Fall Planting

November has been a surprisingly busy month so far!  I thought things would slow down after we finished our SOS collections for the year and the last plants at the PMC were harvested.  However, I have quickly learned that fall means fall planting, which is no small undertaking.  With limited staff and seemingly limitless tasks to complete before it gets too wet out, the past few weeks have been a whirlwind.

Across our 100+ acres, we have been putting in many different field trials, research plots, and demonstrations while planting cover crops in the bare spots.  Additionally, we are planting seeds to grow out for the BLM and other agencies.  This includes many rows of seed that came from SOS collections.  After doing many seed collections this summer, it’s interesting to see the other half of the process where collected seeds are planted and grown out.  No one has experience working with many of the native species we are asked to grow, so a lot of work goes into figuring out our approach.  We compare a plant to similar species, test out different treatments, and ultimately try to determine the feasibility of producing more seed.

When we have moved to the actual planting stage, the process is more complicated than simply putting seed in the ground.  We have to determine where we can plant a collection while maintaining a large enough separation distance from other plantings of the same species.  We have to determine when to plant and what equipment to use.  We look at what percentage of seeds actually germinate to help determine our desired seeding rate.  We then calibrate our seeding equipment to match our seeding rate.  After all of those steps, we are finally able to plant the seed.  In some cases the actual planting is the easiest and quickest step in the process.

My tractor driving skills are still rudimentary at best, so I used a device called a Planet Junior for my plantings.  A Planet Junior is a walk-behind seeder.  As the seeder gets pushed forward and its wheel spins, seed is fed through a hole and drops to the ground.  It’s a small and straightforward device that has proven to be quite useful for us.  After planting some clovers, a few grasses, and many, many cover crops with this device, I now consider myself an expert seeder.

I finished planting the last item on my list today, so now all I can do is wait and hope everything grows!

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