Winter isn’t often associated with garden work, but it’s the perfect time to jump start your native plant gardens and landscapes.
The seeds of our native prairie and woodland species often require a winter season to germinate — the passing of a cold, wet season signals to the seed that spring is approaching.
If you have prepared space in your garden, with little to no weedy cover and few aggressive plants present, you can practice winter sowing this season!
Many native plant seeds require 1-2 months of winter to germinate, some take even longer. So, get your seeds out into the cold as soon as you’re able. There’s no such thing as “too much winter” when it comes to native seeds, no matter the species.
The brilliant butterfly milkweed pictured requires 30 days of winter to germinate while the graceful spiderwort above it requires two or three months of cold, wet weather. Seeds of both species can be sown in your garden now!
Birds and mice are anxiously seeking food, this time of year, and many native seeds are part of their natural diet. Reduce loss of seeds to animals by gently raking the seeds into the soil, just enough to hide them from view.
If fortune is on your side, you may disperse seeds right before a rain or snow fall, further working the seeds into the soil through the repeated freezes and thaws.
If you don’t have a site prepared this season, you can trick native seeds into germinating with a treatment called “cold stratification.” Place the seeds in a Ziploc with some lightly moistened sand or vermiculite.
Then, store the bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge and write a reminder on your calendar to disperse them in two months, or as soon as you’ve had a chance to prepare a space in the garden this spring. Then, follow the steps for winter sowing.
Keep your seedlings from drying out the first growing season. After that, your new plants will be drought tolerant and ready for anything Kansas can throw at them — this is the magic of native plant gardening.
Native Lands LLC, my company, spends the winter season helping our clients design native seed blends suited to their spaces. From beekeepers planning for pollinators to farmers planning for crop protection, our clients represent a diverse group of native plant enthusiasts!
There’s a native plant solution for every situation. Let us know if you need help choosing the right species to meet your goals.
Check out these local seed vendors for a great selection of native seeds:
And watch the Native Lands LLC Facebook page (facebook.com/ForThePrairie) for educational posts on native seeds, plants and ecosystems.