Wandering the roads of Meeker Park, collecting seeds, I sometimes wonder what the people in passing cars must think, as I feel up the dried stalks, checking to see which ones are ready to be plucked. For the past few weeks, I’ve been gathering flower and grass seeds to plant on the bare ground where the septic system was installed last summer.
There’s an art and skill to this practice, I’ve discovered. Since August, I’ve been watching the flowers in the front yard go to seed, so I know which flowers match up with their seeds. I pay attention to which plants grow in drier places that are exposed to the sun most of the day. I’ve had to ignore the beautiful seeds of the angelica that only grow in wet areas and the columbine that prefer shade.
I’ve discovered that the seeds aren’t ready to be picked until they have completed their growth, like the tomatoes or blackberries in my back yard that don’t fall from the vine until they’re ripe. So I’ve been gently tugging at a lot of seed pods before finding one that is ready. When I do, there’s a satisfying feeling, a sense of something letting go. The rye grasses are especially pleasing to pluck, the long column of seeds that release with one pull. Less easy are the white feathery seedheads of a daisy-like flower (below, right) but their softness just as satisfying to pull from their flat dried platforms.
I read that the seeds don’t open until the first freeze, their signal to send their shoots down into the ground, and I wanted at least some rain to help anchor them from our strong winds. In September, I waited through several weeks of warm and dry weather until one day clouds and moisture blew in, and when I saw the first raindrops, I ran out and started scattering them.
However, a week after planting the seeds, I noticed a lot of birds—juncos, blackbirds and others—out on the dirt, which seemed strange because there are no plants for them to eat. Then I realized that by scattering the seeds over the whole yard, I had essentially created a large buffet of delectable seeds for the birds to choose from. I may as well have put up a sign: Free buffet! All you can eat!
This week, with a forecast of rain and snow, I scattered more seeds. Now I can only hope that the birds don’t eat all the seeds or perhaps redeposit them so as to naturally fertilize this sterile soil. Nature has its own way of proceeding, I’m learning, and will do things on its own time and when it sees fit. Already, the ground dogs, which disappeared when construction began on the septic system, are back, leaving holes for me to trip over.
I’ll have to wait, bide my time, be patient. But already I’m imagining next spring and a yard full of wild grasses and flowers. Especially with winter closing in, a person can dream, can’t she?