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Patience with native plants

Published: Friday, Nov. 8, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

Harvest time is a busy time for farmers harvesting crops from seeds sown in the spring.

Gardeners are surveying the results in their gardens and planning 2014. I work restoring natural areas and collect seeds to enhance a nature preserve.

Seeds collected now are prepared for spring planting. They need six weeks of “freeze” to prepare them for germination. We store them in ventilated containers in the garage so the critters don’t get to eat them. Spring starts their growing cycle when, after a controlled burn, the fire clears dead leaves and debris so seeds actually can touch dirt. They receive sun and rain, while ash is an excellent fertilizer.

I see publicity encouraging people to start growing native plants in their gardens.

I would like people to realize native species have very deep roots; many going down 10 to 15 feet. Their seeds initially produce little above ground. Our volunteers are disappointed to find, a year later, it was a wasted effort. Until the third year, when it’s, “Where did all this come from?” They had to establish their roots before they produce more than a few small leaves above ground.

There is no instant gratification, but for centuries these plants survived drought, fire and browsing by huge numbers of buffalo, deer and insects. They need minimal care; just keep the nonnative weeds out.

Spread your seeds on the surface, don’t bury them.

Keep birds and mice out with wire mesh.

Patience will bring a generation of beauty.

Alan Wilson

Lake in the Hills

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