Much of what we do over the course of the summer is prepare prairie sites for dormant seeding. By dormant seeding, we mean seeding late enough in the season that the seed does not germinate until next spring when the temperatures go up.
Native seed needs about four months of growth before it is mature enough to make it through the winter. This is why we seed in the spring until the end of June, then let up on seeding. Seeding after this time results in a certain percentage of he seed not germinating.
So, from July until roughly the end of October, we spend our time preparing sites for dormant seeding. This involves spraying the sites with herbicide, sometimes cleaning them up, sometimes removing the vegetation without tilling so as to minimize erosion.
Seed will not germinate when the ground temperatures drop to roughly 39 degrees. On the other hand, we cannot seed when the ground is frozen. This time between the top inch of the earth getting down to 39 degrees, and it being frozen, is our window for seeding.
This year, like last, our window for dormant seeding was very small—about two weeks. Some years we have been lucky enough to have a window open until Thanksgiving. We hustled to finish what jobs we could. What we did not get done will have to wait until next spring.
It is odd to think that I was out seeding a week ago today, as the ground was not frozen last Tuesday. But by Wednesday morning, November 7, the ground was too hard to till or drill with the seeder.
With seeding over, we bed our plugs for the winter. This involves moving them from the greenhouse into a staging area where we “bed” them with leaves. The leaves allow the plants to freeze but retain some moisture throughout their winter dormancy.
It is a good feeling to get the plants bedded down for the season.