Direct Seeding Shrubs

Published on: Sep. 5, 2009

successful. A seeding of at least three species is recommended to provide diversity.

Recommended Seeding Rates per CHQ (1,500 square feet):

Pick at least one:

  • American Plum – 1.0 lb Bulk); Plant Sept. 1 – Oct. 1
  • False Indigo – 0.5 lb Pure Live Seed; Plant April 16 – June 1
  • Component Species: It is recommended to add one to two of the below species to the seed mix.

Summer Seeding Options

  • Blackberry – 0.5 lb Bulk; Plant in July
  • Elderberry – 0.5 lb Bulk; Plant in July - September
  • Fall Seeding Options - Plant in Sept. – Oct. 1
  • Aromatic Sumac – 1.0 lb Bulk
  • Shrub Dogwood – 1.0 lb Bulk
  • Chokecherry – 1.0 lb Bulk

If you collect your own seeds, harvest only ripe fruits. Depending on the species, this can be from mid-summer through early fall. Watch the fruits closely, as birds and other animals are also waiting for the fruits to ripen. I have found that wild plum is usually ripe in August and the shrub dogwoods (depending on the species) ripen in August and September. If possible try to clean the pulp from the seed. Clean seed is easier to spread and will not attract rodents. When collecting your own seed there is no way of estimating pure live seed or bulk seed weight, so experiment and find what rate works best. About a dozen big elderberry seed heads is enough seed to establish an elderberry covey headquarter, and a milk jug full of wild plums is enough to establish a good stand of plum (in my book that's about as scientific as I can get).

The following year, make sure to control annual grasses with a selective grass herbicide. Weed control cannot be stressed enough. Follow-up herbicide treatments are often needed the second and third years. Since most shrub seedlings will be less than 10 inches tall the first year, you might be able to high-mow the plot. To provide instant brushy cover, add a few downed trees to the middle of the covey headquarter. Be patient; a direct seeding will take several years to provide adequate shrubby cover for quail. The elderberry covey headquarter pictured above is five years old and looking great. I have wild plum seedings that are 4 years old and the plums are about 4 feet tall.

So if you are tired of planting bare root seedlings, become a "Johnny Plum Seed" and try planting a covey headquarter from seed. The low cost of hand-collecting or buying seed makes this a fun project to at least try during the summer.

Thank you to Chris Hamilton, Travis Dinsdale, Keith Jackson, Lisa Potter, Joe Tousignant and Tricia Radford for their contributions.

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