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DCMGA News and Events ...
Delaware County Master Gardener Association Annual Poinsettia and Holiday Flower Sale
Nature Knows Best: Best Practices for Supporting Biodiversity
On October 5, Terri Litchfield was the featured speaker at the monthly luncheon for the volunteers who work in the Heritage Garden at the Ohio Governor’s Residence in Bexley. Debra Knapke, Interim Garden Manager at the Heritage Garden, offered brief remarks about the importance of native plants before introducing Terri.
Terri shared her knowledge of native plant propagation which includes drying, stratification, scarification, and other necessary steps required for pretreating native seeds in preparation for planting. These steps serve to mimic the conditions of winter for dormant seeds which allows for successful germination in the spring. These requirements vary according to species.
She also shared information about the more traditional methods of seed starting practiced by the Delaware County Master Gardener Association (DCMGA) Native Plant Propagation (NPP) Committee. The early years of the project had mixed results for success, as the process could be laborious, requiring knowledge about each species' requirements and implementation of numerous steps.
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Next she talked about winter sowing, a more reliable method of starting native seeds for herbaceous perennials, which the NPP Committee used last year with great success. They started seeds in one-gallon milk or juice jugs. In early January, the jugs are cleaned, prepared for planting, seeds are sown, and taped shut to preserve moisture and protect the seeds from predators and other disturbances. The jugs are then placed outside where nature provides the necessary cold temperatures and the gradual warmth and increased light in spring. This method reduces labor, expense of materials, the need for indoor space to grow seedlings, and also the need for grow lights and meticulous monitoring of moisture levels.
Terri emphasized the need to grow and sustain 'Keystone Plants' which are critical to support native species such as native bees and butterflies. Oak trees top the list for butterfly and moth caterpillars as an extremely beneficial keystone plant. Gardeners should work to provide a sort of 'soft landing' beneath the tree for insects in all of their various life stages to safely hide and develop. This allows more of them to overwinter and grow to maturity. Some examples are moths and butterflies, bumble bees, beetles, lacewings, and fireflies. Examples of soft landings include herbaceous plants, leaf litter and dormant or dead plant debris. Such soft landings are beneficial in all native plant scenarios. To support this effort, gardeners are encouraged to delay cleanup in these and other garden areas until spring.
For those interested in starting their own native plants, native plant seeds can be purchased online. Searching "Prairie Moon Nursery Cultural Guide" for the specific seed treatment required for various native species provides a wealth of information. With permission, native seeds can also be obtained from the wild, but Terri cautioned prudence and conservation by gathering a very small percentage of wild seed, being sure to leave a minimum of 90% of the seed in place to maintain wild populations in that area, which is already proven to be suited to the growth of that species.
Terri Litchfield is the Delaware County Master Gardener Association's native plant expert and the winner of the 2021 Ohio State Award for Outstanding Master Gardener Volunteer. Since 2018, Terri has led the DCMGA's Native Plant Propagation Committee, mentoring volunteers on propagating native plants. The majority of the native plants grown by the group sell out at the annual plant sale, an important fundraiser for DCMGA.