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Prepping a Bed for Seeding

December 4, 2019

By: Barb Holtz

Late summer I removed a small patch of non-native iris in my yard. While I did my best to sift out rootstock remnants, I decided to play it safe and prep this area for seeding with cardboard and mulch. This method also known as sheet mulching or lasagna gardening helps give your native seed the best chance for success. Here's how to do it...

Native seed requires a clean slate for greatest success. This ground appears bare, but I chose to give my seed the extra insurance of covering the area before sowing.

Bare Ground Before Cardboard or Mulch

Soil cover can be cardboard or newspaper (several sheets thick). As you can see, its nothing fancy. If you're installing a bed over grass, no problem. Simply cover the grass with the cardboard or newspaper. No need to remove turf.

Cardboard laid down on bare soil before mulch

Put a thick layer of double shredded mulch or aged wood chips (aged at least one year and have almost a soil-like consistency) a couple of inches thick. Make sure the mulch has not been treated with any herbicide for obvious reasons. The best mulch is that without dyes or other additives.

Mulch Layer over Cardboard

Time to prep your seed! We suggest mixing your seed with some type of sowing medium. This allows seed to be distributed evenly and also indicates where you've sown. A great choice is Rice Hulls.

Rice Hulls

Use about three time the amount of Rice Hulls as amount of native seed.

Rice Hulls Mixed with Native Seed

For best coverage, sow half your seed in one direction then the remaining half over the top in the opposite direction. The Rice Hulls are easily seen unlike the brown Iris seed against the mulch.

Mulch with Rice Hulls and Native Seed

Once sown, "tickle" the seed into the mulch for optimum mulch/seed contact. Use a small rake or turn over a larger rake (tines up) and lightly jiggle the mulch surface. By sowing in the late fall / early winter, seed will work its way into the substrate nooks and crannies due to the freeze / thaw cycles of the winter months. Overwintering gives native seed the cold treatment many native species require for spring germination.

Lightly Rake Native Seed into Soil

The best way to enjoy blooms to come is to prep the seed bed properly now. Using the cardboard / mulch method is the best way to plant native seed with little weed pressure. Now relax, have a cup of cocoa and dream of spring!

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