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

Register now for seed pickup and/or Workshop on Saturday.

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)

For the fifth straight year, the community is invited to participate in a “Winter Sow” program to support pollinators by nurturing native plants. The 2024 program kicks off this week.

Registration is open to order free seeds for pick up this Saturday and to reserve your spot in that afternoon’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.

winter sow 2024 flyerI’m sharing details and background below. But you can read OSPC’s information on their website here

In promotions for the program last year, OSPC explained:

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”.

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 over 50 varieties of flowering native plants that are beneficial to native pollinators. The plants have varying bloom times shown as ranging from March – October.

More than half 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. (Previously, OSPC Chair Freddie Gillespie 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.)

Orders must be place by 3:00 pm this Friday, February 9th. (Although, since it appears some varieties have already sold out, you’ll want to act quicker to get your top choices.)

You can find the link for the list of offered plants with pictures and details here. To order free seeds, use the “Reserve a Spot” button on a linked EventBrite page. (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 10th from 11:30 am  to 12:30 pm. Volunteers will be handing out the packets at a drive-through pickup behind the Southborough Senior Center/Cordaville , 9 Cordaville Road.

To take part in the Hands-On Workshop for sowing the seeds that afternoon at Cordaville Hall from 1:00 – 3:00 pm, click here(Pre-registration is required since space is limited. The registration deadline is 9:00 am on Saturday.) 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”.

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

Updated (2/8/24 7:38 am): I accidentally gave an incorrect deadline for signing up to get seeds. It is by 3:00 pm on Friday. (And I added that the workshop registration deadline is 9:00 am on Saturday.)

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