When to Plant Native Seeds (Per Dara Emery)

To open let me show you the wonderful cold frame Mr D.F. Wood Rat (Dusky-Footed to you and me) built for me yesterday. Today it is awaiting its inhabitants:

We have to line the bottom with gopher wire and fill it with seed flats and we are in business!

Last week, us mouses and another friend went along to see a presentation by the affable Nevin Smith, famous horticulturist and plant propagator, and it energized me to get going on my propagation efforts. This post is general information I had to research before beginning. The next one will be my experience in preparing and sowing the seeds, and a bit more information that I found out in my researches.

I've missed some boats for this year, according to Seed Propagation of Native California Plants, by Dara E. Emery (who I am reliably told was a man). This wonderful little reference is published by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and is available from their web site. But my friend and advisor Jeffrey Caldwell says I should go ahead and have a bash. Plants germinated later than recommended would just be smaller when planted. And nature does not germinate seeds in the middle of a California summer anyway, in the dry parts, so this nursery germination schedule is for optimum garden use.

Below I quote from the section on when to plant seeds, which I lightly formatted for readability.
At the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden most seeds are sown in small containers in the lathhouse. When stratification is necessary, it is done prior to the sowing date.
  • Seeds of annuals are sown in late October,
  • herbacious perennials by July 15,
  • and shrubs and trees by the middle of March.
There are several exceptions to the above:
  • Seeds of live-forever (Dudleya), buckwheat (Eriogonum), and alum-root (Heuchera) are sown by July 1;
  • bush monkeyflower (Diplacus [now mimulus aurantiacus]) species are sown in early July with herbacious perennials;
  • seeds of sea-dahlia (Coreopsis maritima) are sown by September 1 for late fall, winter, and early spring flowers;
  • lupine (Lupinus) species seeds, including both bush and herbacious perennial types, are sown by October 10 for planting out from three-inch pots in late fall for spring flowers;
  • and seeds of Iris, manzanita (Arctostaphylos), and bush poppy (Dendromecon) are sown by October 15.
  • Seeds of desert shrubs and cacti are sown by July 1 in the glasshouse with a minimum temperature of 60 degrees - 65 degrees F ... ;
With the above schedule, germination and growing temperatures are favorable; and the timing, in most cases, will produce plants of sufficient size to be ready for late fall planting, when the winter rainy period usually commences.
That means I can sow lupines and iris and in mid October and annuals in late October, their proper time, for planting out in late fall. And today I'll put in - well that's the next post....


Christine said…
What excellent timing! I was just thinking this morning about what I'm going to order from Judith for this spring. Good luck with your efforts- sounds like you're off to a great start!
Country Mouse said…
Thanks, Christine. I would love to visit Judith Lowry's nursery in Bolinas - I have been meaning to take a trip up there for a long time. I got seeds of 14 different species sowed and tucked up in the cold frame, but was too tuckered out with that and other gardening tasks to blog last night!