Start a Native Wildflower Garden
Why Plant a Native Wildflower Garden?
They are practical.
· Wildflowers are an excellent way to beautify your school, community or home.
· Wildflowers are adapted to the local climate and require little care once established.
They are friendly to the environment.
· Native mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects need them for food and habitat.
· Wildflowers are a safe alternative to planting non-native species which can escape into forests and parks, out-competing native vegetation and disrupting wildlife.
· Wildflowers do not require hazardous chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides.
They are educational.
· Students of all ages can be involved in planning, growing and planting.
· Wildflower gardens provide numerous multi-disciplinary opportunities for hands-on student activities.
1. Start small, think BIG. Start with a small garden that can serve as the "nursery" (a future source of seed and transplants) as you expand and/or start new gardens. Familiarize yourself with the native plants. (When do they bloom? How tall are they? How quickly do they spread?) Try new species at a smaller scale before making plans for a larger wildflower garden.
2. Plan for success. Try a sunny wildflower garden because it tends to be the easiest to establish and the most successful. Seed and plants are readily available, plants bloom within one to two years, they are colorful, and plant information is readily available. Once this garden is well established, consider adding grasses, shrubs, and trees or perhaps experiment with a woodland or wetland garden for diversity.
3. Obtain permission form those responsible for the property you plan to use for your native wildflower garden. Get their support and get them excited.
4. Look for a suitable site. Consider a few sites before choosing the final location.
Look for a location which receives sunlight for the most or all of the day (unless planting a woodland garden that requires shade).
Any vegetation (turf grass or weeds) that may compete with the native plants will need to be removed.
Test the soil
This will determine what type of plants will do best at this site and how to prepare the soil before planting. Dig down with a shovel or trowel at least 8 inches. Is the soil mostly sand (gritty) or clay (sticky)? Is it compacted (hard to dig) or loose?
Is the site located away from heavy use area? How will it be protected form trampling, hungry animals, and snow plows? Rock or wood border, fence, and/or signs may be used. Note: Perennial flowers in raised beds more than a few inches above ground level may freeze out in the winter.
Visibility and accessibility
Is it in a central, visible location? How will viewers access the garden? Are paths necessary?
Prepare the garden site
1. Remove existing vegetation: turf grass should be dug up by hand and removed from the site OR black plastic can be placed to cover the area the summer prior to planting in order to remove (bake) turf grass and any weed seeds in the soil.
2. If the soil is compacted or high in clay, plan to mix organic matter into the soil before planting. This can be done by spreading leaves, grass clippings, compost, sawdust, and/or peat moss over the area prior to the next step.
3. Thoroughly rototill or hand-turn the soil with a shovel.
Choose your flowers to suit the soil. These examples are for sunny locations.
Start your seed indoors
Starter containers (small cells with holes in bottom with plastic covers or wrap)
Shallow watering tray
Starter soil (vermiculite and peat mix works well)
Fluorescent lights or a south-facing window
Plant your seed in mid to late April.
- Fill cells with planting mix.
- Plant 3-4 seeds per cell at a depth twice their diameter and gently firm soil.
- "Bottom water" by placing the cells in a tray of water.
- Cover with plastic.
- Place under fluorescent lamps, or in a south window with a backdrop of aluminum foil to reflect sunlight onto the tray.
When the seeds sprout remove plastic covering and continually adjust fluorescent light to within about one inch above seedlings. Continue "bottom watering" as necessary, allowing soil surface to dry out slightly between watering.
Planting the garden
Near the last frost date in your area, gradually "harden-off" the plants by placing them outside so they will receive gradually increasing amounts of sunlight over at least a one week period. When ready to plant, dig holes in your prepared plot using appropriate spacing and depth for the plants.
Gently push up from the bottom of the cell to remove plants without damaging roots. Hold them in the holes so that the soil lines match while filling in the void with soil. Firm the soil to create a shallow depression which will hold water.
Water gently and often for the next several weeks until the plants become well established. Carefully remove any weeds by hand. Be patient, some species will take off the first year and bloom, while others will remain small the first year and bloom starting the second year. Most plants will readily reseed or multiply; these seedlings or plant diversions can be used to enlarge your garden or give to friends.
Sources of seeds, plants, and information
Plants for your garden can be obtained by:
1. Hand collecting or buying seed.
2. Buy ready-grown plants from a nursery.
3. Salvage native plants from wild areas being destroyed.
Possible Upper Peninsula native seed and plant sources – not a complete list and not an endorsement.
Einerlei, 42021 Willson Memorial Drive, Chassell, MI 49916
Fruit Full Acres, 4166 County 416 20th Road, Gladstone, MI 49837
Limestone Herb Company, N2690 State Highway 67, Chatham, MI 49816
More wildflower information
Wildflower Association of Michigan - www.wildflowersmich.org
Marquette County Conservation District - www.marquettecd.org