New Experiment This Year

greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

I live in a four seasons climate supposedly...we always seem to lose Spring every year though now. Winter hangs on until late May, early June and then a couple of weeks later it is Summer.

But I have several areas I am trying to convert to wildflower gardens. And when I plant in June, it's always August before I actually get a decent looking flower bed. I'm not liking that!

So this year, after my first frost (which is usually in mid-October) I've decided to try this.

I'm now tearing down all of this year's beds because the season is past for the plants which were in there this year (it looked horrible anyway the last month and a half). I'm prepping the beds as a newly-seeded bed and then I'm going to go ahead and seed them. Cover them up with a slightly thicker than usual spread of organic straw and just let that overwinter.

I'm hoping this way, the seeds will have a chance to start sprouting earlier in the season next year. I've accumulated seeds which are early season, mid-season and late season flowers so I'm hoping this is going to work. Thus I'm hoping the straw will be enough winter protection for them so they survive over the winter months.

If anyone has tried this before I'd be interested in knowing how it worked for you or if you have any suggestions which gave great results.


  • blevinandwomba
    blevinandwomba Posts: 813 ✭✭✭✭

    Are you familiar with winter sowing? Its similar to what you are doing, but in containers

    I've had excellent success with this method, for the most part.

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

    @blevinandwomba , I did do that my first two years of gardening so I could have transplants ready for the growing season. I like to use only organic transplants also and there is just no one around me which has them available.

    So a long story shortened, yes winter sowing was a step in the right direction but once again I had the problem of when it was time to transplant, the weather wasn't cooperating. I ended up losing many plants because I could not get them into the ground at the right time for their best performance.

    Also, maybe it's just me, but I personally thought that method was a whole lot of work for very little reward.

  • Hassena
    Hassena Posts: 345 ✭✭✭

    Good day, We also have a 4-ish season climate in zone 7b. There are certain flowers that are fall sown for spring blooming and other flowers seeds that are spring sown for summer/fall blooming. It might be beneficial to look into seeds that prefer to be sown in fall? Some seeds need the cold dormancy.

    We've done this with clover and some flowers like poppies. We'd like to do more of this with wildflowers.

    Great question. Please keep us posted. :)

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

    @Hassena the seeds I came up with do mention they are Fall sown seeds but when I talked to the company they really were intending them for a more moderate winter climate they said. But I'm one that is always willing to push the boundaries by trying to find a way to nudge things along by giving them what they need, if possible, so they can give me what I want.

    So I guess I'm just going to have to try this and see what happens next Spring. I like the look of a wildflower garden, I just don't like the time it takes to get that look. Especially when it only hangs around for such a limited amount of time.

    And sure, since you are interested I will post again next Spring/Summer and let you know how it turned out.

  • Obiora E
    Obiora E Posts: 517 ✭✭✭✭

    I have done Winter sowing of native seeds in snow as well as in the early morning after a hard frost. I do not do any transplanting of the plants after they come up but rather broadcast the seeds in the area where I want them and then when the seeds are ready to germinate they will do so.

    The first time that I did a snow seeding of seeds was with (White) Yarrow in either January or February and by April they leaves were growing.

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

    @Obiora E , this is exactly what I had in mind to do also.

    To me, if they are planted correctly to begin with, as long as I can keep them dormant during the late Fall/Winter months, I'm hoping the warming temps next Spring will bring them out of dormancy and allow them to grow, just a little sooner and faster than a June sowing would.

    So your description is exactly what I am hoping to develop. Thanks.

  • EarlKelly
    EarlKelly Posts: 230 ✭✭✭

    @greyfurball just wanted you to know that I have been using this method the last few years. Love it. Tried a new experiment this year. I use the plastic gallon jug method. Got some pawpaw fruit from another master gardener. Saved a bunch of the seeds to see if I can start any of them. Would love to be able to give any of my fellow master gardeners a pawpaw tree that would like one. Will keep you posted as spring gets closer. Getting ready to put up a cattle panel greenhouse so I have more room to raise plants for the master gardeners annual plant sale. Our biggest fund raiser so we can continue to do various projects throughout out our county.

  • Gail H
    Gail H Posts: 359 ✭✭✭✭

    @greyfurball I'm in South Jersey, so we have a pretty similar situation. Fall planting can be tough too. It was 93 on October 3rd last year and well below freezing a couple of weeks later.

    I dearly love peas, but the farmers around here have told me that they're not worth growing because of the sudden, intense onset of summer heat. I planted some in a cold frame last fall. I have masses of growth, that I'm hoping will fruit just as soon as the weather warms a bit. We'll see!

  • Leslie Carl
    Leslie Carl Posts: 255 ✭✭✭✭

    @blevinandwomba Thanks for that link! I'm trying that with onion seeds and st. johnswort, but I hadn't thought about doing it with seeds that need scarification. I have some passion fruit seed that needs scarification and I haven't been able to get to germinate. I've tried several times, sanding down the outer coating or nicking it, but no results. They take 30 days to germinate, so that's a lot of time lost, waiting to see if it works. I'm going to try this method on them and see how that goes.

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

    @blevinandwomba , @Hassena , @Obiora E and @EarlKelly

    Just as an update for you guys, I did end up putting the wildflower gardens in last year in November, and then covered them with the organic straw about 4" deep. Watered it all well and have just let it go all winter.

    I am happy to say so far I do believe this is going to work. I can see all kinds of initial growth. There is tiny little green shoots popping up thru the straw in every one of the beds so far. I have it scheduled to add some all-purpose fertilzer and some epsom salts mixture to be added this week or next just so they have something to use for food.

    But unless something changes I believe this experiment is going to come to a satisfactory conclusion.


  • Obiora E
    Obiora E Posts: 517 ✭✭✭✭

    @greyfurball Sounds good! When your plants start to bloom please attach some photographs to this thread.

  • bcabrobin
    bcabrobin Posts: 251 ✭✭✭

    Have you ever thought of cold framing? There is a farm in central PA (Ways Farm) that plants corn and other things in the ground in the fall, covers it with the straw but then they cover that in thick clear plastic. The last time I was at the farm it was cold snow on the grounds and they removed a small section to show us the corn that was growing. It was at least 3-4' tall, they said they would have local sweet corn for Memorial Day. (we don't see local at July 4th, most farmers go with the knee hi by the 4th will be a good crop of corn.)

  • nksunshine27
    nksunshine27 Posts: 343 ✭✭✭

    @greyfurball yes i have done this with my regular garden and have gone with the no till method also it works great its so much easier i do get less weeds this way also

  • dottile46
    dottile46 Posts: 437 ✭✭✭

    @bcabrobin amazing! That's something I've never even thought about.

  • SuperC
    SuperC Posts: 951 ✭✭✭✭

    @Gail H Have you tried planting the peas on the east facing wall of a building? This is because east facing walls receive less direct heat from the sun.

  • SuperC
    SuperC Posts: 951 ✭✭✭✭

    @bcabrobin Putting a layer if the thick clear plastic over the planted bed then covered in straw mimics a solarium. That’s marvelous gardening for fall and winter sown seeds.

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

    @bcabrobin yes your description sounds like a perfect solution except for one thing I don't understand.

    For a low growing crop this seems obvious but for corn which can reach heights of 6-8 feet or more, that plastic is going to have to raise right along with the added height which means it now has cold air entering under the plastic. This seems to defeat the purpose of the plastic.

    Also, as the corn grows and the snow falls there is a lot of extra weight on that plastic which would break off the plant underneath. Or if no snow, the plastic would just blow away in a wind storm.

    So did they have a plastic frame built over this bed or how did they solve these issues?

  • Gail H
    Gail H Posts: 359 ✭✭✭✭

    Well, here we are three months (and a whole new reality!) later. I am happy to report that we have been eating peas for quite some time now. I think I actually over-babied them because I almost lost them to being too hot in my makeshift covered bed. It is supposed to get hot next week, so I may be done with peas since my spring planted ones haven't even bloomed yet, but I got some! I will definitely try this again next year. If it looks like it will get crazy cold, I'll just harvest pea shoots.

  • Vicky M.
    Vicky M. Posts: 74 ✭✭✭
    edited May 2020

    Several years ago, I sowed my lawn with red clover seeds in the fall and the plants appear early spring in mass. Now they self sow where ever they like and they especially love to grow in the garden paths between my raised bed gardens. I collect & dry the flowers for infusions.

    This gave me the idea to sow wildling herbs, like milk thistle, along side my raised garden beds in the fall and it works.