Dividing Seeds

When all the seeds are cleaned and dry I divide them into the same number of divisions as the number of sections I’ve made in the field.

I do all the dividing visually – I don’t weigh anything. The idea is to get approximately the same number of seeds in each section – it doesn’t have to be perfect.

It’s easiest to make the seed mix in each section the same. (Sometimes I try to make slightly different mixes for different areas of the field – more savanna species for parts of the field that have more shade, or more dry prairie species in places that have sandier soil – but it’s hard to be sure I have the right number of seeds in each section when I do it that way.)

The first step is to set up as many grocery bags as there are sections in the field. This year I divided the field into 64 sections, so I used 64 paper grocery bags. (Bags without handles work best – the handles get in the way.) It’s easier to work on the bags if they’re higher than floor level, so I’ve figured out a system of boards and plastic containers to hold them at a comfortable height. Here’s the set-up before I’ve put out the bags.

And here it is with all the bags.

I arrange the bags in groups so it’s easier to keep track of what I’m doing. 64 is a nice number to work with – I arranged them in 4 rows of 16 bags each. And within each row I arranged the bags in groups of 4. I leave aisles between each row that are wide enough to walk in.

I divide each type of seed separately. With small seeds, and when I don’t have huge quantities, I dump the seeds on a table, and divide them – as well as I can by just looking – into 4 equal piles.

I put one pile in to a bowl, then walk down the aisle next to a row of bags, and put approximately the same amount of seeds into each bag. If I have leftover seeds when I come to the end of the row, I go back over the row, adding more seeds to each bag. I repeat this process for each of the 4 seed piles.

If the piles are small ones, or I’m concerned about being able to divide them equally, I divide each of the 4 piles into 4 more piles. Now I have 16 piles of seeds on the table. Each pile goes into a bowl, and gets divided – approximately – into one of the groups of 4 bags.

When I have large quantities of seed – like the grasses – they don’t fit on my table so I don’t do the initial division into 4. I just walk along the aisles, putting a handful of seeds into each bag until the seeds are gone.

This sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty easy to keep track of and makes it fairly easy to divide everything without having to actually weigh the seeds.

When I’ve finished dividing all the seeds, I have 64 bags, each with approximately the same amounts of each kind of seed.

Next I mix the seeds in each bag.

I reach down into the bag and turn and mix the seeds with my hands.

It’s important to wear a mask to do this – the seeds have a lot of dust and plant material that swirls up into the air when they’re stirred.