Spring and Fall Pollinator Planting Tips

All of us at the Pollinator Pals program thank you for your part in making
the St. Lawrence River Valley region the pollinator-friendliest and wildflower-prettiest place we can be!

* We're pleased to share these tips for planting your wildflower garden *

The information on this page is relative to the climate of upstate New York.

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Wait until there is no longer a threat of frost, as a late Spring frost can kill young seedlings. 
Ideally, you should wait until the soil temperature reaches a minimum of 55°F.   

The window to plant during Fall is from September 1 until the ground freezes. 
It is important to wait to plant until after a killing frost, but before the ground freezes. 
Planting too early will allow the seeds to germinate, which can be detrimental to the plants once Winter arrives.

Flowers will grow best in full sun; choose a spot on your property that gets at least 6 hours of sun daily.
Use your soil as you find it!  If any plants are growing where you want to plant, the area will absolutely support a successful garden. 

Clear weeds and grass. Depending on your plot size and time availability, you have several options for clearing your plot:

  • Hand Tools
    Dig out unwanted plants and roots, being sure to remove as much root matter as possible. Rake the area flat, removing rocks and roots.

  • Rototilling 
    Break up the ground to soften the soil. Make sure all unwanted roots are removed, but don't till too deep.  Aim for a depth of 4 inches, but no deeper than 6 inches.  Till established sod at a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Wait 48 hours, and till again at 3 to 4 inches.  Till a third time for well-established lawn.  Planting should be between immediately and up to three days max after the final tilling.

  • Solarizing
    Lay a clear, thin plastic sheet over your plot.  The sun will trap heat beneath the plastic, beginning to kill existing plant life. Solarizing has variable success in upstate New York and we recommend alternative methods. 

  • Smothering
    Lay a heavy tarp, cardboard, or sheets over your plot for 4 to 6 weeks (or overwintering).  Fasten the cardboard with stakes or weights. Weeds will die by the time you are ready to plant. Water the cardboard to saturate it, helping it to detriorate. Seedlings can be planted through your cardboard. Optionally, add an inch of organic compost or grass clippings to your plot. 

​Regardless of method, the more roots you remove by hand from the soil prior to planting, the more successful your beautiful wildflower garden will be!

​Avoid windy days to plant your seeds so that they don't blow away! Scatter seeds evenly across the plot. Press your seeds into the ground to speed up germination. For smaller plots, lightly walk on the entire patch - don't stomp! Use the soles of your shoes to compress the seeds evenly across the plot. For bigger plots, do the same using a sheet of cardboard. Use a seed roller for large plots. Local Ag Outlets often rent seed rollers (Agway, LeBerge & Curtis, etc). 

After planting, your plot should remain moist throughout the day. You can plant after sunset to avoid Keep seedlings well-watered until they have grown at least 4 to 6 inches tall.  Puddles in your plot will drown your plants; avoid overwatering. Once seedlings reach 4 to 6 inches tall, you can stop watering, unless the weather is extremely dry. 

To test for appropriate soil moisture, squeeze your soil into a ball. It should stick together, but no water should drip for your hand as you squeeze. See this video for illustration.

Your flowers will begin to bloom in approximately 6 weeks!

Wildflower seeds planted in the fall will remain dormant throughout the winter and grow in the Spring.
Next spring, expect to see growth and blooms about two weeks earlier than if the same seeds were planted in Spring. 

Much more can be found at this Seed Planting Instruction Page, and be sure to poke around the many other resource-laden pages at their site!  American Meadows is where we source our Northeast Wildflower Mix as part of the Pollinator Protection Program.

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Local Living Venture
Serious Fun * Delightful Education

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The Local Living Venture is coordinated entirely by volunteers.
With a small staff, and your support, we make big things happen!

The Local Living Venture coordinates near-weekly Resourceful Living Skills workshops, community events and information exchanges - sharing traditional rural and simple living skills for a healthy and capable community.
We collaborate in presenting these life-long learning events with generous community members who have skills and knowledge to share.

T h e  *  L o c a l  *  L i v i n g  *  V e n t u r e
Sharing Knowledge from the Past ~ Building Skills for the Future

A 501(c)(3) non-profit community-based, educational organization serving the St. Lawrence Valley of northern New York
Website made possible by the Northern New York Community Foundation

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Email us: LocalLivingVenture@gmail.com
315. 347. 4223 * PO Box 736  Canton, NY 13617

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