I’ve always been a nature lover preferring the solitude of the great outdoors. Being an introvert and fairly shy, I’m not comfortable being around lots of other people, especially folks I don’t know. Small talk has always been difficult for me. However, conversing with a curious bumble bee or a newly discovered wildflower is not hard at all. A little one-sided maybe, but usually I can express my gratitude at meeting them with no trouble. Unfortunately, talking solely to insects and vegetation is frowned upon, so I’ve come up with the perfect compromise – talking/writing about the things this old dog is learning from the plants and bugs.
Last winter, I experimented with winter sowing. I planted a bunch of seeds gathered from volunteer native wildflowers I’d found along the roadside. After the plastic jugs were set up, I left them on my patio and let Mother Nature do her thing. The rain kept the potting soil moist, and since the plants were all indigenous to this area, the seeds were pre-programmed to remain outside and handle the local weather conditions.
The bottles and I waited patiently for spring. When the temperature finally began to rise, the seeds germinated and began to grow.
During the same time, I’d also covered a couple of plots in the yard with cardboard to smother out the grass and weeds. That also worked! I only had a few patches of stubborn grass and some scraggly weeds to pull up. After loosening up the top layer of soil with my handy little garden rake, all it took was digging the holes and separating the flowers into small chucks to plant.
Surprisingly, the plants survived their transition and are coming along very nicely. I have swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), bitter sneezeweed (Helenium amarum), blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), bearded beggarstick (Bidens aristosa), evening primrose (Oenothera glazioviana), and a couple of aster species I discovered last autumn.
For my first attempt at winter sowing, I can’t complain about the results. A few species of bunch grasses and late-blooming plants haven’t germinated. Those bottles are still sitting in the shade just in case the seeds decide to wake up.
Now it’s your turn. Look over the easy-to-understand information about winter sowing and research the plants native to your region through the National Wildlife Federation, Xerces, Wild Ones, your state’s native plant society, or local groups and organizations.
Plan now and start collecting your bottles and seeds so you’ll be ready for next winter.
Happy Gardening, everyone!