Seed Testing in January

seed-testing-bags-600If you have leftover seeds from last year or seeds that you collected in the fall, now is a good time to test the seeds for viability.




I prefer to test the seeds through my standard seed starting process.

  • I use the 36 per tray plastic cells in a 1020 tray.
  • I put this tray in a heavy-duty plastic tray.
  • I use my preferred potting mix as a base – BX Pro-Mix with some Osmocote.
  • Make sure the mix is well watered before you add the seeds.
  • I put 3 or 4 seeds on top of the mix.
  • I top the seeds with a light layer of vermiculite.
  • I spray the vermiculite with water.
  • I label each cell with the date, seed name and number of seeds. I use vinyl blinds that I have taken down. These are easy to cut and label with a pencil.
  • I also put in about 1/8 inch of water in the bottom of the tray in case the mix needs to absorb some water.
  • I cover the tray with a plastic clear top.
  • I lower my shop lights to within 1/2 inch of the plastic top.
  • I keep the lights on 24/7 to keep it all warm.

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Watering at Christmas?

drought-mo-dec-17-2017With winter and Christmas just around the corner, one of the last thing on most people’s mind is to get out the hose to water the plants and trees. Yet in Missouri with most of the state in drought conditions, that may be just what is needed.

A recent MU bulletin told people to check their soil around the drip line of newly planted trees and if dry then watering would be beneficial.

This would also be true of fall planted perennials.

A soaker hose set on low would probably be your best bet.

My guess is that established trees and natives will weather the drought just fine, but if you have invested money in a fall planting, those perennials and trees would probably appreciate a through soaking and may be the difference between them surviving the winter or dying in the spring.

Here’s the link for the Missouri drought monitor.




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Vanishing Insects

If you’re a bit older, you may have noticed the clean windshields that we all seem to have compared to auto trips during our youth. Below is a good audio which talks about this phenomenon. Unfortunately, this also means fewer butterflies.

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Cold Stratification List


Note – Shaw Nature Reserve uses 3 months Cold Stratification for most natives.

Plant Cold Stratification
Agastache 30 days – Surface
Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed 30 days
Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Weed 30 days
Blazing Star – Liatris 60 days
Bronze Fennel Not needed
Cleome Not needed
Coreopsis lanceleaf 30 days
Coreopsis plains Not needed
Dianthus barbatus Not needed
Echinacea 0 – 30 days ????
French Hollyhock – Malva sylvestris Not needed
Gaillardia Not needed – press into soil
Gomphrena – globe amaranth Not needed
Helenium amarum – Sneezeweed Not needed – surface sow tiny seeds
Lobelia cardinalis 60 days – Surface Sow
Maltese Cross Not needed – do not cover????
Marigold Not needed
Rudbeckia 60 days
Rue Not needed
Salvia – purple perennial Not needed???? – needs light to germinate?????
Verbena bonareinsis Not needed
Verbena hastata – Vervain 30 days – tiny seeds
Zinnia Not needed


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Time to Plant Seeds


If you haven’t already, it’s now time to get those native seeds into the soil.

As you can see in the picture, I clean out the area, put in the seeds and then cover them with potting soil. I use a plastic lawn edging to keep the seeds in place and also make it easier to know in the spring where the new plants are.

I also mark the seeds with stakes to know for sure what is coming up in the spring.

This technique is an easy way to grow your own plants for your own garden or to share with others.

Option #2 – 1020 Daisy Trays


Here is another option I am trying this year.
I am using what is called a 1020 Daisy Tray. Sometimes you can get them for free when you buy a flat of plants, but I bought some from Greenhouse Megastore.

Here’s what they look like below when they are finished.
Theoretically, I could either just let the seeds germinate in the trays over the winter, or I could try bringing in the whole tray inside during March to let them get a head start germinating inside.


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Cleaning Up the Garden in the Fall

dead-plants-fall-800With the first frosts of fall, my garden turns from a lovely shade of green to a dirty brown with withered sticks and leaves.  While my first inclination is to clean up everything, there may be seeds that you can collect or even save for the birds.

Here’s a good video which talks about some of your options.

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Ground Covers

There’s a long section of garden which needs a ground cover that will do well on a slope, is a good pollinator plant and even better – a host plant. It is near an irrigation line, so it can’t grow too tall and while it would be nice if it’s a good grower, I don’t want one that is invasive or takes a lot of maintenance.
————————— is a website which sells lots of ground cover seeds. Here is their response to an email I sent.

“The more ornamental ground covers, like sedums, creeping thymes, and aubrieta, are all very tiny seeds and slow to establish, so we never suggest starting them directly on a slope. The seeds wash away or even blow away if they dry out. So, if you’re interested in the ornamental groundcovers, you might consider starting the seeds in flats and then plugging out small plants in the latter part of spring. I think you would have much more success with that method. Also, many of the ground covers are hybridized, and unfortunately, when plants are hybridized they often breed the size, the flower color, bloom time, etc, but the pollinator attraction factor is often missed.

The most pollinator attractive plants are the wildlfowers, the clovers, and others that have not been hybridized. I have not grown all of the ground covers myself, but what I have grown, the thymes seem to be the most pollinator attractive.

Miniclover is a seed that can be planted on a slope – and the reason is that it establishes much faster than the ornamentals. I have Miniclover, and it is buzzing with activity all spring, summer and into the fall. It may get over 6 inches but not by much – I’m able to mow mine a few times during the growing season, and it stays more at about 3 – 4 inches.

Here’s a list of possible trials.

  • Ajuga – MAF – hummers like this. I have had this die out on me after a few years.
  • Ajuga – Chocolate Chip – shade _
  • ‘Blue Star Creeper’
  • Creeping Phlox – 1
  • Creeping Thyme (Thymus Serpyllum Mother of Thyme) –
  • Creeping Thyme (Thymus Serpyllum Magic Carpet –
  • Creeping Jenny – too aggressive?
  • Mazus reptans ‘Purple’
  • Potentilla – Steppables – Potentilla Neumanianna – Cinquefoil
  • Outside – sells seeds
  • Pussy Toes Red – Antennaria Dioica Rubra –
  • Rock Cress Cascading (Aubrieta Hybrida Superbissima Cascade Mix) –
  • Sedum Sedum (Spurium Coccineum) Dragons Blood –
  • Sedum sarmentosum – recommended by MAF.
  • Sedum kamtschaticum var. ellacombeanum – I have this around the pond
  • Sedum – Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop – grows fast
  • Stepables – has 99 different plants.
  • Thymus serpyllum – Mother of Thyme
  • Red Creeping thyme –
  • Stepables – Elfin thyme
  • Creeping Phlox – phlox subulata
  • Veronica Liwanensis – 1

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