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Sowing prairie seed into snow

Posted by oakridge2 Wisconsin (My Page) on
Sat, Jan 26, 08 at 11:17

I am interested if anybody has experience with prairie seed sown on top of snow. This year I seeded a one acre expansion to my existing prairie plantings and part of it was done late on top of snow. The area has a south facing aspect with modest slope. It was prepared by chemical treatments and burning (no tilling). Seeding was done by hand after mixing seed with sawdust.

One half of this field was seeded onto the first accumulated snow of the season (about 3/4" of dry snow). This seeding was covered the next day by a big blizzard (about a foot of snow followed by several inches freezing rain).

The other 1/2 of the field was sown durig a warm spell in late December onto a wet melting layer of snow. Under this was a thick compacted layer layer of snow/ice.

I have had good results with late fall seedings onto bare ground. I live in Wisconsin and did not plan to seed on snow, unfortunatly winter came early. I will say that seeding on snow really lets you get a good distribution as the sawdust really stands out. It will be interesting to see if there are any differences in establishment between the two different seeding dates.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Sowing prairie seed into snow

I'll be curious to see the responses here. I'm just beginning a wildflower/prairie garden and have 5lbs. of seed to put out.

There is no less than 2-3 feet of snow on the site at the moment. . . and I'm afraid to put the seed out there. I really don't want to feed the wildlife ~ and have had alot of trouble w/ wild turkeys in the past.

RE: Sowing prairie seed into snow

I did my planting the hard the spring. I've read from several sources that sowing in the fall and letting the snow cover it is a better method. I would think that sowing on top of the snow, as long as more snow comes along would accomplish the same thing. I'm interested in how it works since i've still got some ground left to plant. Are you mixing forbs in with the grass?

RE: Sowing prairie seed into snow

Seeds and the frozen ground dont mix.

Seeds and wet rain/snow that will melt onto unfrozen soil does mix exactly where I put it.

Many years ago when I was pressed for time, I seeded as you suggested late in the year and had almost 100% of the germination on the last 5ft of the downslope of ~ 3% slope. Luckly I realized this first year and re sprayed and re seeded and have a nice spot now.

IMO, the first snow of the year is the best seeding time of the year. But not into frozen'll be singing that famous paul simon song 'slip slidin' away...'


Here is a link that might be useful: slip slidin away

RE: Sowing prairie seed into snow

Froggy, you have me worried now that 1/2 acre of seeded prairie is "slip slidin away!! I went outside and dug down in the snow/ice and found my seed/sawdust layer. It is now very close to the frozen soil, but still in a layer of compacted snow/ice.

I would hate to see it fail as it was a very good mix with about 60 forbs. I collected/processed at lot of the seed myself which is a big investment of time (although it is fun). I also bought about $300 of seed.

I have not given up hope yet. Maybe it will depend on what kind of thaw we get in the late winter/spring. I am hoping for a gradual thaw where some of my seed will stick to the soil, as opposed to a big thaw that causes my seed to take a ride down the hill.

I will report back next summer when I have some results.

RE: Sowing prairie seed into snow

I have heard that planting on snow is a great way to break dormancy in some seeds (I have not experienced this first hand). With the thawing and refreezing it wears hard seed coats so moisture can enter the seed and therefore germinate. Infact in nature this happens alot. Unless you have a huge runoff this spring you shouldn't have a problem. Let us know how it works when they start to germinate!

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