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Connecticut Garden Journal: Mimic Nature by sowing wild seeds

Hummingbird Feeding On Monarda
Robin Wilson
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It might sound counterintuitive to sow seeds in December outdoors, but that's exactly what wild plants such as Joe Pye weed, bee balm (pictured), and asters need.

Preserving our landscapes by planting native plants is important for bird and insect life and overall ecosystem health. What most gardeners don't know is that now is a good time to sow the seeds of wild plants. It might sound counterintuitive to sow seeds in December outdoors, but that's exactly what wild plants such as Joe Pye weed, bee balm, and asters need.

It may be too late to collect wild, native plant seeds, but there are places to purchase the seed. The Wild Seed Project in Maine has sowing instructions and sells small packets of more than 75 native plant species. Go to wildseedproject.net for more.

By sowing seeds in early winter we're mimicking nature. Wild plants drop seed in fall and that seed overwinters through the cold, ice, snow and wet conditions until it germinates in spring. We can do the same thing. Using 4-inch diameter plastic pots filled with compost amended potting soil, sow the seeds thickly on the surface and cover with coarse sand. Add plant markers. Cover the large seeds with a thicker layer of sand than small seeds. Create a nursery collecting all the pots together in a protected, shady spot. Elevate the pots on bricks, rocks or boards and lay 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth over the pots to keep rodents away. Secure the hardware cloth with rocks or bricks to keep it in place.

Then just leave the pots all winter. Come spring each seed will germinate when it should. You'll grow out the wildflowers in the pots all summer and divide and transplant them next fall.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.
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