Autumn - The Best Time to Seed a Pollinator Garden (or prep it)

Counter intuitive - at least it was for me - is that the best time to seed your wildflower/pollinator garden is during the Autumn. Late October or early November is cold enough the seeds won't germinate and dry enough they wont rot.

I've included some of the designs BNS has done for native/pollinator habitats that include shrubs. The keys to designing your wildflower/pollinator habitat (or flowerbed) are:

  1. selecting seeds that fit your shade, partially shady, or sunny habitat (there are seeds for all sun types)

  2. selecting seeds that will thrive in poor soils or well drained and humus rich soils (note if you have lousy soils this can actually help your wildflower habitat by making it harder for weedy species to out-compete indigenous flora adapted to colonize poor soils in high UV habitats)

  3. if you need to improve your soils to increase seed germination then do a soil test for at least pH and macronutrients (NPK)

  4. think about whether you want a wild color mix or chunks of color; if you want the latter buying single seed packs will enable you to make those 'chunks' of color.

Keys to preparing your habitat this fall include:

  1. testing your soil

  2. saving all your leaf material to cover your seeds and to help make your soils full of healthy microbial critters

  3. adding a thin layer of pine straw as another protective layer

  4. if you have weeds and grass to deal with then prep them this autumn and seed in the Spring or Summer of the subsequent year

  5. do NOT till the soil except under extreme conditions (see below)

  6. for strong/steep slopes use erosion control mats embedded with hay and secure to ground with horticultural staples

  7. Seed at 2 - 3x the recommended amount

a. if you live in a place with rich humus soils 2x should be great

b. if you live in a place with high clay or high sand then 3x

Keys to preparing a weedy habitat for Spring or Summer seeding - if you have just a thin layer of weeds and grasses then solarizing till early Spring, with a single chemical spray should get you off to a good start. You will always have to do a bit of weeding because well, birds and wind and pets.

Please do NOT use round-up or similar products - research has repeatedly shown this family of chemicals mess with the hormones in animals (and we are animals). Chronic exposure can lead to feminization of males, for example. There are class action lawsuits happening because of carcinogen exposure, as well.

There are wonderful and multiple organic solutions available - please contact me if you've questions.

Back to our Autumn/Fall Prep:

  1. spray your weeds/grass asap this summer

  2. wait 4 - 6 days (death of 50% of plants visible) and cover with a thick plastic secured with landscape stabples

  3. BTW if the weed/grass is higher than 3" then cut prior to spraying and covering in plastic

  4. keep the plastic in place undisturbed until early or mid Spring of next year,

  5. if you still see green plants when you remove the plastic then a summer seeding is best - return the plastic and let it solarize the plants and their roots a few months more.

  6. If all looks good, remove the plastic and rake your soil lightly - tilling will disturb deeper soil layers where weed seeds can hang-out dormant for years. Tilling will increase your need to weed in the future. So rake the surface of the soil.

  7. Water the raked soils lightly

  8. Add your seeds with a mix of grains (your seeds will come with instructions for this if you buy from a place specializing in pollinator or wildlife habitat seed mixes)

  9. Water deeply

  10. In a few days you can add plants and shrubs and other accents to keep

  11. Keep the seeds and seedlings watered to retain a moist but not wet soil (like a lightly rung-out sponge)

  12. Enjoy the emergence of your pollinator-loving plants:)

  13. The following Autumn cover your pollinator habitat in a thick layer of dead/dying leaves - this will keep the soil microbes happy all winter long making a healther soil for next year's plants.

IF you have a very weedy habitat with invasive and indigenous plants like kudzu, ivy, vinca, etc the process will be longer. But longer means less work in the long-term!

a. cut everything to about 4 - 6" height and spray with your organic he