Happy Earth Day from Seeds Digital! Have you ever planted wildflower seeds? They are really easy to plant and are great for beautifying the landscaping of your yard. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can very easily plant wildflower seeds in containers on your deck, patio, or by your front door; anywhere you have space to grow something tall.
The glorious thing about wildflower seeds is that not only are they super easy to grow, but they provide critical habitat for beneficial pollinators, insects, and wildlife in the area. Wildflowers support healthy ecosystems and pollination, which is needed for food production. Other benefits to planting wildflowers include improving soil conditions, preventing erosion, improving water quality, and increasing forage opportunities for local wildlife.
One of the best ways to reduce our individual carbon footprint is to plant trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and other plants. Here’s a look at native plants for your New Jersey garden and things to consider as you kick off your spring gardening this Earth Day!
Consider Native Plants
When it comes to planting your spring garden, you’ll have greater success if you use plants that are native to your area. Native plants have evolved over time to adapt to the specific climate, soil, and weather conditions of the New Jersey ecosystem.
Many native plants will attract certain birds or butterflies, but there is also a great need to support habitats for insects such as pollinators, which wildflowers are great for building. The native insects and pollinators of New Jersey do best when they have access to native plants. Exotic plants from other ecosystems, while pretty, do not provide the preferred source of pollen, nectar, and fruit our local insects require.
By planting wildflowers native to New Jersey, you can help provide the habitat needed by our native birds and insects. Many native bird and insect species have seen recent declines, according to a piece by Rutgers University because there has been a lack of proper food sources and habitat for these creatures.
Wildflowers Native to New Jersey
When you plant wildflowers that are native to the climate and soil of New Jersey, they are already accustomed to the environment. This means they will grow more successfully using less water and fertilizer, making them low-maintenance.
Annual wildflowers are those that will bloom longer, set seed, then die. Perennials don’t typically bloom as long as annuals, but they will come back year after year from their roots if they are well-cared for. Know that the length of time wildflowers bloom will depend on several factors such as climate, weather, soil conditions, sun exposure, and moisture from year to year.
According to Wildflower.org, some of the wildflowers native to New Jersey include:
~Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) – perennial, white or pink, blooms mid-July to September
~Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed) – perennial, orange, blooms May to September, attracts butterflies
~Campanula rotundifolia (bluebell bellflower) – perennial, blue, purple, blooms June to September
~Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower) – perennial, red, blooms July to October
~Lobelia siphilitica (great blue lobelia) – perennial, blue, July to August
~Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan) – annual, yellow, June to October
~Symphyotrichum novi-belgii (New York aster) – perennial, pink, purple, blooms August to October
You can find more wildflowers native to New Jersey at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Setting Landscaping Goals
Before you get started with your spring garden, walk around your home and property. Look for empty areas where you could add a flower bed, put in raised beds, or simply use potted plants to add beauty to your property while creating habitats and food sources for local birds and insects. Consider where you may wish to replace plants that are not doing so well or where you can add native plants to the existing foliage.
Pollinators in New Jersey, like in other environments, have co-evolved with native plants. This means native plants are the best natural food source for pollinators, provide nesting material for them to reproduce, and provide protection from predators. Bees especially are important to New Jersey as they pollinate crops in our state such as tomatoes, peppers, peaches, and many more. You can learn more about landscaping for pollinators in New Jersey online.
One of your landscaping goals may be to use native plants to reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides. These chemicals can be harmful to the local environment including our native plants, insects, and animals such as birds. When you choose to use native plants, you also reduce the maintenance required to keep them looking great.
Other landscaping goals you may wish to consider include:
~Transitioning your landscaping to incorporate only native plants by slowing phasing out exotics not native to the area.
~Providing habitat and food sources for local insects, birds, and other wildlife.
~Building a habitat for native species to reproduce, especially for those that are endangered.
Some insects that are endangered in New Jersey include the American Burying Beetle, the Gray Petal Tail Dragonfly, and Mitchell’s Satyr (a butterfly). You can see a list of endangered and threatened species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, mammals, and fish in New Jersey online at the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. By identifying insects, birds, and other native species that need help, you can figure out which wildflowers are best to plant in order to support them.
Landscaping Conditions and Considerations
You will need to consider three things when it comes to assessing the condition of your landscape for planting: soil, sunlight, and moisture.
When it comes to soil, you will need to determine if it is sand, silt, or clay. Does it tend to hold moisture well or does it drain and dry out quickly? Is the soil in your area acidic, neutral, or alkaline? Your local County Cooperative Extension Office can test your soil for a minimal fee so you know exactly what you are working with and the tests don’t take long. Rutgers University has a list of County Cooperative Extension Offices online so you can find the one nearest you.
You will also need to consider how much time you want to spend transitioning your landscape to native wildflowers, take an inventory of plants you already have and whether they are native or exotic, and set the goal for the number of plants you wish to replace or plant.
Also consider any special uses you wish to highlight such as producing certain seasonal colors, textures, and fragrances with the wildflowers you elect to plant. A visit to your local nursery and a chat with the professionals there can help guide you. As you select plants, be sure to consider the environmental needs each plant has, their size at maturation, and how fast they grow. Be sure think about whether the plant is one that spreads easily or tends to stay put. Finally, shoot for a mix of wildflowers that provide color to your property continuously to provide an ongoing source of nectar and pollen for native insects, birds, and other wildlife.
As we approach Earth Day and prepare to undertake our spring gardening, Seeds Digital encourages you to think of wildflower seeds. When you are doing your spring planting with native wildflowers, not only will you be adding beauty to your own garden, but you’ll be making a big, positive impact on the environment. Have a wonderful Earth Day!