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Monday - September 29, 2008

From: Kilgore, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Raised bed for wildflowers in Kilgore TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Please give me ideas of how to build a raised wildflower garden in a small back yard with 50% shade all day. I have common bermuda grass with an area of a 5' X 10' setting that will receive the most sunlight. Do I need to plant in October? How do I need to maintain seeds thru the winter? I want to have grandkids assist with this project as a learning experience. I want my wildflowers to be native Texas plants.


We'd like to start by asking you to read some articles that will give you information better than we could. The first is our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants. Basically, that's what you're planning to do, establish a large container to plant wildflowers.We also have an article on Getting Started on Large Scale Wildflower Planting. Read it only if you promise not to let it scare you off. You're talking 50 square feet and the article is talking acres. But it has some good points on preparing the soil, when to seed, etc. It even mentions volunteers, a category which I think your grandchildren will fit into nicely. As to the bed itself, start with this website from University of Illinois Extension The Green Line, click on "Build a Raised Bed" and it will give you some basics. And, finally, a slightly more commercial website, but still useful: Raised Garden Beds (eartheasy). Then, read this recent article from the Austin American Statesman Planting Wildflowers? This was written as a part of an ongoing project called "Lady Bird's Legacy" and has information provided by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center staff. 

As you can see, there is considerable work involved in getting ready for your project, and wildflower seeds do need to be planted in the Fall. You know better than we do whether your schedule and your budget can get something like this going quickly enough for this year's wildflower crop. The very first thing we suggest you do is get rid of that bermudagrass! A non-native grass that has become an invasive weed for gardeners all over North America, but especially in the South, it needs to go. The best way to do it is to use a sharp shovel or even a sod cutter to just remove the sod, after you've marked off the dimensions of your plot. That stuff can survive anything, including being buried, and you will have enough trouble with weeds popping up in your wildflowers from blown-in seeds without having the rhizomes of bermudagrass poking up and starting a new lawn. 

If you don't yet have your seed, or know what you want to plant, we suggest you go to this website for Native American Seed in Junction, Texas, where they are featuring wildflower seeds as a part of the Lady Bird's Legacy project.  They have an online catalog and mail order. We feel this is a wonderful experience you are planning for your grandchildren, and hope it will help them grow up to be more aware of their environment and the usefulness of native plants.


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