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. It’s my DIY meadow project for the year. 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 for the DIY meadow, 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 for the DIY meadow.
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?
Bobbie Harrington says
i was so happy to run across your website. i live on rainy lake in ontario just across border from minnesota. i live on 2 acres of land, most of it lawn when i moved in, now mostly meadow. i’ve been slowly getting wild flowers and perennials growing where there was grass. everyone here thinks winter sowing is crazy, as well as, making a meadow out of the lawn. so it was like finding kindred spirit when i read about what you are doing! it took me some experimenting to find winter sowing is great for wild flowers, as you well know. i have 12 raised beds and 44 garden bags placed here in suitable sunny areas. living on the cambrian shield there is lack of soil for regular gardens, but good for wild flowers. i started with gloriosa daisies and lupins as they re-seed well. i have bought seed from prairie moon, however not this year as not allowed to cross the border to reach my international falls mail box. now i’ll read more of your gardening information. i’m 84. gardening keeps me going and i keep my gardens going. with time left for fishing walleye, too.
Mary Schier says
Thanks so much for commenting! Your meadow sounds lovely. Gardening does keep us young.