Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry up! Those wildflowers won't plant themselves. Huh? 

We're in prime wildflower planting season here in Central Texas. There's a very brief window for planting in the fall.  The optimal time is in the late part of October, but any time in October through mid-November will work.

Here's a little trick I like to use when broadcasting seeds by hand.  I mix the seed in a bucket with some compost and vermiculite (you could also use sand). The vermiculite or sand is a lighter color than the soil and will help you see where you have already spread seeds. Vermiculite has the added bonus of retaining water, which helps the seeds along. The compost adds bulk to the process, so I'm not tempted to spread the seeds to densely, and it helps lightly cover the seeds as well.

Early in October I had a idea. My poor hubby nearly ran screaming until I told him tractor work was involved. I didn't know it at the time, but he was secretly working on my birthday present out back when I asked him to use the box blade to cut me a wide, lazy S path right through the middle of the meadow. Bless his heart; he just rolled with the punches and helped me with my project. What a guy!

In the picture below, the path separates the meadow into 2 parts. In the space to the left of the path, I plan to grow clumping native grasses and wildflowers.  

To the right of the path, I constructed a low berm. The berm will allow me to grow cactus and other plants which require better drainage. To the right of the berm on the higher ground, I plan to grow small trees, native perennials, and more grasses.

Here is a close up of the berm.  It may not look like it, but I planted 30 - 1 gallon perennials and dozens of 4 inch plants in the berm and surrounding area.  The plants included various yucca, big red sage, wine cup, zexmenia, golden rod, and turk's cap among others.

I planted 6 trees on the high side of the path where the drainage is better; 3 Mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa), a golden leadball (Leucaena retusa), a Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia Mexicana), and the plant pictured below, the Texas olive (Cordia boissieri). 

The Texas olive, also called the Mexican olive, has beautiful white flowers that develop into a good sized fruit. Though not a true olive, the fruits are relished by birds and wildlife. 

While clearing the weeds from the wildflower planting area, I hit a snag. Yep, that's Bermuda. This area was never planted as a lawn, so I'm thinking the grass must have migrated to this spot from the nearby septic field.  

I started trying to remove the Bermuda by hand, but decided I probably didn't have enough wildflower seed to cover the whole space any way.  I think the Bermuda will have to be sprayed or solarized next summer.  It seems to be isolated to this one space, which I think may contain a seep spring that fed the grass over the years.

Mowing this area has made it tough to tell if any native species are still hanging in there, but I did find these three survivors. The first is a little bush with yellow flowers. This photo doesn't do it justice. It's really adorable. If you recognize it, please let me know.

The other two survivors can be seen in the picture below.  The grass on the left is a little bluestem and to it's right is an American beautyberry.  Both of these plants are native to this area, so I plan to encourage them along.

The wildflower seeds and all the plants were installed just in time for a little storm this past Monday.  Now all that's left to do is wait until spring.


  1. What a great project, looking forward to next chapter! This is gardening on a completely different scale than what I can do in my tiny, postage stamp size garden, I so wish I had room to plant 30 odd plants in one go! If I want to plant something I first have to chuck out something else to make space….Good luck with your wildflowers!

    1. I've been gardening on this 2 acre home site for over 20 years, but I still find scale very challenging. The amount of plant material it takes to fill the space is sometimes quite daunting. Fortunately, I have many garden friends who share their extras with me.

      I've sometimes longed for a smaller space, especially one as lovely as yours, but I've never considered the fact that you would have to make tough choices about which plants to keep or part with. Thanks for the perspective.

  2. hey nice post meh, You are one of the best writers I've seen of recent. I love your style of blogging here. this post reminds me of an equally interesting post that I read some time ago on Daniel Uyi's blog: Why You Should Always Bless Those You Come In Contact With .
    keep up the good work friend. I will be back to read more of your posts.


  3. Great choice to keep the new area near the meadow to native plants. These recent rains have kept many plants wet when they shouldn't be. Always a challenge in our climate.

    I like your trick with the wildflower seed and will give it a try next year. I planted before the rain and now see a few sprouts of bluebonnets and poppies. Now it's time to wait and see how we did.