“By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.”
Helen Hunt Jackson
Looking for a way to celebrate September in the garden?
In our region, which is in the USDA’s Zone 7, September to December is most favorable to sow wildflower seeds. It can take several years to get a good stand of wildflowers because many flower species have extremely tough seed coats which protect the seed and maintain its dormancy. However, many wildflowers will germinate now so that a root system can get established before it goes dormant.
To encourage germination in the first year, you should scarify or scratch some of the seed. This will help to encourage establishment of at least some of the seed that you plant. On small quantities, use a knife to nick the seed coat or rub the seeds with sandpaper. Another technique is to freeze the seeds overnight, and then pour hot water over the seeds and let the water cool to room temperature. With any wildflower seed, you should not scarify all of the seeds. Scarify a percentage of them, but leave the rest in the care of Mother Nature.
Here are some more tips on growing wildflowers:
• Small seeds are planted at the soil surface. If you bury the seed too deeply, the seed will expend its food reserves trying to get to the soil surface, and will most likely die in the process. Don’t plant seeds too deeply.
• For very small seeds, drag the area to increase soil contact or you can simply walk on the seed to encourage adequate soil contact.
• Sun-loving wildflowers need at least 5 to 7 hours of sunlight. Sun-loving wildflowers that are planted in a shaded environment will be spindly or “leggy” and have very few blooms.
• Wildflowers should be planted in areas that do not receive a lot of foot traffic. Compaction of the soil reduces the rate for successful seed germination.
• Wildflowers do not typically need added fertilizer. You can add a slow-release fertilizer at planting, but fertilizer is not something that is needed after germination. Remember that these are native wildflowers. If you fertilize, you will get large foliage, but you may hinder blooming.