Planting Seeds

The last step in this process is planting the seeds. The kind of planting I do is called “frost seeding”, which means throwing the seeds out on the surface of the soil in the winter, and letting the freezing and thawing work the seeds into the ground.

I like this method because it makes the planting process simpler – I don’t have to drill the seeds in, or till the soil.
It also ensures that the seeds go through a period of cold, wet conditions (stratification) that many species need to germinate.

Planting is very dependent on the weather. It’s easiest to plant when there’s a little snow on the ground, and when there’s not much wind.

Having snow on the ground makes it easy to see where I’ve already spread seeds, and how thickly I’m sowing them.

seeds on the snow

I put a bag of seeds into a 5 gallon plastic bucket with a handle. Then I walk along the section carrying the bucket and throwing out seeds, trying to cover the ground evenly.

bucket with seeds

In the last few prairies I’ve planted about 90 seeds per square foot. When I first start planting I usually plant slightly lighter than that to be sure that I have enough for each section – then I can adjust how heavily I seed according to how much I use.

The sections are only approximately the same size, so some sections are slightly short on seeds, and some have more than enough. If I have leftover seeds from one section I add it to the next bucket. At the end of the field I usually have some left over and I can go back over any sections that seemed short on seeds.

after planting with my tracks

The snow tends to be deeper at the lower edges of the fields; sometimes there’s almost no snow in the middle, and more than a foot along the edges. If the snow is deep I wear snowshoes.

The factor that makes planting the most difficult is wind. A little wind helps spread the seeds, but if there’s too much wind, the seeds blow away.

If the temperature is warm or the sun is shining, or if the snow is soft, the seeds will tend to melt into the snow a little and stick. If it’s colder or there’s no sun, or if there’s a crust on the snow, even a little wind will blow the seeds away. There are some weeks when I’m not able to plant at all because of the wind.