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Gardener Teaches How To Successfully Plant Native Seeds This Winter



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Local landscape designer Chlöe Bowers shared her gardening expertise during “Winter Sowing Native Plants,” an evening program at C.H. Booth Library on January 9. The event was co-sponsored by Protect Our Pollinators and Gardeners of Newtown.

Attendees were encouraged to bring two clean plastic gallon water/milk jugs and gloves for the second portion of the event, which included a hands-on tutorial to help attendees get started sowing their winter seeds.

Bowers said she would be sharing “simple and inexpensive ways to fill your yard with native plants.”

Her talk focused on native plants, she said, because they support native wildlife and pollinators, specifically by providing food and habitats for them.

Bowers added that native plants are also easier to grow and showed images of her garden with the many native plants that are thriving.

She noted that since the term “native” can have different meanings depending on who you ask, she recommends people look for seeds from ecoregion 59 to strengthen the Connecticut gene pool. Examples she showed included photos of stoneroot, Leonard’s skullcap, bird’s foot violet, and whorled milkweed.

The benefits of winter seed sowing, she said, include the prevention of seeds washing away, the elimination of weed competition, the practice is inexpensive, and it allows for more flexibility and control.

“You can do it at your own pace,” Bowers said.

Her six easy steps for winter seed sowing were: “Prepare a container by creating drainage, ventilation, and an access opening; fill to a minimum of three inches with well-moistened, soil-less potting mix; sprinkle on your seed [then] cover larger seed with soil, vermiculite, or coarse sand to the depth of the seed; label your container inside and out; tape shut the opening; put your container outside in the shade or morning sun, exposed to precipitation.”

Bowers held up a plastic milk jug that was cut in half and a plastic smoothie cup with a hole in the lid to showcase two container options for winter seed sowing.

Another favorite recycled item of hers are the square plastic containers that hold kiwis in stores, because they already have holes in the bottom and a lid that latches.

“It’s important for your container to be transparent or semi-transparent,” she said. Gardeners will want to look inside the vessel during the process, she explained.

When a member of the audience asked for advice for what to do when tape does not hold the container shut, Bowers suggested making a hole on each section by the opening then looping in a twist tie to close it.

When springtime comes, she said, there are four easy steps to follow to help the seed sowing process:

“1. Keep an eye on those containers. Once those seeds germinate, you may need to water.

“2. When daytime temps are consistently above 65, remove tape and open your containers.

“3. Move full sun plants into full sun.

“4. When plants have two sets of true leaves, separate into chunks, and plant in garden or pot up in individual pots to grow in.”

At the end of the talk, attendees were invited to visit the gardening stations that were set up in the meeting room of the library, where the program was presented.

Displays included tools for everyone to prep their container, soil to add to containers, a selection of seeds — all identified — and tape to close containers before labeling.

Everyone was then able to take home their creation and start their winter seed sowing process. Attendees also received an informational handout with more tips and a list of resources to explore to continue learning about the subject.

Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at alissa@thebee.com.

Chlöe Bowers points to a slide during “Winter Sowing Native Plants,” an evening program that drew a large crowd to C.H. Booth Library on January 9. —Bee Photo, Silber
Bowers discusses examples of plastic containers that can be used for sowing winter seeds, including milk jugs, fruit boxes, bottles, and egg cartons. —Bee Photo, Silber
Bowers (at left) was joined by Protect Our Pollinators members Holly Kocet (center) and Joan Cominski at one of the tables where attendees could select seeds for their containers. —Bee Photo, Ronan
One participant’s cut milk jug was filled with soil, ready to have hairy beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus) seeds added. —Bee Photo, Ronan
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