’23 Winter Sow program to grow native seedlings (for free) (Updated Again)

Register now for seed pickup this Sunday morning and/or Workshop on Sunday afternoon

Above: If you’d like to have plants in your yard and around the community this summer that support native pollinators, sign up now for the seeds and workshop to get you started. (scroll down for photo credits)

[Editor’s Note: Due to the extreme temperatures tomorrow, the pickup time for seeds is being moved to Sunday from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm.]

For the fourth straight year, the community is invited to participate in a “Winter Sow” program to support pollinators by nurturing native plants. The 2023 program kicks off this week.

Registration is open to order free seeds for pick up this Saturday and to reserve your spot in this Sunday’s sowing workshop.

The program is part of Southborough’s Open Space Preservation Commission “Native Pollinator • Native Plant” initiative. For years, OSPC has been working to support endangered pollinators.

OSPC winter sow 2023 flyerI’m sharing details and background below. But you can read OSPC’s quick guide for How to Participate here

OSPC’s communications explains of the annual winter program:

Our native plants have co-evolved with New England weather patterns with most native plants requiring a period of repeated freezing and thawing for their seeds to break dormancy and germinate.

Participation means you can set the stage to have beautiful flowers and wonderful plants in your yard this summer while “helping our most at risk pollinators”. (To learn more about the program, click here.)

In 2020 Volunteers first got together at public hands-on workshops in Southborough to prepare and sow seeds in the winter and foster them into seedlings ready for planting in the spring. Since then, the program has grown.

Over the years, OSPC has continued to increase the number of native seed varieties they offer. This winter, volunteers prepared seeds to share for 49 varieties of flowering native plants that are beneficial to native pollinators. (Although, as of writing this post, two were already sold out. So, act quickly to get your top choices.) The plants have varying bloom times shown as ranging from March – October.

Most of the offered plants are shown as supporting the bumblebee species bombus fervidus and/or bombus vagans. (You can read about the OSPC’s Beecology partnership with a UMass professor to research and support those threatened species here.) Many of the native plants also attract other native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, other birds, and/or native caterpillars. (In a recent public meeting, OSPC Chair Freddie Gillespie also highlighted that one of the reasons for the sharp decline in common backyard bird species is the decline in the population of caterpillars they feed on. Many of those caterpillars only/mostly lay eggs on native plants.)

You can find the list of offered plants with pictures and details here. To order free seeds, use the “Reserve a Spot” button on the EventBrite page here. (It will pull up a list under Checkout, allowing you to check the boxes for the seeds you want to order.)

Participants will be able to pickup their seeds on Saturday, February 4th. From 2:00 – 3:00 pm [Time changed to Sunday, February 5th, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm]. Volunteers will be handing out the packets at a drive-through pickup at the Southborough Senior Center/Cordaville , 9 Cordaville Road.

To take part in the Hands-On Workshop for sowing the seeds, register here. The Workshop will take place at the same location (though indoors) on Sunday, February 5th from 1:00 – 3:00 pm. (Pre-registration is required since space is limited.) Organizers will provide seeds, soil and duct tape. But participants will need to bring at least two clean gallon jugs made of clear plastic “and your enthusiasm”.

For future updates on the Winter Sow program, check OSPC’s dedicated page on the Town’s website (but at this time, they are having issues updating the page to replace documents with incorrect links.)

Updated (2/2/23, 11:39 am): Seed pickup is only from 2:00 – 3:00 pm on Saturday. (My error.) Plus, organizers would like to make it more clear that you don’t have to attend the workshop in order to order the seeds. (I would add though, that you should be planning on using them for winter sowing.)

Updated (2/3/23, 11:53 am): Seed pickup time has changed to Sunday from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm due to the forecast.

(images cropped from OSPC program materials and communications, top L-R attributed to Freddie Gillespie and Dawn Vesey)

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