Sow seeds collected from nearby wild areas, or from plants thriving in your own yard, for well-adjusted offspring.
Growing your own is a good way to save money, get your hands on hard-to-find plants, support local foodwebs and promote genetic diversity.
Although more than a few “nativars” (named cultivars of native plants) stir my soul, I’m mindful that they are genetically identical, vegetatively propagated clones.
I love the big end-of-season bee-buzzing blast of purple-flowering fragrant aster, Symphotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies’ in my meadow planting.
And I’m thrilled when its not-identical seedlings appear, with all the grace, variability and unexpectedness of wild plants.
You know it’s not a clone when it comes on its own.
A coaching client, who is filling her yard with native wildlife-friendly plants asked for information on collecting, storing and sowing seeds. She is creating habitat and has a lot of ground to cover.
“Looking around my garden, there seem to be lots of possibilities. I would like the sowing to be less random than just throwing them in parts of the garden. Sometimes, come spring, I can’t spot the seedlings I want vs. those that I don’t!”
As much as I savor serendipity (and assist by tossing seeds around), there’s a high mortality rate. A more directed approach garners greater success.
Turns out that the best way to start native plants from seed is outdoors. It’s easier and takes less tending than starting vegetable seeds inside, but seeds must be ripe and ready.
Seeds of summer and fall blooming plants, and even some spring bloomers, are ripe in September and October.
NATIVE PLANT SEEDS TO COLLECT IN FALL
- Dogwoods (shrubs and trees)
- Chokeberry (Aronia/Photinia)
- Milkweeds (Asclepias Including butterfly weed, swamp milkweed)
- Coneflowers (Echinaceas and Rudbeckias)
- Jack in the pulpit
- Joe-Pye weed
- Canada mayflower
Each seed has its own timetable
Some seeds should be dried out (in a paper bag) for a few weeks to “after-ripen,” a strategy for preventing too-early germination in late warm spells; others cannot be allowed to dry at all.
Some have short viability or need to go through the cold period that occurs naturally in winter (“cold stratification”) before they will germinate – plant these immediately. Others can be stored dry or refrigerated until spring.
The Wild Seed Project in Maine is where I look to learn about growing native plants. Check out the links below for all the details you need to get growing.