Activity: Plant a New Wildflower Garden Native plants are the best choice for a wildflower garden. “Native” means that the plants are originally from the area. They are better adapted for the local climate and will likely grow better. Non-native plants can take over an area and become invasive — choking out the native plants and their native flowers and seeds that feed the local insects, birds and other animals. To learn more about native plants check out the website: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native—plant Fall is a good time to plant native wildflower seeds. Planting wildflower seeds in late October is perfect. In nature, seeds drop from plants at this time and “over winter” or stay on or in the ground during the winter months. For the seeds of some wildflowers to successfully sprout, the seeds have to be in cold winter temperatures for six to eight weeks. You can plant seeds after the soil is turned over just a little. If you mix the seeds with sand you will be able to see where the seeds are planted. Cover the seeds with leaves or a light layer of mulch to protect them from hungry birds over the winter. Seeds of plants that will become tall are best planted in the back row of your wildflower garden. Some perfect native wildflowers for attracting butterflies include purple coneflower, black-eyed susan and butterfly milkweed. Other wildflowers attract birds. Dr. Scott Shalaway writes about wildflowers for birds in his book “Building A Backyard Bird Habitat.” He says sunflowers are perfect for seed-eating birds. Sunflower seeds are yummy for people, too! Daisies, asters and marigolds are also good choices for birdseed eaters. Goldenrod feeds sparrows and finches. Pokeweed berries are excellent fall food for birds. Hummingbirds drink nectar from wildflowers. Hollyhocks and cardinal flower are good wildflower choices for attracting hummingbirds to your yard. Some seeds will grow into plants but will not produce a bloom the first year. Perennials will not need to be replanted, but may take three years before they have flowers. Annuals bloom every year. A wildflower mix of both perennials and annuals is a good idea for your wildflower garden. Next spring your wildflower garden should start to grow. Watch your wildflower garden change and realize it doesn’t have to be perfect to be a beautiful haven for birds, butterflies and other animals. You and your family will enjoy it, too!
— Libby and Robert Strong and Richard Pollack work with the SMART Center, a hands-on science outreach and education organization in the northern Ohio Valley, the headquarters of which is located at the SMART-Centre Market, 30 22nd St., Wheeling. Visit them at www.smartcenter.org.