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The Four P's of Planting Native Seeds Part 1

June 1, 2017

By: Barb Holtz

Following directions may not be your forte. I hear you. Sometimes we need to heed a live-out-loud, throw-caution-to-the-wind attitude. So, you go girl (or boy) and wing it when constructing that IKEA furniture or getting your Iron Chef on. However, if you're planting a garden with native seed, let's color in the lines for a moment. There are four P's worth your attention in order to achieve your native paradise. Let's lead off with the first one: PREP.

#1 - PREP

How hard can it be to sow some seeds, right? It's not difficult to toss out those tiny bundles of blossom, but if it's sprouting you want, listen up. It is essential to prep the garden site first. Seed to soil contact is key to sprouting success (say that five times fast!)

Choose the right area for the plants you're seeding (light and moisture requirements, plant height, etc. all matter). Then, make sure the area is clear of all other vegetation...BARE SOIL! Do not till the dirt (this stirs up the seed bank and competition for your seeds) and no need to add fertilizer or other soil amendments. Native plants have seen it all from clay to loam, soggy to parched, and everything in between. After all, they've called Northeast Ohio home longer than you and me.

A little seed goes a long way so here's a sowing trick. Mix your seed with sand (about 1:4 ratio seed to sand). This will ensure a more even spread and highlights where you've sown. Now it's time to tickle the seed. Turn over a leaf rake (tines up) and lightly giggle the soil surface. The goal is dirt/seed contact, not buried seed. No covering of straw, hay or mulch required. Follow nature's example and keep it simple.

If seeding an area covered with turf grass, don't break your back hacking away at the sod. Blanket the grass with cardboard or a thick layer of newspaper followed by 2-3 inches of aged wood chips (contact your local tree care company to see if they are available). Voila! A blank canvas for your seed strewing!

Now you know HOW to sow but what about WHEN to sow? Find out next week!


Make your sowing easier by cutting it with sand.
Use newspaper on areas covered with turf grass before seeding.

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