MANHATTAN, Kan. — Many Kansans are eager for spring to start and thinking about what plants to establish in their home gardens. K-State horticulture expert Ward Upham said it is better to choose a blend of grasses and wildflowers rather than a single species.
Upham said there are a few companies that provide regional blends of wildflowers, including Sharp Brothers, Stock Seed and Wildseed Farms. He also mentioned the importance of taking care of existing vegetation before seeding.
“These plants do not take root and grow well in areas that already have established plants,” Upham said.
Upham shared the following thoughts for increased chances of success:
• Control perennial weeds by using a product containing glyphosate.
• The goal is good seed/soil contact.
• Glyphosate used in the fall before planting makes for easier soil preparation the following spring.
• Adjust pH and fertilize according to results of a soil test before planting.
• Seedbed should be firm, allowing the boot heel to sink no more than ½ inch.
• Seed can be mixed with damp sand (4:1 sand/seed) for more uniform coverage with a drop seeder or whirlybird spreader.
• Keep seed moist while the seed is germinating.
• Seed should be raked in about ¼ inch deep. It is best if the seedbed is firmed up by using a roller or driving over the area with a riding lawn mower. Don’t mulch.
Planting dates may vary, but warm-season grasses and most prairie flowers should be seeded between April 1 and May 15.
“Make sure the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit before planting,” Upham said. “Soil thermometers are often available in garden centers, hardware stores and auto stores.”
Upham said soil pH should be monitored when establishing wildflowers and native grasses.
“Native grasses and many native wildflowers do well within a wide pH range,” Upham said. “Any pH between 5.5 and 8 should work.”
Upham recommends hand weeding with care to avoid uprooting small prairie flowers and mowing as high as possible to help control fast growing weeds while preserving foliage on the prairie flower.
Upham and his colleagues in K-State’s Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources produce a weekly Horticulture Newsletter with tips for maintaining home landscapes. The newsletter is available to view online or can be delivered by email each week.
— Emily Halstead, K-State Research and Extension news service