Growing Perennial Flowers from Seed

Most native plants need to go through a period of cold weather in order to be able to germinate in spring.
Therefore collected seeds need to be cold moist stratified.
There are different ways to do so:
Let winter do it naturally through outdoor cold moist stratification
or mimic conditions in your fridge.

 
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Learn from the expert, 

Heather McCargo, founder of  Wild Seed Project

Heather has decades of experience with a wide variety of native plants, methods and soil. This talk will carry you off into the wonderful world of growing your own native plants from seed and contributing to genetically diverse seedlings.

 

Outdoor Sowing

A good time to sow outdoors is late Fall. Most weed seeds have been dispersed and will not fly onto your pots anymore and work can still be done outdoors. For the seeds to get enough cold moist stratification time plant anytime before February.
Any plastic container with a minimum height of 10 cm (3 inches) is ideal. You can get one more use out of recycling kitchen containers or roll up thick layers of newspaper to create your own pots. It is important that the containers have holes on the bottom to let extra water drain. It is equally important that the potting soil is wet before filling the containers. If your bag of soil has dried out, just add water. You can either wait until the soil has absorbed the water evenly or you can mix it in with your hands like you would knead dough. Fill containers with soil and press that the soil is rather firm. Then add some more soil that is not too compacted.

 
 

Sowing Your Seeds

Put seeds on the palm of one hand, pick the seeds you will sow and sprinkle them as evenly as possible onto the soil.
Very gently press them into the soil and add a dusting of soil on top. As a rule of thumb, seeds should get covered with soil about their own thickness. Smaller seeds often need light to germinate.
Water gently to settle the seeds.
It is very important to mark every container with the species and the date of sowing.
Cut-up yoghurt containers work very well to create your own signs.

 
 

Keep Outdoors

If sown indoors, bring the freshly sown pots outside in a sunny location where the rain can reach and the snow will be able to cover them.
It is recommended to protect the seeds against squirrels by covering with mesh.
To give extra protection cover with a layer of leaves.
Any cages on top can also be used.

 
 
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The Seeds Will Germinate In Spring

Once the danger of frost is over, take off the leaves so your seeds receive more sunlight. Once your seeds start germinating, it is important to make sure they don't dry out. From now on check daily if the soil needs watering.

 

Most Plants Will Be Ready To Get Transplanted By Summer

Even drought tolerant plants need frequent watering until their root system is well estabished.

 

Winter Sowing

Winter sowing is a fun method that uses mini green houses to speed up the growing process of the plants. The plants will be very abundant, healthy and ready to transplant in spring.

You can find a very detailed video by Dolly Foster, a Master Gardener, on Wintersowing.

 

Indoor Stratification

Stratifying the seeds in the fridge and planting outside after the last danger of frost is also a very successful method.

  • Keep the seeds in the paper seed packages until mid of February.

  • Transfer seeds onto a moist paper towel.

  • Put paper towel into a ziploc bag.

  • Keep bag in the fridge till last danger of frost has passed.

  • Plant outside in containers filled with well moistened potting soil.

  • Put in a sunny location.

  • Keep well watered.

  • Seeds will germinate at very different rates depending on their species.

  • Seedlings are ready to transplant in summer or fall.

 

Toronto Based Resources

Pete Ewins shares his own experience of collecting seeds and growing native plants from his Toronto back yard.

Local seed exchanges are organized by Seeds of Diversity.

 

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