Skip to Main Content

Fall Seed Sowing

Did you know? Fall is the perfect time to sow many wildflower seeds! Why sow seed in the fall? Here’s a list of advantages:

  • Clay soils are easier to work
  • Earlier blooms
  • High moisture conditions
  • More time to plant
  • Natural cold stratification

In Maryland, the best times to sow seeds range from mid-September through the first frost. Below are some steps to sow fall seeds.

Select the site.
Many wildflowers need a sunny location to thrive, so select an area that receives a decent amount of sun. When sowing, level ground is best, but gentle slopes are okay if you can control erosion during seedling establishment. Knowing the soil at your site is also important. Is it generally dry or moist? Is the soil clayey, or does it have loam? What is the soil pH? This information is essential to know when selecting seed for your site.

Prepare the site.
Before sowing seed, make sure the area is free from weeds. You can accomplish this task by smothering weeds with black or clear plastic during the growing season. Other site preparation methods include mechanical removal of weeds or sod, deep soil tillage or herbicide. Once weeds have been removed, prepare the seedbed by using a turf roller or rake to create a smooth, non-clumpy surface. Since removal or tilling of weeds may bring weed seed to the surface, consider placing a thin layer of compost over the surface of the bed.

Select your seed.
It is important to select seed that is suitable for your site including the soil and moisture conditions. Be sure to select high quality, fresh seed for planting. The amount of seed is determined by the area you want to cover and the seeding rates. Seeding is the amount of seed you need to achieve a stand, and it is expressed as pure live seed (PLS) pounds per acre. PLS is the percentage of seed (i.e., good viable seed) that has the potential to germinate within a measured 1 pound weight of any seed lot. For more detailed information on how to calculate seeding rates and pure live seed content, please check out the Natural Resources Conservation Service bulletin.

Sow away!
The site is prepped and your seeds are selected; now, it is time to sow! You can use a broadcast seeder or hand sow, depending on your preferences and the size of the site. Once sown, gently walk across the soil surface, use a board or a seed roller to set the seeds in the soil. Don’t compact the soil too much.

After sowing, your job is complete. Sit back and relax until next year when your flowers sprout!

Seed Suppliers:

Author’s Note

Welcome to the fall edition of the HabiChat, our quarterly backyard wildlife habitat newsletter from the Wild Acres program. Fall is my favorite time of year. This issue is dedicated to a native fruit tree known as the persimmon, explains why opossums are awesome and lists recommended plants for fall pollinators. In addition, there is a small piece on sowing fall seeds and two new citizen-science projects you may want to check out.
If there is a particular topic that you would like to see included in a future edition, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Happy Habitats!

Kerry Wixted

Also in This Issue:
Backyard Wildlife Fun: Tracks!
Citizen Science: Bats, Butterflies and Moths
Fall Seed Sowing
Fueling Fall Pollinators
Native Plant Profile: Persimmon
Native Wildlife: Virginia Opossum

Want HabiChat delivered right to your inbox? Click here to sign up!

Photo of: Common Buckeye on Goldenrod; HabiChat Vol. 22, No. 1