April showers bring May flowers, right? Not exactly! Most flowers that bloom in the Spring have to start from seed in the Fall. Most people make the mistake of planting seeds too late and never have any luck with germination because the plant needs a period of cold weather to sprout. I thought of this blog posting because I picked up a few seed packets from Wildseed Farms. Most of the seeds require sowing right now so the flowers will bloom in the Spring. One example of this is the Bluebonnets I picked up. Bluebonnets germinate in October and November with green leaves that are low growing. They stay green all winter, and then begin blooming in mid-March through May. They set seed in May and the plant dies shortly after.
If a gardener wants to sow their own seed, scarifying the seeds will produce better results. Different seeds produce varying thicknesses of seed coats. These are for protection of the seed to make it through harsh winters, dry summers, and also to help with timing of germination. If a plant produces 10 seeds, and all 10 germinate, then poor weather comes along and kills all 10 plants, that plant has ended its life succession. On the other hand, if a plant produces 10 seeds with varying thicknesses of seed coats, some will germinate and some will sit patiently till the seed coat is penetrated with water at a later time. Thus, the plant has continued its lineage. This is all fine and dandy in nature, but a homeowner wants all of the seeds they sow to sprout. So to beat nature at her game, gardeners can scarify the seeds to nick, scratch, or abraise the seed coat and allow germination.
This technique can be different for many seeds. Some require a good soak in water overnight. Some larger seeds work with a good scratch from sandpaper, and some need to be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Just check the seed packet before throwing them out to sow. If the seeds have been collected from nature, a Google search will return good results on when and how to scarify the seed coat. Returning to our Bluebonnet example, and easy and fun way to scarify the seed coat is to take a coke can that has had the top taken off of it and line it with sandpaper. Then cover the top with a piece of paper, and shake the seeds around in the can for awhile. This will scratch enough of the seed coat, and is also a fun activity for kids to do.
So, scarified seeds ready, soil preparation is next. An easy way to plant most wildflower mixes, including Bluebonnets, is to scratch the top of the soil with a rake. This will make tiny grooves for the seed to make contact with soil. Once the seeds have been scattered, water will also move towards these grooves, and soon the seed with germinate, take root, and sprout true leaves. Easy, right? I think so!
It's all about timing and proper planning. Think ahead to Spring. What do you want growing in your garden? What flowers do you really like? If you think of something that needs the cooler months to produce a flower, start now. You'll feel really smart in the Spring when your garden in gorgeous! April showers bring May flowers, but Fall sowing keeps your garden growing!