In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
December, 2000
Regional Report

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Wildflowers come in all sizes, just right for a bouquet.

Wildflowers for Wild Spaces

Wildflowers speak to the essence of wide-open, deserted spaces. You can capture a bit of that freedom by sowing them in your own home garden. As long as you approximate their natural habitat, they will thrive.

Why Go Wild

For many gardeners, wildflowers offer the perfect solution for a common yard-care dilemma: how to provide a ground cover that blooms from early spring through late fall, without the necessity for frequent maintenance. While wildflowers need good soil preparation and some attention at the beginning, they'll do well afterward with minimal care.

Wildflowers don't create a formal garden look, however. Areas planted in wildflowers may appear unkempt due to faded blooms and dried and sprawling foliage lasting through the latter part of the season. The size of your wildflower patch may be anywhere from a few square feet to a large expanse.



Seeding Wildflowers

Before you plant, thoroughly clean the area of weeds to prevent competition. Cultivate the soil to a 6-inch depth and add compost or other soil amendments to clay soil for better drainage. Don't add fertilizer, however, as almost any amount of newly applied fertilizer will burn wildflower seeds. Wildflowers are used to roughing it. Scatter seeds over the soil and leave them where they fall - don't cover or otherwise disturb them. Water them lightly but thoroughly.

Water for Wildflowers

Over the next several weeks, keep the area constantly moist but not soggy. Seeds may take awhile to germinate - some may not sprout until early spring. When plants have about four leaves, start watering less frequently but longer, to encourage roots to grow deep. Hand-pull weeds but avoid compacting the planting area with too much traffic.

Let the winter rains moisten the soil lightly. Water only during long spells without rainfall and stop when the flowers begin to bloom in spring. If temperatures remain above 90oF, water them once a week.

After-Bloom Care

Pull plants as they finish blooming or leave them to dry. It'll take another month or two for the seed to ripen sufficiently to collect (if the stem doesn't snap easily, the flower head isn't dry enough), or you can allow the seed to disperse naturally.


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