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I'm planing on establishing a fairly large area - 1000 sq ft - as a sort of wildflower meadow. The area is currently lawn with pretty good quality soil. I live in Asheville, NC zone 6.

Here is my question: I have established wildflower meadows by seed before and have always cleared the area of existing grass and weeds before sowing the seed. My tiller is not currently operating and I really don't feel like hand digging the whole area to remove grass, so here is my plan. I'll cut the grass super short and add a thin layer of compost to the area. I'll sow my seed onto the compost and compress with a roller. I will then cover the area with cardboard for two to three months (until grass is sufficiently dead) into the winter. I will then remove the cardboard at the beginning of spring or earlier and hopefully be left with no living plants but a nice wildflower seed bed. I will be sowing the seed in a few weeks so it naturally stratifies over the winter.

Will covering the seedbed with cardboard for a few months affect germination negatively? I'm aware some flower seeds require light for germination, however, if I removed the cardboard before spring, then it should be fine yeah? I'm interested in hearing what ya'll have to say about this. It would sure save me a lot of work!

Here are the species included in the mix I will use.

Annual Baby’s Breath, Annual Phlox, Black-Eyed Susan, Clasping Coneflower, Corn Poppy, Four O’Clocks, Gayfeather, Gilia, Indian Blanket, Lemon Mint, Lance-Leaved Coreopsis, Leavenworth’s Tickseed, Moss Verbena, New England Aster, Perennial Lupine, Plains Coreopsis, Purple Coneflower, Scarlet Flax, Scarlet Sage, Sulphur Cosmos and Tree Mallow.

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    That should work for killing the grass, but under cardboard you are likely to damage the seeds. I would sow the seeds in the spring, after the ground starts thawing. Whether or not the lawn receives commercial lawn care, and what kind of care, will affect the answer also – J. Musser Nov 4 '16 at 15:40
  • Thanks for the response. I'm curious, why do you think the seeds would be damaged under cardboard? There won't be foot traffic on it and the homeowner does the lawncare and will know to keep away from it. – Tyler K. Nov 6 '16 at 18:15
  • Anything organic will rot with constant moisture. Not enough air, aeration. Those seeds will rot during the winter. In the spring you're going to pull up that cardboard in little pieces, it will be goo, the grass will be goo the roots will still be there , bad seed bed. Still going to have to get rid of the sod roots. Are you going to use your own seed, plant perennials, plant starts or do you want this to be a one time gig? Flower beds should be raised for best drainage, soil will warm faster allowing you to sow seed earlier in the spring. You want to have success, yes? – stormy Nov 7 '16 at 8:48
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+100

I thought of doing the same on a piece of land I own. I thought a lot about it, and now I finally got the chance of building a new house on that property. So what I'm thinking now is I'll wait after the digging machines are done with their job, wait they put back the earth in place and put the seed afterwards.

I tried it on someone else property where I saw the bull machines operating: I offered them the seeds and went there in spring with my little rake. Great results, see below.

So my advice here is instead of killing with chemicals (which I absolutely hate especially if you want wildlife there afterwards), is you ask a peasant around if she could run her plowing machine. Then you can spread the new seeds.

Beautiful result:

enter image description here

  • Yummm, nice chunk of flowers! Did you plant Red White 'n Blue on purpose? Do you reseed each year or how long will this patch last, coming back each year? – stormy Nov 17 '17 at 22:38
  • @Stormy, I bought the seeds from the store. The're meant to last 2 years but here is only the first. Not sure it can last long without proper care... We'll see. I guess there is work to do for it to keep it in shape. I've mowed over the flowers once the seeds had ripen. – J. Chomel Nov 18 '17 at 7:47
  • Please let us know how it reseeds. Grins. Everything we humans try to grow is artificial and will never be self replicating. Never. Sadly. Mowing without bagging after ripening is perfect. In the spring I'd give a balanced fertilizer. Did they give you a written warranty? – stormy Nov 18 '17 at 10:12
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Go rent a sod cutter. Easy peasy. You can then take the sod and turn it over to make some softly rolling plant beds so it isn't just flat. Get some top soil and cover all with a couple of inches and roll. Or use the sod for plant beds around your foundation (watch for drainage back into your foundation keeping sod, soil, gravel 4" below siding 2" below bottom of fences). Wait to seed in the spring unless you live in a mild winter area and you know what seed you are using.

Another solution would be to cut out 'sweeps' leaving a path of lawn or a lawn patio to place a few chairs and a table to sit among the flowers. Add a small patio tree or an umbrella. Use the sod turned over to give some definition and height to the wild flower 'sweeps'. Find a few chunks of grayed picket fencing and place behind the little seating area. Erect a handsome scarecrow with a wheelbarrow overflowing with wildflowers. That will give your area a 3rd dimension instead of being 2D. Go find some ornamental grasses to give movement when there is a breeze. My favorites are Mexican Feather grass (this will probably reseed itself), Maidenhair grass, for 'walls'. Perhaps a 'sweep' of dwarf fountain grass. Always do natural 'clumps' or 'sweeps' of a grass or allow it to be a partial fence.

What you are thinking of doing just won't work. Can't kill and grow new stuff at the same time. And rethink taking up all of the lawn. Make that area a place people would like to putz in, entertain a guest, read a good book. Otherwise it is just a plot of wildflowers to look at from a distance.

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    I appreciate your design concepts, but a plot of wildflowers to gaze at and from a distance is actually the exact goal of this project. The homeowner is transforming their property into a bee and wildlife sanctuary, so it's mostly for them, not the humans =]. – Tyler K. Nov 6 '16 at 18:19
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    I'm not quite sure of your reasoning for why my idea wouldn't work though? The grass would die while covered over the winter and I would remove the cardboard before spring. Then the seeds should have a plant free bed to germinate in. – Tyler K. Nov 6 '16 at 18:24
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    The only part of this answer that even remotely approaches addressing the question is "Can't kill and grow.....same time." The rest is subject design mumbo jumbo. This is a low quality answer. – That Idiot Nov 15 '17 at 13:30
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    Actually, yes, giving too much information - especially information unrelated to the question - is a lower quality answer. There is a plethora of information on the internet about almost any question asked on the Stack Exchange. People come here to cut through all the nonsense and get direct, concise, expert answers - so they don't have to read through dozens of opinion pieces to glean the 2 sentences that directly answer their question. IMVHO. – That Idiot Nov 16 '17 at 12:25
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    @Stormy - Although I don't agree completely with your statement about the proximity required to appreciate a wildflower patch, I'm not going to argue about such opinion. My ONLY point in commenting is that the original post was a fairly straightforward technical question that is best answered directly. – That Idiot Nov 17 '17 at 11:38

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