Last fall I had the priviledge of planting a wildlife garden for a client that included spreading Wild Blue Lupine seeds on a sandy Pine forest edge. At the time I was surprised and delighted by the spontaneous cooperation of the entire family in the project. One of the children actually helped me spread the Blue Lupine and White Clover seeds all over the hillside, entirely of his own volition. (My hope for the next generation spiked noticeably that week.) When the idea synthesized for wildflower seed sowing at the farm on Super Bowl Sunday, I knew it’d be delightful fun for everyone if these kids and their Mom joined us.
It is healthy for all of us in the North East to find ways to engage with nature in the cold months. Nothing in the world embodies hope like planting seeds, and as I’ve mentioned before, I have a lot of extra native species wildflower seeds this year. After giving seeds as holiday gifts to New England family members who garden, there was still plenty leftover to play with. This is the time to scatter collected perennial seeds that require cold stratification.
So I thought of my dear friend, Mr. Otrembiak, the organic farmer. When we spread seeds along the edges of the farm and the forest in this way, there is no guarantee of germination. But any seeds that do arbitrarily propagate will increase the carrying capacity of the ecosystem’s pollinator species, and when you’re located on a family owned organic produce farm you need pollinators to increase vegetable and fruit crop yields, so new edge habitat for zero investment is kind of like winning the eco-lottery.
The species we tossed down were a mid-West native Ironweed, (Vernonia baldwinii) ((technically the NY native Ironweed, Vernonia noveboracensis would have been a better choice)), Joe Pye Weed, (Eupatorium maculata), New England Aster, (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) ((for a shadier edge)) and Tennessee Coneflower, (Echinacea tennesseensis) ((This is native to Tennessee, not here, but it’s a threatened species)). All of these native plant species will support more butterfly, native bee, and honeybee species and have a net effect of attracting more beneficial predator insects such as ladybugs, soldierbugs and dragonflies.
Mr. Otrembiak mentioned the snow storm forecast and used a colloquial phrase I’d never heard before, “poor man’s fertilizer.” He explained to us that as the atmosphere’s composition is 90% Nitrogen, snow (and rain) falling through it is rich in naturally rich plant food.
These kids took to wildflower seed sowing at the farm like it was their job. I feel like the chaotic personality of nature makes it easy for kids to do a project like this; when we began I told them there really was no wrong way to spread the seeds and that they could have fun. It’s quite possible that wintering over songbirds will eat and move some of the seeds- planting them elsewhere. This concept allows me to picture our own animal nature- we, the people-animals, walked by and purposefully set the seeds where we thought they will beautify the forest edge. And later, other animals, songbirds or maybe squirrels may pick up our trail and- for a different purpose, for survival, eat some of the seeds. But at some later time and location, post-digestion, the seeds will be viable (and extra fertilized.)
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