Sowing Local Native Seeds

I have two shoeboxes filled with envelopes of seeds and fruits that I haven't yet cleaned. Today I cleaned and sowed some of them:

Heuchera micrantha
, Alum root
Eriophyllum confertiflorum, Golden yarrow
Aquilegia formosa, Western Columbine (fruits and seeds shown above)
Rubus parviflorus, Thimbleberry
Iris fernaldii
Clarkia amoena,
Farewell to spring (maybe - some kind of clarkia that grows locally through June - July)

It may not be exactly the right time, but this year is so different from ordinary years, I thought I'd just have a bash anyway.

I checked my Seed Propagation of Native California Plants, by Dara Emery, and none of the above need special treatment.

I checked my Growing California Native Plants, by Marjorie G. Schmidt, who recommended putting the containers of seeds in something that you can water from below, then covering the top with glass and newspaper till the seeds germinate, then removing the newspaper and raising the glass, protecting the seeds from afternoon sun, till they are ready to transplant.

So I took two seed trays and sandwiched a sheet of plastic between them, and filled them with three inch pots. Then I repeated that procedure:

I was lazy about the mix - it should have been a nice fine mix but I used the last batch I had made up, which contains great boulders (compared to the seeds) of perlite. Oh well, they will have to be tough. It's about 1/3 perlite, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 peat, with too much osmocote fertilizer. I hope they all like their rich diet.

I sprinkled the seeds thinly in the pots, and covered them lightly with sifted peat. A little deeper for the iris which have chunky seeds, nice and hard and ready. The clarkia seeds were also nice and ripe, and the thimbleberry required only an hour of soaking then some smooshing in a sieve to get the seeds separated from the fruit. I was very happy with the quality of the seeds. The heuchera seeds are like sand, so tiny, and black.

I didn't have glass for a covering but Wood Rat found some bits of polycarbonate.

Here's the final result:

I weighed the newspaper down with sundry objects de ne pas art. I might find strips of wood that would be better. It's in a shady spot right now but I might move it where it'll get more indirect bright light.

Good luck little seeds!


Wow--these guys are going to get a serious early start. They should be amazingly huge compared to any that might venture out of the ground on their own. Here's wishing you happy seedlings and a wet winter.
I cannot wait to see what comes up :-)
Gail said…
I love California natives~this is exciting to see what happens. In nashville this is the time to throw/scatter seeds into the garden. Soon, we hope, the rains will return and they'll be beautiful this next spring. In an ideal gardening world! gail
I've winter-sown the Clarkia, they seemed easy. I wouldn't worry much about your soil--natives can grow in coarse soil where they fall in nature! Looking forward to your updates. (What's the newspaper for, darkness? I've never understood that because doesn't the soil provide that?)
Christine said…
I love how you're always mentioning how you've cut corners on things when my propagation techniques usually require turning the seed heads upside down into the planting bed to see what comes up!
Good luck to the little seeds!
Country Mouse said…
Regarding timing, Dara Emery's guidelines are: Annuals in late October, so the clarkia are truly early, herbacious perennials, beginning July, shrubs and trees - mid march. I just ignored all that, it's true. I will have to manage their environment until the plant and the season sync up. I'm impulsive - I'm also short of time, so when I just get a day for the garden and I do a bunch of stuff, even if it's not ideal. I am at the same time trying to learn about the right times to try stuff. I'm afraid the birds and etc would just gobble up all the seeds if I sowed directly. I might try that when the pool garden gets into better shape. I'm not sure about the paper - does seem to be about darkness, maybe warmth? I'm just following random instructions in lieu of experience as yet.
I'm probably going to try broadcasting in the new pool garden beds before too long, as I have more seeds than I can use. Better as bird food than nothing, I guess!
Good luck, I can't wait to see what sprouts. I wasn't thinking of starting anything for a couple of months yet. I just this morning started harvesting Ceanothus thyrsiflorus seeds, as one of the trees is literally exploding its little seed pods and raining seeds all over our deck! (The lazy person's method of seed harvest, set out a large piece of cloth, and see what lands on it :P). I do have a lot of Iris fernaldii seeds saved, so I'm excited to see how well yours sprout.
Town Mouse said…
Ah, let me know if you have too many plants when late fall rolls around ;->

Love that first photo!
Susan Krzywicki said…
Great post. Good info and clear photos. I would recommend this to others!
Kimberly said…
Looking forward to your little sprouts! Don't worry about being lazy about your soil. I'm the worst when it comes to this, but I have a reason for my madness. In S. Florida, the soil is primarily poor and made of sand. I enhance it with compost and some peat, but not much else. I let mother nature do it's own thing. I'm not a really fussy gardener...I feel that if a plant can't make it on it's own with little assistance, it does not need to be in my landscape. Harsh reality.

Anyway, back to your planting...I'm so glad you planted natives and referenced your books. I also like your planting method. Again, I'm lazy about this...I grab a pot and stick some seeds in it. No real science here. I like the fact that you take the time to do it right! :)
Lynne said…
I'm looking forward to trying out your new process (new to me) for starting native seeds! Thank you.
You have inspired me with your series of posts on native plant propagation. I have a new project in mind and it will require lots of plants, I want native plants for a front yard meadow garden that will replace our lawn, and the cost for the amount I will need is Waaayy out of our reach. But I have been collecting seeds and I see that what I really need is a good book on propagating prairie plants to guide me.

anyway, I just wanted to tell you thanks for the inspiration. and your gardens are beautiful.