So, you planted your seed balls, and you waited patiently… what could possibly go wrong?
Seed Balls aren’t completely fool proof, and we sure wish other internet publishers would stop the “throw-n-grow” recommendations, since there’s a lot more to it!
You threw the Seed Balls.
The most common problem is that there wasn’t good contact between the seed ball and the soil. Good contact ensures a better connection with the moisture reservoir of the earth, and also conduit for roots to grow and establish. A thrown seed ball will likely come to rest upon leaves or thatch. It won’t grow.
SOLUTION: Press seed balls gently into the earth, leaving about 1/3 of the seed ball exposed.
You’ve planted lovely wildflower seeds the wrong time of year. Many require outdoor Fall planting. Many require Spring planting. To complicate matters, some seeds are pre-treated to grow in the Spring, although they naturally require fall outdoor planting.
Also, if perennial seeds are planted mid summer, they may grow, but not be mature enough to survive the winter.
SOLUTION: Know your seeds. Look at the seed packet, or seed ball packaging.
If you’ve had a warm spring with a late frost, seedlings – even perennial seedlings- will likely die in the late frost. Even if you followed the directions on the package. This is why germination is so highly variable in wildflowers: some seeds will likely wait until after that frost to germinate. Some seeds wait as long as 20 years! Yikes.
You could also experience a drought after your seeds germinate. If the roots are not established deeply enough, your seedlings can die.
SOLUTION: Pay attention to the weather. Cover plants to protect them from unseasonable frosts. Water lightly and frequently in the time of droughts.
Maybe you thought Fall Planting meant your kitchen windowsill. Nope. It means outside. Maybe your plant is a wetland obligate. It won’t germinate on your south facing hill slope. Or perhaps you have an upland species and planted it in your irrigation ditch in a wet season. Seeds are suited for specific conditions.
SOLUTION: Learn about the needs of the seeds that you are planting to provide favorable conditions for growth. The packaging and the internet combined are a valuable resource.
Really, it’s the wrong place.
Are your wildflower seeds native to your area? Wildflowers are adapted to sunlight, temperatures, soil types, and rainfall patterns where they are native. Even if you are in the same USDA Zone, your flowers may not work if they are not native to your area.
SOLUTION: Look up the species that you are considering on http://bonap.net/ to find out if it’s native to your area. Most of our seed ball pages contain maps of the native range.
You pressed your seed balls into the ground, and them buried them securely in 2 inches of nice new mulch. Oops. It’s kind of like burying them in some steaming hot manure. Mulch will provide an unsuitable environment for the germination of most seeds. It suffocates them and it is not fully composted, so it can be chemically quite strong. Further, light does not penetrate.
SOLUTION: Don’t mulch the seed balls. Mulch mature plants in the Springtime to conserve soil water loss as the weather warms.
Some seeds like to be deep inside the seed ball. Lupines, and Sunflowers are good examples. Many fine seeds require light to germinate. We embed these fine seeds in the seed ball surface.
SOLUTION: Learn about the light requirements of your seeds and place them inside or on the surface of the seed ball accordingly. If in doubt, tiny seeds on the surface, larger seeds in the middle.