We are in the heart of winter now, but it's still time for me to begin the preparations for new plants in the spring. I wrote in previous posts that in the fall I collected some seeds from the wild and from plants in the garden. Many of those seeds have to be properly prepared if I am going to sow them for growing this year.
Separating milkweed seeds from the fluff
When we buy packets of seeds from the store or online, they are usually properly prepared and ready to be planted right away. However, the seeds of many plants, especially perennials, have to go through a winter's cold before they are willing to germinate in the spring. This is a protective measure so that seeds do not drop in the fall and begin to sprout, only to be killed by freezing temperatures.
Because I collected these seeds rather than leaving them in the dirt outside, I will need to give them a simulated winter inside before I can use them in the spring. This process is called stratification. this is something I have never tried before and I am hoping that it works, giving me productive seeds to start a little later this year.
Milkweed seeds ready for a cold treatment
To stratify the seeds, I needed some kind of medium to hold them during the process. Many experts have recommended a variety of options including vermiculite, perlite, and sand. I have chosen fine peat moss, made from decomposed sphagnum. I purchased it from a garden store, so it is sterile, meaning that it should be free from diseases and unwanted seeds from weeds.
I took a bit of peat moss from the sealed packaging and added some water in a bowl. I then nestled the seeds in the dampened moss. Dampening the moss is supposed to allow the seeds to absorb some moisture, helping prepare them for eventual germination.
I am currently stratifying for different species: Common Milkweed, Butterfly Weed, Jimson Weed, and Common Mullein. Stratification times can vary widely for different types of seeds, but for these particular species I think that about a month will be enough time in the cooler.
I am very hopeful that this process will yield positive results come spring. If it does not work out though, it was at least an interesting learning experience.