Update on Wildflower Garden

update on wildflower garden

To start off this season I want to provide an update on a wildflower garden I started at the very end of last garden season. It was an experiment I convinced management at our local hospice to permit me to try.

I called it the lasagna method.

Surviving the Winter

Today I visited the site to see how it looked now that winter is (hopefully) behind us. The leaves are long gone as expected in such a windy area. Watering them down did not do the trick as hoped. Wildflower gardens in my future plans will be sure to include an additional layer of soil on top of the leaf layer. I thought of that for this one but the budget did not permit it as it is a huge area.

The good news is that the soil is all still in place with no cardboard peaking through.

update on wildflower garden
update on wildflower garden

There are no new green sprouts yet but it’s still a bit early to expect those. Especially considering we had a few snowfalls as recent as three days ago! There are a few dandelions, of course, something you have to expect from bulk orders of soil.

Winter Sowing Experiment

I do however have sprouts in the other half of this garden experiment. Remember my post on Winter Sowing of seeds? I was ambitious and started seeds in 22 clear plastic containers. They lived out in the elements on my back deck for the winter. We had lots of snow and extended stretches of cold temperatures, so I was leary on how successful this experiment would be.

update on wildflower garden

Permanent Markers not so Permanent

The biggest problem with the experience was that the permanent marker I used to label the containers with was not so permanent. Fortunately, I recorded the numbers in several spots on each container. With the help of my strongest reading glasses, I was (barely) able to decipher the numbers. Phew!

Sprouts!

I did discover a few sprouts in some of the containers, also with the help of my reading glasses. Amazing! I cannot wait until the sprouts are big enough to transplant into their new home. Sorry, these pics are so blurry, the condensation within each container prevented clearer shots. The white squiggly things are sprouts, the last two even have green leaves reaching for the sunlight at the top.

Starting Seeds Indoors

I also started seeds indoors. This I have done before, although I have never had much luck. To increase my chances of success, I purchased two warming mats to keep the seeds and seedlings warmer. Especially as I have them growing in my basement in front of a sunny window…

Designing the Wildflower Garden

In the meantime, I plan to create a design for the placement of the new plants within the sections of the wildflower garden created by the stepping stones. Each type of plant has been assigned a code (A2 or C4 etc) based on the plant’s height at maturity as well as flower colour and bloom time. This way the RSH garden team can simply follow a detailed diagram.

In the center of each section, I will plant tall yellow sunflowers, boneset, purple aster, cleome, and Joe Pye Weed. The next layer will consist of plants a bit shorter in stature. Think purple and grey coneflowers, red sunflowers, various colours of poppies, cosmos, milkweed, goldenrod, steeplebush, and bugbane. A bit shorter yet, black-eyed susans, penstemon, rudbeckia, and verbena will be planted. The final layer will consist of edging (short) plants such as lavender, heuchera, salvia, stonecrop, lamium, and more.

Can you picture it? I can!

I will post another update on this wildflower garden when planting is complete.

Stay tuned!

Lasagna Method Ends Garden Season

Turn Your Hobby into a business

This week Gardens4u and the volunteer garden team at Ruddy Shenkman Hospice (RSH) created a wildflower/butterfly garden using the “lasagna method.” This technique is used to smother grass instead of digging it up, saving both our back muscles and the nutrients (nitrogen) within the grass.

What Layers to Use in Lasagna Method

Use large pieces of cardboard, or any other compostable ingredients, ending with a layer of soil. A warning though: be sure to choose items that will not entice rodents to dig up your garden. We did try newspaper too, especially over the cracks/holes in the cardboard. It was so windy though that the lightweight paper was difficult to hold in place. We used small stones (you can see some in the pictures) to hold the layers in place.

If time permits (before the snow flies) we hope to add another compostable layer to the “lasagna” over the seeds in the form of mulched leaves. The leaves will also help hold the seeds and bits of newspaper in place.

Plants of Choice for a Butterfly Garden

After the cardboard and soil were layered over the lawn, we sprinkled seeds over the soil. We used tall, flat and large flowered, butterfly-loving, native perennials and self-sowing annuals. I chose various coneflowers, tall phlox, monarda (AKA beebalm), joe pye weed, globe thistles, black-eyed-susans, filipendula, asters, and many others. All were harvested from my own or clients’ gardens.

In the spring we plan to supplement the seedlings (if necessary) with plant donations (if you live in my area, contact me when dividing your perennials in the spring). We will move some seedlings around for a lush, but informal wildflower look to contrast with the existing formal beds created and tended over the years.

Finishing Touches

Flagstones were added to create a meandering path through the garden. These stepping stones also enable our garden team to access sections of the garden for maintenance such as watering and weeding.

Finishing touches in the spring will also include tidying up the outer edge of the garden for a neater appearance. I may or may not add shorter perennials to the outer edges. I am still undecided about that call as I do not want to ruin the informal, natural look.

Here are some pictures of the lasagna procedure, in chronological order:

That’s me on the phone, ordering more soil from Lancosa Landscaping who delivered two loads of garden soil on short notice. They also generously donated the second load after learning about this volunteer project at the RSH.

Lasagna Method Garden Project Ends Gardens4u Season

Great work team! Many thanks to those of you who donated your time and muscle power, cardboard, newspapers, and seeds.

Stay tuned for a spring update!

photo credit