Gardeners: It's Not Too Soon To Start Preparing For Spring

Jan 17, 2020

Wild Ones of Rock River Valley Program Coordinator Lisa Johnson introduces Peggy Redington.
Credit Connie Kuntz

Wild Ones of Rock River Valley is a northern Illinois native plant movement. They promote environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity. They met on Thursday night at Rock Valley College. 

Peggy Redington was the guest speaker. She and her husband Bryan Redington own Country Road Greenhouses in Rochelle. They grow native prairie plugs and plants, and Redington said they collect nearly 90% of their seeds from their prairie. 

Redington spoke about preparing seeds, seed plugs, and roots for the spring with a process called vernalization. She says it's like giving plants a "cold snap" that shortens the time it takes for a seed to become a plant, flower, or shrub.

Redington said, "What I do with my seeds and plugs is put them in a cooler at 38 degrees. Sometimes we freeze them." She said vernalization mimics what Mother Nature already does. Because some seeds are so tough, it takes a year, possibly longer, for them to bloom. Vernalization tricks seed plugs into thinking they have been growing for a longer period of time. 

Peggy Redington stands near seed samples and seed plugs.
Credit Connie Kuntz

Country Road Greenhouses has an enormous cooler filled with seed plugs and plants. This means that thousands of plants will be ready for the spring. But Redington said any gardener can take advantage of the vernalization process in their home by purchasing native seed packets from their local plant nursery.

"You put them in sand, get it wet, put it in the bottom of your refrigerator. Then, in the spring, just plant them," she said. 

Each seed packet will have clear directions for how long seeds need to stay in the refrigerator. 

Redington says she'd like to see every yard have native plants in it. A robust native plant population is not only beautiful but is essential to the survival of butterflies and birds. 

"It's really important for our native birds. They eat the seeds from the native plants." She continued, "It's just really cool for the native diversity."

Redington also said that if people live in apartments and don't have a garden, they can still create a butterfly waystation with a container garden. 

To learn more about vernalization, butterfly waystations, and planting native plants in a garden or a container, come to a Wild Ones monthly meeting or visit Country Road Greenhouses