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Love wildflowers? Here’s how to grow your own garden super bloom

With the abundant rains and sunshine in 2019 came the spectacular super blooms of wildflowers throughout California.

But even in years with less than ample rainfall, you, too, can grow your own wildflower garden.

You do not need a large field — just a patch of dirt in your garden. You can even grow wildflowers on that little strip of dirt between your sidewalk and the street, sometimes called a tree belt, which can be a gardening challenge.

Soil preparation should be your first consideration. If you plant flowers native to your area, then it should be minimal.

California native plants thrive in nutrient-poor soil. However, they do need good drainage so you may need to amend clay soil with gypsum.

When looking for wildflowers to grow, consider their natural habitat and that they are compatible to your garden soil.

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Pot marigold and purple lupine are among the wildflowers blooming in Henry Hilgert’s half-acre garden at his Garden Farms home north of Santa Margarita. Growing wildflowers in your garden David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

If a plant seems to be performing poorly, you can always amend with a fertilizer made for flowers during the growing season, which is generally early spring to summer.

Should you plant seeds or transplants? There are several good wildflower seed mixes available on the market.

In fact, there’s a wildflower seed grower in Carpenteria that grows a good portion of their seeds and plants in Santa Ynez. S&S Seeds only sells wholesale, but their seeds are used throughout California and the nation in wildflower mixes.

The company’s website, www.ssseeds.com, has an amazing plant database available to the public. There, you can look up native flowers to research their characteristics and see if they will grow in your garden.

If you are going to plant transplants, buy from a local nursery. They will carry native plants specific to your growing area that will thrive with your microclimate and soil requirements.

Flowers taken from their natural habitat generally will not do well when transplanted. Also, this depletes the native species and destroys food and natural habitats for wildlife.

So, what flowers should you grow? California poppies, also known as golden poppies, are always the easiest. Once established, they will self-seed and may become prolific throughout your garden. What a beautiful problem to have!

Goldfields, tidy tips, and baby blue eyes are all low-growing flowers that will add color and are native to the Central Coast. Lupine grows as a bush and as flowers — important information to know when buying seeds.

The easiest way to grow a wildflower garden is to buy a wildflower mix.

There are mixes for butterfly or pollinator gardens, as well as shade, meadow, mountains and even beaches.

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Baby blue eyes are among the wildflowers blooming in Henry Hilgert’s half-acre garden at his Garden Farms home north of Santa Margarita. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

All have flowers that grow well in a specific climate and soil. It really depends on how much area you want to plant and which type of garden you want to grow.

Now is the time to start planning your garden for next spring, as a lot of seeds need to be sown in the fall.

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A baby snapdragon grows alongside a California poppy at Henry Hilgert’s Garden Farms home north of Santa Margarita. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Make sure you know the water requirements of the plants.

A few natives require almost no supplemental water if they are planted in the fall. But if it is a dry year, even established drought-tolerant plants will need a little extra water.

Summer watering is a necessity when plants are outside of their natural habitat — especially if you want them to continue blooming well into the summer.

During the hottest months, extra water may be necessary to keep new plants alive and help to keep established plants looking their best.

It is best to water early in the morning by drip or hand watering. Do not use overhead sprinklers.

Even with supplemental watering some plants will naturally die off during the summer months. Do not trim back or pull the plant until you have allowed it to release any seeds to sow for next year’s flowers.

If you allow the flowers to continually reseed, you will have flowers for years.

Tami Reece has been growing and preserving food for more than 30 years. Her passion is vegetables, especially tomatoes, with a goal of growing 10 new heirlooms each year. She is also a master gardener and master food preserver. If you know of any unique gardens or a garden-related event, please contact her at rosepetalranch96@gmail.com. Please contact a minimum of six weeks prior to the event.
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