Spring time is usually the best time to plant. Usually starting after the last frost. If seeds are spread to early, they can be in danger of frost damage post germination.
Never a good idea to seed into the summer due to drought conditions (unless, you have irrigation available). Spring seeding allows the roots of the newly grown native plants to grow deeper into the soil column. Giving a greater accessibility to moisture.
Preparing the soil
You do not want your seeds competing with weeds and invasives!!!
There are a number of ways to prepare soil to increase the success of seed germination and native plant persistence.
Remove sod from planting area and till the soil. This is the most effective, yet costly and laborious method.
Solarization of the soil by covering area with a black plastic for a year. This plastic will essentially kill everything underneath. The site would then be tilled.
Herbicide then till. Of course not the most environmentally friendly. However, sometimes necessary if there are nasty invasive species within the seeding area.
Rototill!!!! The site can be rototilled deep into the soil the first time. Following by 3-4 rototills every two weeks at a depth of an inch. Removing the newly germinated weed seeds that are in the top inch of the soil column. If you continue to till deep, weed seeds will be brought to soil surface and germinate.
Choosing a site
Make sure there is top soil where seed is spread. Land developers are known to remove topsoil from new homes when built during earth works. A good top soil or loam helps with the success of the plant community. A good soil amendment such as compost or manure can help increase the nutrients and moisture retention capacity of the site. Seed mixes should be chosen depending on sun/shade and moisture regimes. We have mixes for dry meadows, wetland and part shade.
Broadcast your seed
Hand broadcast the seed. Try to spread it as evenly as possible. Do a practice run spreading seed so you can become comfortable with how fast it flies from your hand or small seed broadcaster.
Mix your seed at 1 part seed to 8 parts sand ratio. Make sure the sand is dry!!
Soil contact with the seed is necessary after it has been scattered. This can be done by walking over the seed, using a roller over the seed or even drag a chain over the soil.
Irrigation – When is it necessary?
Irrigation should not be needed if you time your site preparation and seed broadcast properly as stated earlier.
However, climate change has brought increased periods of drought that might make it difficult for native plant establishment without the use of irrigation.
If there is a source of water, sometimes to give the planted area a good water when nature has taken a break can certainly increase the success of the garden and it’s ecosystem.
Sometimes too much rain can cause erosion and removal of seeds as well. There can be a fine balance between seeding too early or seeding too late!!
Wildflower or a weed? It might be difficult to determine the difference at first. Make sure to make a list of the species you planted. Then find a wildflower identification guide in book form, mobile app or just online.
You need to be patient and learn the difference between weeds and wildflowers/native grasses.
Once the weed and invasive species have been determined, it is worth weeding the area and removing the plants before they broadcast more seed! This will allow the natives to stabilize and dominate the community.
Eventually you will be an expert at identifying native species!!!