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Wildflowers (and introducing our new chickens)

Written by Carolyn on July 20th, 2012.      10 comments

This year we are very excited about our garden....  after a few years of keeping our vegetable garden tucked tidily out of sight behind the house, we have decided to let it all hang out - we're going to let it spread to the front lawn!   We have all sorts of plans (we'll keep you posted with results as time goes by).  The first step has been to join the ranks of chicken lovers.  We now have six beautiful ladies living it up in a chicken dome on the front lawn.  

dome sm

So far, the chickens have been a huge amount of fun.  We have spent a lot of time reading library books about chickens, found out lots of things we didn't know, and spent a weekend bringing our new chickens home and settling them in.  Since then we have spent quite a lot of time just watching them!  It's a lot of fun letting them out and watching them scratching their way around the garden.  They all have their different personalities.  It's amazingly easy to see where each chicken fits into the pecking order.

Bella

Here are just a couple of the things I have learnt about chickens:

mallow and puffEven if you arrange beforehand with your husband that killing chickens will be his job if it ever needs doing, you will still have a huge problem with the idea of killing any chickens if you go ahead and name them all and instantly get very attached to them.

Your workmates will laugh and you and call you a townie if you even contemplate washing your chickens (yes, we do live in town!).

Chickens poo a LOT.  Actually, this is part of the garden plan, because the chickens will fertilise and help to cultivate the garden beds before we plant them. 

Chickens like silver beet/swiss chard.  Ours leave the pink stems but they gobble the rest. 

Alongside the vegetable beds we are planning to sow chicken greens so there will be some tasty greens for them to eat.  Hopefully we'll have some good photos to show you as time goes by. 

Another thing we are planning to sow is some wildflowers, to draw beneficial insects into the garden and to give some pretty summer wildflowers...

... which leads me on to.....

 

 

WILDFLOWERS !

Since August and September are good months in which to sow wildflowers, here are a few tips for sowing and growing your own wildflower garden or meadow.

For best results, you will need to do some preparation.....

Preparing your site

In any place you are intending to grow wildflowers, it is likely that there will already be seeds in the soil - when these weed seeds germinate they will compete with your wildflowers.  To create a beautiful wildflower plot you will need clear the site and there will need to be some ongoing maintenance:

Remove all unwanted vegetation from the site.... Lightly till the soil surface but do not dig it over too deeply as this will just encourage more weed seeds to germinate.  Allow time for new weed seeds to come away and then remove these new weeds.  Either weed them out, or burn all the vegetation and then use a weed killer to kill the roots. Don't forget to leave time for the weedkiller leave the soil before you sow your wildflowers.

Once your site is cleared, you could add a dusting of lime (1.5-1kg per m2) to help unlock the soil nutrients.  You could also add a layer of mulch to give your seeds a loose surface in which to germinate and to help maintain soil moisture.  Wildflowers are not gross feeders so you won't need vast quantities of fertiliser. 
 
 

 

Sowing your Wildflower Seeds

 
Choose the seed blend that suits your site.  Wildflower seeds are often tiny and it is therefore easy to sow too thickly.....it may be easier to sow the seeds if you mix them with an inert carrier material, like sand, sawdust or pumice.  Mix 1 part seed to 15-20 parts carrier.  Seeds can be hand broadcast and then raked in.  Don't cover the seed too deeply - 1cm is enough.  Keep lightly moist for 4-6 weeks while the seeds germinate.  Once they are established, your wildflowers will survive periods of low rainfall, but will benefit from some irrigation in Spring and Summer.  The best time to sow wildflowers is in Spring and Autumn and now is a good time to begin to prepare your wildflower bed.

Maintenance of your wildflower display will need to include a regular programme of weed control - as soon as you spot a weed, get rid of it!   Pull it out or spot spray with a herbicide. 
 

Keeping your Wildflower bed going

If you would like to keep your wildflower area for blooming again the following year, there are some things you can do to help your wildflowers establish as the dominant species.

Allow the plants to self-seed as much as possible, and then when flowering appears to be over and the plants are starting to turn brown (in Autumn), mow or cut the plants down.   You could leave the cuttings on the surface so that any remaining seeds can be released. 

Also pull out any noticeable weeds at this point. If the soil has hardened, lightly rake it over and re-sow wildflower seeds for next year's flowers. 

Wish us luck with our wildflower bed this season ...  and if you are also planning to grow some wildflowers, don't forget to pick some!

Topics: flowers livestock