Sowing Native Seeds

Rooted Wisdom: Growing Native Plants with Enrique Rodriguez

Enrique Rodriguez is the Production Foreman at Midwest Natural Garden. He has been with the Midwest Companies since 1999. This article was compiled from insights and production practices shared by Enrique.

Sowing seeds at the Midwest Natural Garden is a process that has been refined through years of experience, reporting, and observation. The process is a balance of ideal growing conditions while taking into account the needs of customers throughout the year. 

575 x 550 copy 1
Enrique shows off Carex muskingumensis seedlings.

Beginning the first week of February, Enrique and his team start the sowing process to ensure plants are ready for sale come spring. As the seedlings grow, they are repotted into plugs and pints and moved out of the cozy confines of the heated growing shelter to other areas of the nursery. The rotation of seed sowing continues into July to align with forecasted customer demand.

The ideal conditions for germinating seeds are crucial for the success of the plants. Just as they do in nature, the plants have different requirements for seed germination to take place. Some prefer wetter spaces; others simply require more time or space to generate roots. For most plants, a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity level of 60-70% are optimal for seed germination. Once roots are established, the seed trays are moved to a drier area as continued humidity can cause root rot and powdery mildew. Some varieties, such Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit) and Lillum michiganese (Michigan Lily) take longer to germinate than other varieties.

My project 1 93
A soil thermometer helps ensure the heated growing shelters stay at an ideal temperature.
My project 1 94
A Carex stipata seedling that is developing strong roots.
Above, the image on the left shows Rudbeckia hirta after just two weeks of germination. The middle photo is at five weeks in the seed cells. The discoloration on the leaf in the photo on the right is a sign these Rudbeckia are ready to move up to a plug or pint

At the Midwest Natural Garden, seeds are grown in a specially blended nursery mix with added mycorrhizae fungi which allow plants to draw more nutrients and water from the soil. The mix is then capped with a layer of vermiculite to create a humid microclimate around the emerging seedlings.

Back To Blog