PROPAGATION. EDUCATION. CONSERVATION.
Greenwich Land Trust’s Seed-to-Seed initiative is dedicated to restoring native plants to the local landscape through plant propagation, education and outreach, and habitat restoration. GLT is uniquely qualified to create this initiative, having already developed significant Infrastructure, staff expertise, and partnerships focused on native plants. Seed-to-Seed puts GLT’s resources to work, maximizing the production of vital native plant species while fostering more community connections.
- Propagation: With the help of volunteers, Land Trust staff collects more than 60 native seed species from GLT nature preserves each year. Purple Milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, Butterfly Weed, Green Coneflower, and other plants are propagated in GLT’s greenhouse throughout the winter, yielding over 6,000 plants.
- Education: Greenwich Land Trust increases awareness of the benefits of native species through workshops, family events, and school programs. Seed-to-Seed offers horticultural training to GLT Youth Corps participants and fosters partnerships with other community organizations.
- Conservation: Seed-to-Seed strengthens GLT’s community relationships with schools, gardening groups, and other organizations that support native plant restoration. Native plants are shared and planted throughout the Greenwich landscape to restore and create thriving habitats.
Seed-to-Seed Program Process
Plant Location & Species Identification
- First, GLT staff identify a wildflower species while it is in bloom during the spring or summer. It can be hard to identify a plant’s species after it has gone to seed because leaves may drop or change color, and it will often lack flowers which are generally helpful for precise identification.
- Each species of wildflower has a window of time where its seeds are mature and able to be collected.
- GLT collaborates with other conservation organizations to share seed sources in order to improve plant genetic diversity and find plants that may not be currently be growing on GLT properties.
- Make sure seeds are mature before collecting. Generally, seeds should be dry, brown, and loosely attached to the plant before they are collected. There are exceptions but generally if a seed has those three characteristics it is mature and ready to be collected.
- Collect seeds in small paper bags or other containers but make sure the seeds can dry out and stay dry.
- Be careful not to collect too many seeds from a species in any one location, especially if it’s a threatened or rare species. Generally, a good rule of thumb is not to take more than 20% of the seeds in a particular area.
- GLT hosts workshops open to the public to teach land owners how to collect, process, and grow native plants for their own restoration projects.
Seed Cleaning & Storage
- Use screens, blocks, or other implements to separate the seeds from any chaff, such as twigs, leaves or other plant parts, that may be mixed in with the seeds.
- Store seeds long term in paper coin envelopes, plastic bags, mason jars, or any other container of choice. Most importantly, the seeds should remain dry and cool and should not be stored in direct sun. Some seeds may have specific requirements for storage.
- GLT volunteers do much of the seed cleaning during the fall season.
Seed Stratification and Sowing
- Stratification is when seeds require a cold period (below 40 degrees), usually 2-3 months, before they will germinate. This process assures that seeds will be sprouting in the spring rather than in the fall just before winter.
- Sow seeds in containers and leave them outside to stratify naturally over the winter or mix the seeds with damp sand or other substrate and store in the refrigerator in sealed bags before planting in the spring.
- Some seeds have other requirements to germinate. Check to see what requirements your species needs.
Germination and Transplanting
- It is easiest to have trays with lots of seedlings germinating all at once in the spring. Use a cold frame or small greenhouse, or even your windowsill to give them an early start inside in the late winter.
- Transplant seedlings into larger pots as they begin to develop, up potting as needed until the plants are large enough to be planted outside. Be careful not to damage the roots of the young seedlings.
- GLT’s Youth Corps, local garden clubs, Master Gardener Interns, and other summer volunteers all help to transplant young seedlings into larger pots throughout the summer.
Planting Plugs Outside
- As transplants mature, plant the plugs outside and water generously.
- Be sure to press the seedlings firmly into their holes to ensure proper root to soil contact, and to remove any air pockets around the plant.
- The best times to plant native wildflower plugs are in the spring and fall.
- GLT hosts group volunteer planting days in the fall to install native wildflowers onto properties to restore native plant diversity.