Wildflowers - Knowledgebase Question

Ossining, NY
Avatar for saisselin1
Question by saisselin1
April 28, 1998
You recently responded to a question by Robert J. Davis who asked, "My condominium has a wildflower area. What is the best way to maintain them?" Your answer was helpful and informative. However, I'd like to ask you for a bit more information.

You referred to cutting them back after the first hard frost. Our landscaper cuts them after he has determined that the seeds have set; this is usually in October. Is his approach equivalent to yours or is he missing out on something significant by not waiting for the hard frost?

You refer to not being too quick to fertilize. We did fertilize once recently, about two years ago. Is a fertilization every four or five years too often?

Finally, the wildflower area was created by the builder about ten years ago. For at least the last five or six years, there are fewer flowers and more non-flowering weeds each summer. It is now mostly non-flowering weeds as opposed to flowering weeds. Is there a practical way to reverse this decline, such as spreading new seed among the existing plants, or would it take more drastic measures to re-create the wildflower field? The landscaper has suggested roto-tilling and replanting the area.

Answer from NGA
April 28, 1998
To answer your questions specifically:

1) No, I don't think you're missing out on anything by cutting back in October. The reason you wait for that first hard frost, is to be sure everything has truly set its seed and is ready for dormancy. It's simply a good indicator--but many plants shed their seeds well before that.

2) Wildflowers are "weeds". They will really do better in poor soil. They should never need to be fertilized. That may generate lots of green growth at the cost of flowers! Once they are well-established, they generally flourish on neglect.

3) I don't think sowing seed among the present plants will work. I've tried that and was totally unsuccessful. What you could do is roto-till "lanes" or "circles", or "whatever" within your meadow and plant fresh seed there. Then each year do that again, but in a different place. Also, I would recommend that when you purchase new seed that you get Perennial seed ONLY!

I hope this helped a bit anyway.

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