31. WILDFLOWER SEED PLANTING IN FALL

Fall is the perfect time to plant wildflowers. You'll follow Mother Nature's cycle - flowers naturally drop their seeds in the fall, and they overwinter, then germinate and bloom in spring. Fall planting is an especially good time to plant in areas where you want to conserve water. Follow our step-by-step guide to planting in fall, below!

Seeds are a miracle of nature, holding the spark of life inside themselves that can stay viable for many years, even decades or centuries if storage conditions are optimum. Seeds are also a very cost-effective way to plant your property with a wide variety of wildflower species, especially when rehabilitating or restoring larger yards and fields.

In climates with cold or freezing winters, wait until November or early December to sow the seeds. You want to have several hard frosts and freezing nights, so that the soil cools sufficiently to well below 55 degrees, so that your seeds don't sprout prematurely. Or wait until a big snow is predicted, and scatter the seed before the snow flies.

Make certain that the ground temperatures have cooled enough so that when you sow there is no chance of the seed germinating. It they do, the wildflower shoots will die off with freezing temperatures. In cool climates, make sure ground temps are below 55 degrees. The biggest mistake people make with fall planting in cooler climates is sowing their seed too soon. You can wait and sow over snow in winter as well, as long as the ground has been prepared for seeding.

The Keys To Seeding Success
Patience - Seeding can be a thrilling experience. But success can take time. Sometimes it will take a couple or three growing seasons to establish a beautiful wildflower meadow, especially when seeding a large area with perennial plants. We often recommend choosing mixtures with annuals included, as you will get quick blooming results while the perennials mature.

Having realistic expectations - Know your limitations. Be realistic as to what you can afford in terms of time, energy, and money. A realistic appraisal may lead you to an incremental approach, planting in stages over several seasons.

Prepare the area to be seeded to reduce weed competition. - Working the soil to greatly reduce weed competition is key to success. And this will take time. Seeding a big field is not a weekend project.

Being willing to put in the time and effort to control weeds:
After the seeds have germinated, weed control is the work that will help to establish your new planting.

Select Plant Species That Are Regionally Appropriate
Use quality seeds of plant species that are well acclimated to your region, climate, and soil type. This will greatly enhance the long-term beauty of your seeding efforts.

Watering Your Wildflowers
Wildflower seeds need to stay consistently moist from germination until they are about 4-6 inches tall, which is about 4-6 weeks. Typically, a major advantage of fall and winter plantings is that they do not need supplemental watering in most locations.

Maintenance & Weed Control
Pulling or snipping weeds will help to encourage healthy growth in your wildflowers. This can be done by hand weeding in small areas, or mowing in larger areas where hand weeding isn't practical.

Be sure you can identify seedlings of the seeds you sowed so that you don't weed, them out by accident. You can use a plant identification app, or wait until the weeds bloom to cut them if you are not sure if it is a weed or a wildflower.

Hand Weeding. It's better to cut the weeds off just below the soil line with a weed fork or a Hori knife (or similar implement) instead of pulling the weeds. Pulling weeds disturbs the soil and actually creates a new seedbed for existing seeds in the soil, or seeds that blow into the area, to germinate.

Mowing. Mowing large-seeded areas during the growing season is a great option for helping your seedlings to establish themselves by limiting competition from weeds. You can use a lawn mower or string trimmer. Set the mower deck to a height of 4 to 5 inches and mow when the weeds reach about 8 inches tall. Repeat as needed through the first growing season. If weeds persist during the second year, additional mowing will be helpful.