It’s time to plant! Having your seeds in the ground and knowing your planting will soon take shape makes all the planning and preparation seem worth it. Now it’s time to choose your planting method.
Your planting method depends on the size of your site, condition of the soil, and your budget. Regardless of the method you choose, seed to soil contact and planting depth (no deeper than ¼”) are critical factors in growing native seeds. Keep this in mind before, during, and after seeding.
Best for areas less than a couple acres and generally the least expensive method, but requires a cultivated and firm seed bed. The native seed mix can be scattered a handful at a time from a bucket or you can use a hand crank seeder to cover more area faster. You can also use an ATV or tractor mounted broadcast spreader.
To evenly spread seed across the entire site, divide your mix in half and scatter the first half of the seed over the entire area, then scatter the second half perpendicular to the first pass. Further divisions will give you more chances to calibrate your technique and ensure adequate coverage. Consider adding a filler such as cracked corn, vermiculite or a nurse crop of annual rye and seed oats to create more bulk. If it is too windy, wait for the wind to decrease.
Roll the seed into the top surface of the soil for best results, or lightly rake the seed into the soil surface using an upside-down leaf rake. If the area is too large to rake by hand, use a tractor or truck to pull a light piece of fence or very light drag.
- No-Till Native Seed Drill
Perfect for larger areas with hard ground or existing vegetation debris, no-till drills cause minimal soil disturbance and do not require tillage before planting. Fewer weed seeds are brought up from the seed bank, but the technique requires the use of herbicide. No-till drills plant into rows by opening a shallow groove in the soil, dropping the seeds, then covering the groove with soil with a rubber packer wheel.
No-till drills are available to rent from many conservation districts, but proper training or instruction is required to correctly use them. Calibration and depth adjustment vary between mixes and sites and are critical to ensure proper distribution and placement of seed. Many dollars in seed are wasted due to improper use of no-till drills.
- Culti-packer and Conservation Seeders
Works well for bare, loose soil by firming the seed bed with a culti-packer/roller, dropping the seed, and then packing the soil with another roller to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. These types of machines are becoming more common, and are preferable to a no-till drill when planting into bare, loose soils.
Watering & Irrigation
Watering is not necessary after fall plantings. It’s not essential following a spring seeding either, but the seeds may benefit from watering during the first 3 to 6 weeks, especially if no rain has fallen for 7-10 days. If watering is practical for your site and you decide to irrigate, you will need to continue watering periodically to keep the soil from drying out while plant seedlings establish. In a dry spring, quicker establishment may result with supplemental watering.
Click here for a recommended maintenance plan.