One of the New Year resolutions Lisa and I
made for 2011 is to walk together more often. Besides keeping
us in shape, trudging up and down Prescott’s hills keeps
my back more comfortable, which should make spring gardening
chores easier. Because we always take along our chocolate Lab,
Baja, and our new Scottish terrier, Bailey, not only do Lisa
and I spend more time together but also all four of us are happier
Our walks take us around the neighborhood and next to the wilder
parts of the Yavapai Tribes reservation. The snow has melted
and landscapes are beginning to thaw with new seedlings beginning
their spring journeys into bloom. The wild yarrow and four o’clocks
are already up, not blooming, but showing strong growth. It’s
very exciting for a gardener to spot signs of spring in January!
Over a month ago, just before that nasty storm hit, I dedicated
a column to planting wildflowers. If seed had been sown back
then, new seedlings already would be showing spring growth.
Now the weather has turned so nice that I thought another reminder
as to the best planting technique and seed types was apropo.
It’s not too late to plant wildflowers, but for best germination
you do need to get these wilder seeds into the ground before
the middle of March.
The high country of Arizona has the perfect climate for wildflowers,
but there are a few secrets to successful sowing. First has
to do with the seed mix. A seed mix that works really well and
is really easy to use is the 'Ultra Wildflowers' seed collection
by AmTurf. It includes the mulch, seed, and fertilizer premixed
in one easy-to-use bag. It’s a very good mix for our region.
'Beauty Beyond Belief' is the seed of choice for wildflower
purists. It is the best collection of truly wild seeds collected
throughout the Rocky Mountains for use at high elevations. This
family business is so helpful to local garden centers that,
by working together, we were able to develop an 'Arizona Mix'
of wildflowers. This mix is my favorite of the dozens of good
local wildflower mixes I sell.
You have plenty of time to plant your wildflowers, but try to
finish by the end of February. There are four simple steps that
really make a difference between wildflower success and failure.
Here are the specific planting techniques that I count on to
guarantee breath-taking crops of wildflowers:
Step 1: Select and prepare the planting area. Wildflowers, except
those that are shade loving, need a considerable amount of sunshine
so choose an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight
Planting in weed-free soil assures optimal results so pull out
any growth you don’t want mixed in with your wildflowers.
Then rake the seedbed to loosen the top 1"- 2" inches
of soil. I find that better growth occurs when a natural plant
food is raked into the seedbed when loosening the topsoil. My
'All Purpose Plant Food' is well suited for this use. It releases
slowly throughout the spring and is exactly what’s needed
during the germination period because slow feeding creates healthier
roots and better flowers.
Step 2: Create your own hydro mulch. Some of the seeds in a
mix are so small you can barely tell if you’ve spread
the seeds evenly across the soil. Buy a bag of composted mulch,
pour it into a wheelbarrow, and mix in the seed. Spread this
seed-mulch blend over the prepared seedbed. This simple trick
helps you see where the seed is placed, ensures good seed to
soil contact, insulates the seed, and camouflages it from hungry
Step 3: Keep the seedbed moist. If sufficient moisture is present,
seeds will start to germinate by the end of February through
April, as soon as soil temperatures warm. Regardless of planting
location, your wildflowers will require supplemental water if
it doesn't rain enough to keep the seedbed moist. A layer of
snow over your seedbed is perfect for wildflowers. It maximizes
germination every time without extra watering.
Step 4: Re-seed. In the fall, after the blooms are off and
the seed heads are ready to drop, you can help spread your wildflowers
for the following spring. Just trim back the drying plants with
a weed whacker. Besides pruning back the flowerbed, this will
send a mixture of seeds flying throughout the garden for next
My mind has been on wildflowers because today’s garden
class is ‘Wildflowers Unleashed’. If you like hands-on
demonstrations this is a great opportunity, and the class is
free. Class starts today at 9:30 and, held inside our largest
greenhouse, it is toasty warm even on a chilly morning. See
all of this spring’s garden classes on my Watters facebook
page under the events listing.
I also will be covering wildflowers in depth on the radio today
on KQNA 1130am & 99.9fm from 11:00 to noon. With this hour
of garden interviews, tips, tricks, and techniques plus the
info in this column, you could become an expert wildflower grower!
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The folks at Google just sent me a 5-minute video specific
to me. I run one of the largest garden Internet sites in the
state and this was their way of saying thank you. So funny I
had to watch it a couple times myself. This is the beauty of
Facebook; when I see something shareable it’s easy to
post for others to see.
Until next week, I'll see you at the garden center.