Install seed and plant material

Seed installation techniques

Cardno’s native plant experts recommend using specific techniques to successfully install native seed.

Installing seed with a 'no-till' drillBroadcasting: For small (typically two acres or less) or irregularly shaped areas, seed can be planted by hand broadcasting. To aid seed distribution, combine the seed mix with filler materials, such as sawdust, peat moss, or vermiculite. Mix the material evenly into the filler material, which should be slightly damp so that the seed sticks to it. If not already included in the seed mix, plant a temporary cover crop along with the seed, to stabilize the soil while the permanent native species germinate and become established, especially in highly-erodible areas. Do not use a heavy amount of cover crop seed, which could smother the native seed and inhibit germination.

Using a hand-crank or tow-behind broadcaster, start with half of the seed and try to cover the entire area with that amount of seed. Take the remaining half of the seed, go to the opposite end of the site and cover it again. This approach helps prevent running out of seed, a common occurrence. After broadcasting is complete, it is important to use a cultipacker or roller over the area to make good seed-to-soil contact. If a roller is not available, tractor tires can be used instead. Do not cover seed more than 1/4-inch deep.

No-Till Drill: For larger areas and sites with existing vegetation, use a no-till seed drill, which does not require the soil to be tilled before planting, resulting in minimal soil disturbance. No-till drills plant seed in rows by opening slits in the soil, into which seed is deposited. Several brands of no-till drills are available to plant prairie forbs and grasses. If using a no-till drill, Cardno recommends following the specific manufacturer’s recommendations. Because the diversity of seed sizes makes drill calibration a challenge, perform a few test areas first to help prevent running out of seed.

If wetland is temporarily dry:

  • Scarify soil surface through shallow tilling or raking. If tilling adjacent to a wet area, assess the potential for erosion and runoff when disturbing the soil.
  • In lower elevations, where water levels are deeper, sow seed that is packaged wet. Sow dry-packaged seed on the higher elevations; this seed can overlap into wet-seed areas.
  • Press seed firmly into soil using a roller, cultipacker, or similar equipment. Light raking is an acceptable alternative, but be careful not to cover seed more than 1/4-inch deep.
  • Install erosion fabric over areas where water is likely to flow and displace seed.
  • Slowly restore water level or wait for rainfall to bring water level up after seeding. If feasible, use outlet controls to maintain water level depths between 1/2 inch and 6 inches until seed germinates and wetland vegetation is well established.

If wetland is permanently wet:

  • Mix seed with damp clay pellets in a container, such as a five-gallon bucket. Clay pellets should be small (approximately ½ inch in diameter) and placed in optimal areas for germination.
  • Sow dry-packaged seed in areas at and above the waterline. If soil moisture conditions permit, press seed firmly into soil using a roller, cultipacker, or similar equipment. Do not cover seed more than 1/4-inch deep.
  • Permanently wet areas can also be seeded by broadcasting when the ground is frozen.

Post-planting Protection: Plantings may need to be protected after installation. Use physical barriers such as chicken wire, netting, or twine obstacles to keep out geese, muskrats, deer, and other animals. Various repellants can also be applied directly to the plants, but they often need to be re-applied periodically.

For a complete guide, please download our Installation and Maintenance Guidelines PDF document.