The biggest garden project I have planned for 2013 is to plant more prairie-style plants in the meadow behind my house, which runs adjacent to a city-owned walking path. While I planted wildflowers in it when we first moved out here, this area has become overrun with wild parsnip, giant ragweed and a few other real bad-boys of the plant world. I’ve undertaken some steps to remove the invasives and plan to replace them with grasses and wildflowers native to Minnesota. My hope is that this area will provide lots of nectar for butterflies and bees, seeds and nesting sites for birds and beauty for all the humans that pass by it each day.
I’ve ordered both plants and seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona, which is one of several outstanding native plants nurseries in our area. Why order both plants and seeds? Insurance — plain and simple. The plants will come in May, all ready to grow, having been started and nurtured by the pros at Prairie Moon. That’s great, but the plants are not cheap. Seeds, on the other hand, are cheap, so I’m hoping to get more plants at a lower cost by growing some myself.
Since most wildflowers require what’s called cold stratification, winter sowing is the perfect method for starting wildflower seeds. Cold stratification means that the seeds need to experience the cold of winter before they will germinate. I put out a call on Facebook for some milk jugs to use for winter sowing, and so far — thank to my friends Betsy and Marcia — I have about 25 jugs.
The idea behind winter sowing is that you create a little greenhouse for the seeds, by filling the milk jug with very wet potting soil, planting the seeds, sealing it up and putting it out in the cold. The seeds will freeze and thaw and refreeze as the weather moves from winter to spring. Eventually they will start sprouting, at which point you begin exposing them to more air and opening up the little greenhouses.
Tomorrow I’ll write more about how to set up winter sowing containers. Here are the seeds I’ll be starting in my containers:
Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea)
Foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
Sweet Joe Pye weed (Euptorium purpureum)
Short’s aster (Aster shortii)
Nodding onion (Allium cernuum)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
Common ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata)
White prairie clover (Dalea candida)
Spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata)
Meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis)
What are your favorite prairie plants?