Elise Fog's Guide to
Creating Your Own Wildflower Meadow for Bees
Choose a good spot with full sun (and a spot where no pesticides or herbicides have been used!) Utilizing a septic drainage field can be a surprisingly good choice, if you have one. It is key to eliminate weeds and rhizomatous grasses from the spot. This can be done by solarization (covering the ground with clear UV stabilized plastic for a summer season) or more quickly by sod removal (with a sod cutter or tractor). The idea is to turn the area into a smooth, lightly packed surface free of clumped sod and weeds or grasses.
Assuming you have wildflower seed (check out http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-seed for region-specific bulk seed or http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center for region-specific plant lists), you then mix your seed with an equal part of inert material (slightly damp sand, vermiculite, rice hulls, or sawdust) to make it easier to broadcast evenly (this also adds to its visibility so you know where you’ve been). It is recommended that you divide it into two batches, and broadcast one batch perpendicularly with respect to the other, in order to obtain the most even seed distribution. You can use a hand-cranked seeder, or simply toss the seed as though you were scattering feed.
You’re aiming for 40-60 seeds per square foot (if you’re doing a large spot, the Xerces Seed Mix Calculator spreadsheet is invaluable, and will tell you exactly how many ounces/ pounds you need of your specific seed to achieve the ideal planting rate: http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/XERCES-SEED-MIX-CALCULATOR.xls ). The most important thing once the seeds are down is that they have good contact with the soil. You don’t need to cover them, but you do want to run a turf roller over them (you can also use tractor or ATV wheels, or in a small space, you can walk the ground to firm the seeds into it).
If you plant at the right time (early spring or late fall, depending on your location and seeds), you will need no supplementary irrigation (unless you experience inadequate rainfall). Do not fertilize your meadow, as this will only encourage weeds! Native wildflowers do not need fertilizers, and should take care of themselves well once established.
Go back to Elise's story, "Seeing is Beelieving"