Garden Clippings for Oct 14, 2023

In the Parable of the Sower, we are told of a farmer who sows seeds indiscriminately.  Some seeds fall on the roadside with no soil, some on rocky ground with only a little soil, some fall on soil that is full of weeds and thorns, and finally some fall on good soil.

For the most part seeds fall at the end of the year, after flowers bloom and fade.  The leftover flower becomes a seed head and at the end of plants’ growing cycle, seeds fall and are carried away by the wind.

Farmers are one step ahead of the cycle and will gather or harvest seeds before they fall.  Corn, soybeans and wheat are harvested and processed into food.  A few seeds are kept behind for planting the following spring.

In the wild, seeds are everywhere.  Birds have a heyday in the fall.  They will fatten themselves up with seeds so they will have enough strength to survive winter, or energy to fly south.

Seeds that are not eaten by birds and animals land up everywhere, mostly dispersed by wind, while some carried away by water, animals and even humans.

At university I was told that less than 1% of fallen seed actually survives to sprout the following spring.  There was no scientific evidence of this claim, but it certainly suggests that most seeds don’t make it.  That’s because some seeds fall on the roadside, some fall on rocky ground and some fall in soil full of weeds.  Only a few fall on good soil.

I am most impressed with seeds that fall on gravel and somehow manage to survive.  Wind and vehicles drop seeds along highways and land up in gravel at the edge of the roadway.  Most don’t make it, but a few find their way into a crevice that holds enough moisture to support growth.

Spring and summer 2023 brought us more rain than usual, with the result that our roadways are more colorful than ever before.

Beginning a month ago, native Asters brought us colourful daisy-like purple blooms with orange centres.  Most will grow about 3 feet high, while some can reach up to 6 feet.  A variety of nursery grown Asters can be found in garden centres for planting in home gardens- a favorite for attracting bees and pollinators.

Asters are one of the longest flowering perennials, often showing colour even after the first snowfall.  If you are planting Asters in the home garden, place them at the rear of the garden, because the lower half of the plant can look unsightly with dried up leaves and stems.

Goldenrod, another native perennial seen along highways, shows off its bright yellow plumes in late summer to early fall.  Further down the ditch, because it needs more water, is Common Milkweed, a plant favoured by Monarchs.  Common Milkweed was removed from the Ontario’s noxious weed list in 2014.

Other plants often found along roadways are Birdsfoot trefoil, White Clover, Queen Anne’s Lace, Knapweed and Cattail.  Not to be ignored is Phragmites, the aggressive grass-like weed taking over much of Ontario’s swampland, knocking out wildflowers of all kinds in its wake.