simply shake over the new plot.
Rake and water with an overhead hose, then place a large piece of burlap over the entire plot until small sprouts appear.
According to Brijette, “In California, the first sprouts will appear after the rains of November, and the first flowers which will be the poppies, will appear in early December. After that, there will a non-stop show of color, from December through late springtime.”
The San Diego Seed Company includes seed selection and instructional materials at sandiegoseedcompany.com, and can be reached at 858-736-6872.
The seeds are also available at local independent nurseries such as Anderson’s La Costa Nursery, Green Thumb Nursery and local hardware stores.
Many websites have instructional materials and videos featuring wildflower gardening, including “Self-Sowing Natives,” an article in the most recent edition of The American Gardener, the magazine of the American Horticultural Society magazine article. More at ahsgardening.org.
Our local Carlsbad Community Garden Committee also has free information regarding creating a pollinator garden and how to obtain free seeds at www.carlsbadcommunitygardens.org.
Best of luck with your wildflower garden — the birds and the bees will love it, and so will you!
Jano Nightingale is a horticulturist, and former Director of the Cornell Master Gardener Program in Cooperstown, New York. She works on community gardens in North County and can be reached at [email protected]