Wildflowers becoming a popular addition to lawns and gardens because they provide diversity and better soil – Magnoliareporter


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Speakers of “Wildflower Lawns-An Alternative to the Conventional Lawn,” session during the April 20 SOAR Sustainability Conference on the Campus of Southern Arkansas University, talked about mixing wildflowers with flowers which typically are chosen in garden beds.The conference included a variety of sessions on the importance of sustainability in many areas of life in Southwest Arkansas and Arkansas.Kristie Glass, a SAU plant science major, was one presenter during the Wildflower session along with Josey Webb, SAU animal science major.

Webb, who grew up helping her father on the farm said doing everything in moderation in a garden is a good idea so that all plants will have a shot to grow and be healthy. Incorporating wildflowers in the mix is a positive for gardens, she said.“God made the world the way it is because it works -- the extensions of one species can help the other,” she said.Webb said wildflowers help with pollination, seed dispersal, controlling pests and helping with decomposition.“You just see so much life because of this,” she said.Pollination is key to continuing the life of flowers, wildflowers, and all aspects of agriculture. In fact, pollinators are so important they are one third of the agriculture process, she said. Wildflower lawns are a drastic change from conventional lawns but offer a wildlife habitat for bees, butterflies, and birds, improving soil health and reducing lawn maintenance.“Agriculture depends on pollination so when you are eating, every third bite you should say thank you Mr. Bee for giving me this bite,” Webb said.Glass talked about being more tolerant of beneficial weeds. Although many people kill white clover in their yards while mowing, Glass said she thinks this weed is pretty and makes more oxygen in the soil. For those who are worried people might see weeds in their yard, having some weeds such as white clover closer to the home is an idea to keep the soil healthy but also keep the lawn more pleasing to some.

However, having wildflowers become a huge part of lawns is a concept getting increasingly popular.“The best time to plant is right now, after the frost as the soil is waking up,” Glass said. “You will be seeing a lot of people doing wildflower lawns and they are really pretty, are better for pollinators and make you have better soil.”At the end of the wildflower session, Dr. Alan Wright, a retired professor of management in the school of business at SAU spoke about composting. Wright, who taught management for 30 years, is also a Master Gardener. He discussed the basics of composting and how to start your own backyard composting.“I’m here to talk about the unmentionable things -- I’m not supposed to say manure, but they can’t fire me,” Wright said.Wright said composting is a good and natural way to keep planting thriving and it is also a cheap way for anyone to garden, even retired people who are on Social Security.Additionally, compost piles can be done by anyone with a small section of a yard or garden and saves on fertilizers because compost is organic and fewer pesticides or chemicals are needed as well.A small 5x5 pile outlined with a frame or wire is a good place to start out to compost. The compost will be piled and then turned once a month and then used and new items are added to the pile whenever they are available. For example, banana peels, wilted lettuce, dead houseplants and broccoli are great items to use in a compost pile. No meat or dairy products should be used, however. Eggshells are great and dried eggshells are better.“I also recommend a starter manure that comes from a hog, chicken, a cow or a horse,” he said. “Don’t use any from a dog, cat or a human. Mule and horse manure will be hot on your plants. If you cannot use manure, use a mixed compost.”Wright said if a compost pile stinks, it is likely because it is too wet. He said if the pile does not cook, then add more greens as it should get to 120 to 180 degrees. The compost is easy to use, he said.“Anytime you want to grow a plant, a lot of soil needs something organic,” he said. “You can fill in hanging baskets and planters and every year you can top the azaleas,” he said. “It’s good for vegetable gardens, just go put it in the rows you are going to plant in.

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