While most annual seeds are planted in the spring, many native seeds need to be planted outside in the late fall. They need what is called cold-stratification to break the seeds out of their dormancy. While this can be done artificially, it’s easiest for the home gardener to just do it in an outside garden.
Here’s a technique that I use with good results. I would normally suggest planting the seeds around Thanksgiving. If it is still warm, wait until things cool down.
- Scrape off the top half inch of soil and mulch. You want to get down to the soil level. Set that material off to the side – we won’t use it. If you have weeds in the area, dig them out and put them in your compost.
- You then want to define your seed area so it will be easy to identify in the spring. You can use anything you want – hula hoop, wood, bricks, etc.
- I used a product called Terrace Board which is usually used as a lawn/garden edging. I cut it into twenty foot lengths and then drilled a hole into both ends and used a bolt to connect the overlapping ends. You will probably also need to buy plastic pegs to keep the board in place.
- Another option if you have lots of weeds and/or grass is to lay a couple layers of newspaper to smother the old growth and fill the area with good potting soil.
- I usually also add a half inch layer of compost or potting soil over the soil. We have clay soil in my location and it is not the ideal germinating medium.
- Put in your seeds, cover with another 1/4 inch of potting soil/compost and then water.
- Label the area so you know what seeds you planted.
- The plants you see are Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed.
- The advantage of this method is that you know that the plants coming up are the ones which are on the label.