Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Time to Sow

So many hopes and dreams in these packets...

After months of drought, the rains have finally arrived.

With rain in the forecast, I rushed to sow the wildflower seeds - some bought, others gathered on my own property - that I had been squirreling away.

I'm taking a multifaceted approach to seed starting this year.

For those seeds that need months of cold stratification, I sowed many outdoors yesterday. After all, I figure that's how these plants propagate themselves in the wild - they drop their seeds, which undergo freezes and thaws all winter, and then they sprout in the spring.

Of course, there are drawbacks to sowing seeds outside so early in the year and letting them fend for themselves. Some seeds may get washed away. Others will probably get eaten. Still others may rot or dessicate. But with thousands of seeds sowed, presumably some will find the 'just right' conditions that allow them to germinate.

As a control, I'm holding other seeds in cold storage (the refrigerator) all winter. In February and beyond, I'll start taking action with those seeds - sowing some outdoors, transferring some into bags of wet sand (that I'll still hold in the fridge), eventually trying to start some seeds in eggshells that I'm already saving, etc.

I'll keep you all posted on the success (or not) of these various experiments.

For now, here's a list of the seeds that have been sown outdoors:

- Allium tuberosum, garlic chives (gathered from my own plant)

- Anemone virginiana, thimbleweed, native (from Missouri Wildflowers Nursery - these seeds are amazingly fluffy! I thought I'd been shipped a piece of wool when I looked into the seed packet!)

- Asclepias tuberosa, butterflyweed, native (from Sow True Seed)

- Chamaecrista fasciculata, partridge pea, native (gathered from my own plants)

- Desmanthus illinoensis, Illinois bundleflower, native (from Missouri Wildflowers Nursery)

- Echinacea simulata, glade coneflower, native (from Missouri Wildflowers Nursery)

- Gaillardia x grandiflora, blanketflower, 1/2 native (the G. pulchella parent is native across the Southern U.S., although rarely present in Tennessee) (gathered from my own plants)

- Heliopsis helianthoides, false sunflower, native (gathered from my own plants)

- Parthenium integrifolium, wild quinine, native (from Missouri Wildflowers Nursery)

- Polanisia dodecandara, redwhisker clammyweed, native (gathered from my own plant)

- Rudbeckia hirta, black-eyed Susan, native (from Sow True Seeds)

- Senna marilandica, wild senna, native (gathered from my own plant)

All of the seeds purchased from nurseries (i.e., all seeds other than those gathered from my own plants) represent my first attempts to grow these species in my garden.

Incidentally, for the first time, I tried mixing the seeds with sand before sowing. As I'd hoped, the sand helped me get better coverage and allowed me to see where seeds had already been sowed.

In colder climates, I've read that some people will wait until it snows and then scatter seeds (sample image). That way, they can easily see where the seeds have been scattered and when the snow melts, the seeds will gently sink into the ground with a ready supply of water.

I don't sow all species outside indiscriminately. Even though zinnias (Z. elegans), for example, do lightly self sow here, I suspect/hope that I'll have better germination waiting until spring to sow those seeds. And I'm also holding off on some other species I've purchased (like Monarda fistulosa, wild bergamot, from Missouri Wildflowers Nursery) where my research indicates that cold stratification does not improve germination. If the seeds will germinate just as well from a spring sowing, I'd rather scatter them then on the reasoning that fewer seeds will be lost, washed away, buried or eaten than with a winter sowing.

Dear Readers -- Do you sow any seeds outdoors in the winter? If so, do you scatter the seeds as I do or use a more controlled sowing method (e.g., something like this)? 


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