Converting edge of woods into wildflowers

Asked February 18, 2019, 9:25 AM EST

We're looking into converting the edge of a woods into wildflowers. The 700 sq.ft. was full of buckthorn, raspberry bushes, nettles and other weeds. It would be very difficult to till it up with all the roots. What would be the best way to prepare the ground? Smother the area with a tarp? Last year we cut the buckthorn off near the ground and treated the stumps. Then we sprayed roundup on it all to kill everything.

Goodhue County Minnesota wildflowers and native plants

4 Responses

It's essential to remove all existing vegetation before planting. The work you have done so far has begun the process. If you intend to plant wildflower seeds, the goal is to expose bare, weed free soil that can be tilled or raked at least superficially. Although it's more expensive to plant native grass and wildflower seedlings or plugs, less soil prep is needed to get results.

If any dead vegetation remains, remove it this spring. (Burning would be a good way to do that if it's feasible/allowed.) Apply herbicide again in late May or early June to kill grasses and forbs that have germinated or survived since the previous application. Especially target persistent perennials such as thistles, quackgrass, reed canary grass and Canada goldenrod.

If the site is ready, sow and plant in June or apply herbicide again, if needed, and plant in late October.

What to plant depends upon site characteristics--amount of sun/shade and soil conditions (moist, dry, sandy, clay, loam, etc.).

Consult the following bulletins for more detailed information. Although the second bulletin was prepared for Missouri residents, most of the recommendations also apply to Minnesota.


Some Minnesota and Wisconsin native grass and wildflower growers also provide soil preparation and planting services. Go here to learn about them:





Thank you for the info Bob. It sounds like it's critical to get ALL existing vegetation dead and removed. My concern is all the buckthorn stumps. They range in size from 3/4" to 6" in diameter and there's probably 30 or so of them. First question about these is, do they have to be removed? Second question is how does a person remove them? The space and location is not flat and easily accessible to get any big equipment there. I'm afraid trying to till in that area with all those stumps and roots would wreck my tiller. We put Tordon on all the stumps last year in hopes it would kill them. Is it possible to leave them in the ground and spread new soil over them and plant?

It isn't necessary to remove the dead buckthorn stumps.

It isn't necessary, and perhaps even desirable, to prepare the soil with a tiller because that activity might bring more weed seeds to the surface. However, loosening the soil with a rake, hoe or other implement facilitates soil to seed contact needed for good germination.

Bringing in soil to cover the area is acceptable if the soil is of good quality and free of weed seeds.

Got it. Thanks!