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Making a new seed mix for cleared/disturbed areas

 
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Hello all!

I'm in the process of developing a seed mix for disturbed areas in a temperate climate (zone 8). I have some areas that I have planted already with shrubs and trees that could use more herbaceous plants. I also have plans to use chickens to clear areas of grass that I want to transition to food forests and other growing systems. I don't plan to till except with chickens so I'm trying to pick out plants that can be broadcast seeded after the chickens are done but that also stay fairly short. The plan is to plant trees and shrubs into the area with only minor clearing needed around each tree/shrub. A little sheet-mulching around each tree/shrub is fine too.

At the moment these are the plants I'm thinking about using for my seed mix:

1. California poppy
2. White sweet alyssum
3. Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
4. Daikon radish

But I would like to increase the mix a bit to at least 6 plants (or more!). My main criteria are for the plants to be relatively low growing (12 to 16 inches tall at most), able to be broadcast seeded in late winter / early spring in my climate, self-seeding, and fairly easy to plant trees/shrubs into (or easy to kill with spot sheet-mulching). I'm also avoiding plants that spread and make thick mats--this is why I want to use red clover instead of white clover.

If the seeds can be bought in bulk that is a big plus! Oh, and if the plant is edible and/or good for pollinators that is also a big plus!

So any suggestions?

Thank you!
 
master pollinator
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Location: Ashhurst New Zealand
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That is a good start. Some things I would throw in as well:

Plantain (pioneer, edible by humans and chooks, does not mind compacted ground)
Birdsfoot trefoil lotus (N fixer, plays nicely with trees)
Flax (fibre and oilseed crop, also nice in orchard settings)
Yarrow (attracts beneficial/predatory insects)
Borage (edible, plus bees dig it)
 
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I have a five gallon Igloo cooler (garage sale item) that I have repurposed into my cover crop seed bin.  But I use a totally "chaotic neutral" strategy for choosing cover crop seeds.  If it's cheap or old or stale or surplus and it's a seed, I throw it in the bin!  The deer and the rabbits and the squirrels and the raccoons and the gophers and the birds are in charge of followup monitoring and consumption.

Various things I have put in my cover crop seed bin:

Clearance-sale deer plot seeds sold out-of-season.  All the mixes are fine; and if I can get them cheap on sale, I'll use them.  
Sunflower seeds sold for bird consumption
Old popcorn that has lost the moisture it needs for good popping.  Likewise a few cupfuls of the deer-feeder corn that we buy to feed the crows.    
Bulk beans and legumes of every kind.
Culinary seeds bought in bulk at ethnic groceries: cilantro and mustard especially, probably some others I'm forgetting
Every kind of clover (not very much though because it's too pricey!)
Every kind of flower and vegetable seed in old seed packets from garage sales that I otherwise don't want to try and germinate/grow
Purple top turnip seed bought in bulk at the feed store (can get exciting when the brush hog starts flinging turnips out the eject port)
Feed store daikon radish in bulk
Radish seeds of every kind, including ten cent seed packets bought when Dollar General clearances out its poor-quality seeds every fall
My own surplus saved seed from too many years ago, or things I save seed from every year.  This tends to include a lot of old melon and okra seeds.
Lambsquarter seed, because it's easy to collect a couple of pounds of it in half an hour from big vigorous plants.

Basically I keep a cover crop seed bin the way other people keep a compost bin.  If it's a seed that I don't want to eat or plant mindfully, into the bin it goes!

I've been doing this for a few years, typically walking the property before winter or spring rains and scattering seed anywhere I see exposed soil, with a few random flings out into the returning prairie meadow.  It's now an adventure walking the dogs and seeing what stuff is coming up where.  



 
Dan Boone
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Phil Stevens wrote:
Borage (edible, plus bees dig it)



I've gotta say this is brilliant -- it never occurred to me to look for borage in bulk!  I've grown individual plants in my herb garden, but they don't make it through the summer heat and I planted the last borage seed from my packet this spring.  

I just went looking on Amazon -- I have no idea if $16 for a pound of borage seed is a good deal or not, but it doesn't seem unreasonable. (I did a quick an unscientific survey of the first page of Google results for "bulk borage" and the several places selling one-pound quantities had prices ranging from twenty to forty bucks.)

I love the wonderful cucumber flavor that borage flowers have, but I do not love the fact that in my climate, every borage flower is inevitably full of tiny bugs, which can be a limiting factor if you want to do something fancy like scattering them in a salad that you're feeding to other people.  
 
Phil Stevens
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Dan --

That's interesting that your borage flowers are full of bugs...we don't get that here.

I have a trick for getting low-cost (actually free) bulk seed mixes for revegetating bare spots or renewing the paddocks. We drop in at the local seed dealer, where they sell all manner of pasture seed and make up mixes for individual applications. If we show up late in the day and ask for the floor sweepings, they are happy to just chuck them in a bag and let us walk off with them. Last time we got a mix of some grasses (probably rye and fescue), a couple of different brassicas, white clover, plantain, chicory, and oats. Probably around 2 kg. No charge. I used some of it to resow a bare patch where we had done a slipstraw building demo and it's all grown in nicely. The steer and alpaca get to graze it next week.
 
Daron Williams
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Phil Stevens wrote:That is a good start. Some things I would throw in as well:

Plantain (pioneer, edible by humans and chooks, does not mind compacted ground)
Birdsfoot trefoil lotus (N fixer, plays nicely with trees)
Flax (fibre and oilseed crop, also nice in orchard settings)
Yarrow (attracts beneficial/predatory insects)
Borage (edible, plus bees dig it)



Thanks for the suggestions Phil! I will add them to my list of possible plants.
 
Daron Williams
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Thanks Dan for sharing your strategy for seeding! Lot's of good suggestions. I had forgotten about lambsquarter! That would be a good one to add to the list of possible plants!

Thanks again Dan and Phil for helping out!
 
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@ Daron Williams - how easy would it be to collect seeds from miner's lettuce? It likes moving in on disturbed soil and comes early in the spring. I've never tried to save seed from it, as it's just always around.

If you want something for the fall, what about corn salad?

I *really* have to work on seed mixes. I'm limited by sun and the fact that it's so dry in the summer, but I need to improve the land and try to out-compete the things I really *don't* want. That may mean a bit of irrigation to get things started, but I suspect in the long run, it would improve the soil enough to be worth it.
 
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Phil Stevens wrote:
Birdsfoot trefoil lotus (N fixer, plays nicely with trees)



If this is anything like the greater trefoil, it's a pain if you ever want to plant annuals in that area. My greater trefoil makes SO MANY runners, and it gets quite tall (pretty sure min's gotten 2 feet in some areas). I mean, I'd rather have it over buttercup, and I do nothing to discourage it under my fruit trees, but it's still quite annoying when I want to have strawberries or something else, and they get shaded out and out competed by the trefoil.

Jay wrote:@ Daron Williams - how easy would it be to collect seeds from miner's lettuce? It likes moving in on disturbed soil and comes early in the spring. I've never tried to save seed from it, as it's just always around.



I have Siberian miners lettuce, and I've never tried to grow it from seed. BUT, I've transplanted woodland soil into my garden beds, and have received it with the woodland soil. So, it seems it does okay sprouting from seed, at least if it has the right buddies.

Daikon radish is GREAT for my area. It self-seeds and is quite happy, but also not too hard to kill with mulch.

Russian Red Kale (I believe my seed came from Territorial) does really well, too. It self-seeds and doesn't get destroyed by insects. I have some that my kids helped seed growing in my driveway (I gave them the dried up old stems and they had fun running around sprinkling the seeds, pretending the seeds were smoke from their smoke pipes :-D). As an additional plus, the kale also is really winter-hardy, and we're still harvesting it right now....and we haven't planted it in two years! It plants itself!

Parsley also self-seeds quite nicely, too. But it might be hard to tell when growing wild if you have it or some poisonous plant of the same family...

Narstitium might also be nice. It's another brassica like kale and radishes, but it's pretty and tasty!

I've also had borage self-seed pretty well. I probably accidently pull up a lot of it because it looks a lot like foxglove when small, and I don't want foxglove growing in my kid's gardens.

If you don't think they'll be kids around, foxglove seeds really nicely, and is pretty and pollinators like it. Not so good if you've got little one's toddling around in the area, ready to snack on a leaf and die when you turn around for a second. (I'd turned my back on my daughter and found her eating buttercup when she was a little over one. Thankfully, buttercup isn't nearly as toxic, but seeing her do that sent me on a foxglove eliminating mission. Both kids are well trained to know it's poisonous, and even tell their neighbors about it. But, I didn't mess around when they were 1 & 2)

OH! And I also had buckwheat seed nicely when broadcast in fall, and it self-seeded for a year or two afterward. Not to the same extent as kale and radish, but it was still something!
 
Phil Stevens
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Nicole, you make a good point about the runners of trefoil among annual crops. I have it in most of my raised garden beds and it's a little more of a nuisance than yarrow to pull out. But I don't mind either one, because they don't really seem to negatively affect any of the veggies the way that grass does, and they're both easy enough to tease out with fingertips and a weeder when I'm getting ready to plant a bed.
 
Dan Boone
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Dan Boone wrote:

Phil Stevens wrote:
Borage (edible, plus bees dig it)



I've gotta say this is brilliant -- it never occurred to me to look for borage in bulk!  I've grown individual plants in my herb garden, but they don't make it through the summer heat and I planted the last borage seed from my packet this spring.



Updating this: USPS brought me a rattling envelope today that has a fat pound of borage seeds from Dirt Goddess Super Seeds.  There will be borage in 2020!

PS:  They also sell almost a dozen different kinds of seed bombs!  Their seedbombs are made with a new-to-me method: instead of dirt/clay/manure/compost/whatever mixes to bind the seeds together in a ball, they appear to use colorful gobs of recycled paper fibers.  Their bombs are festive (they look like tasty kids' breakfast cereal) and I see no reason why that wouldn't work pretty well.
 
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This is what I spread on some land I recently cleared off.

Mustard
peas & beans
Crimson Clover
Daikon Radish
Winter Rye

I plant to sow when it gets warm
Sun hemp
Mustard
Buckwheat


And tons of native wildflowers I stocked up when they went on clearance.
 
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