Wildflower seed mixes full of weeds Lorraine Brooks waters flats filled with wildflowers grown in the Center for Urban Horticulture greenhouse. Her advisor Sarah Reichard said it was the most Many of us feel the rising spring energy and NEED to plant something into the soil. If you’re a vegetable gardener you’ve been receiving seed catalogs to
Wildflower seed mixes full of weeds
Lorraine Brooks waters flats filled with wildflowers grown in the Center for Urban Horticulture greenhouse. Her advisor Sarah Reichard said it was the most beautiful-looking experiment ever done there.
The seed packets have labels with romantic-sounding names such as meadow mixture and wedding wildflowers, while others tout backyard biodiversity and make reference to Earth Day. When growing 19 such packets of wildflower mixes, however, UW researchers found that each contained from three to 13 invasive species and eight had seeds for plants considered noxious weeds in at least one U.S. state or Canadian province.
And what makes it nearly impossible for gardeners who want to be conscientious is that a third of the packets listed no contents and a little more than another third had inaccurate lists. Only five of the 19 correctly itemized everything.
“I can’t recommend using any wildflower seed mixes,” says Lorraine Brooks, who did the work at the UW’s Center for Urban Horticulture while earning her bachelor’s degree.
Brooks found the least unruly of the wildflower mixes was a packet in which only 30, or 28 percent, of the 106 plants that sprouted and produced flowers were invasive. Among the worst was a mix in which 100 percent of what flowered was invasive. There were 200 plants of only three species in that packet, which was labeled “native.” Of the three species, only one is believed to be native to the Pacific Northwest and it represented just 1 percent of the mix. Two other mixes contained not one but two noxious weed species.
Brooks and Sarah Reichard, UW assistant professor of forest resources, said gardeners are better off using their favorite plants, or seeds for their favorites, in order to control what’s grown in their yards.
In Washington, the state and 49 local weed control boards maintain lists of invasive species and noxious weeds. Depending on how serious a threat is posed by a species and how widespread it already is, weed managers may prohibit its sale and demand landowners eliminate it. Other species fall into categories in which landowners are asked to prevent the plant from going to seed so it can’t spread.
Gardeners might be surprised at the number of flowers that are readily available for sale and use that are considered invasive or noxious. For instance the wildflower most commonly observed as part of the mixes was the popular bachelor’s button (Centaurea cyanus), germinating in beautiful hues of pink and blue from three-quarters of the packets tested. Bachelor’s button might be fine if kept confined to one’s own yard but it’s invasive — that is, it outcompetes other plants — when it gets into native grasslands and prairies.
It hasn’t been named a noxious weed but it is on the state’s “education list” in the hope that property owners will become knowledgeable about the risks of growing it, says Reichard, who serves on the committee that considers changes proposed for the state’s list.
Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), on the other hand, is listed as a noxious weed in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and 11 other states and provinces. Colorado, for example, classifies it among the top-10 prioritized noxious-weed species, those that are most widespread and cause the greatest impact.
With yellow flowers tinged with orange that resemble snapdragon blossoms, toadflax was found in four of the wildflower mixes. Only one listed it. All four of the mixes are produced in King County where the plant is a “principal weed for control,” an even stronger designation than the state’s listing of it as a Class C noxious weed.
Even labels that refer to wildflowers as native should be avoided because everything is native to someplace, but that place may not be where you live, Reichard says. Just think about the differences in plants between Eastern and Western Washington, she says.
The 19 packets tested were produced by Burpee, Ed Hume, Lake Valley Seed, Lilly Miller, Molbak’s, Napa Valley Wildflower, Nature’s Garden Seed Co., and Sundance. Seventeen were purchased and two were gift items, including one from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Handed out as fund raising thank-yous by the WWF and other environmental and charitable groups, and bearing labels that refer to pastures, meadows and native flowers, these mixes may even make people think they are suitable for areas next to woodlands, fields or prairies, Brooks says.
“But that would be a big mistake.”
A wild, wild world
As a UW undergraduate research project, Lorraine Brooks grew the contents of 19 different packets of wildflower mixes for 24 weeks. She was able to identify 84 species.
Four of the species are listed as noxious weeds in at least one state or Canadian province, as well as being considered invasive. They were common yarrow, Achillea millefolium ; dame’s rocket, Hesperis matronalis ; redroot pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus ; and yellow toadflax, Linaria vulgaris .
Thirty-five others are listed as invasive and included baby’s breath, Gypsophila elegans ; bachelor’s buttons, Centaurea cyanu ; Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta ; blue flax, Linum perenne ; California poppy, Eschscholzia californica ; cosmos, Cosmos bipinnatus ; cow cockle, Vaccaria hispanica ; crimson clover, Trifolium incarnatum ; forget-me-not, Myositis sylvatica ; poor man’s weatherglass, Anagallis arvensis ; wild lupin, Lupinus perennis ; doubtful knight’s spur, Consolida ajacis ; and Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera .
Weeds on the Web
Check out Washington’s noxious weeds at http://www.wa.gov/agr/weedboard/ and Western invasive species at http://invader.dbs.umt.edu/.
For information specific to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties try:
The Wild World of Seeds
Many of us feel the rising spring energy and NEED to plant something into the soil. If you’re a vegetable gardener you’ve been receiving seed catalogs to leisurely cultivate your dreams of planting for months. If your intention is to grow cannabis, no such catalogs exist and adventuring into the rabbit hole of the internet could lose you to the rest of creation for years.
Most folks need a place to start, a framework to help navigate the plethora of information available. It’s my hope that this article can offer some guidelines for navigating the purchasing of seeds to grow cannabis, either the high THC or high CBD varieties.
We’ll start by discussing the realm of cannabis cultivation and seed saving – (some of the best growers aren’t on Instagram, etc..) Then, I’ll walk you through some questions to ask to choose the best seeds for you. Finally, I end the article with a list of resources available.
Cultivating Craft Cannabis
First off, if your livelihood is not dependent on a killer harvest in the fall, you have more room to explore and play with lesser known breeders and seed lines. Cultivating craft cannabis is no different than any other kind of cultivating. It’s a lifelong learning adventure where each year you build your knowledge and wisdom based on the experiences the plants and environment provide for you. Last year’s late, wet, dishrag summer taught many of us in the northeast a ton about bud rot and powdery mildew. We now have a better understanding of what cultivars might do well in our wet and humid late summer conditions. We also now know deep down in our soul’s, the gut wrenching sadness of composting beautifully developed flowers.
The cannabis cultivar selections are endless. Everyone and anyone can produce tons of seeds and sell them. Your task is to find stable seeds that will do well in your region. Ideally you would find someone who has been cultivating outdoors in your area for 30 years, and breeding seed lines that do well. These hidden gems of growers exist but due to the years of prohibition they aren’t always posting photos on instagram. Don’t be misled by the humble grower who spends her time with her hands in the soil rather than posting photos of bud porn on the socials. If she’s been growing for years successfully, you want her seeds.
These hidden gems of growers exist but due to the years of prohibition those folks don’t always have an instagram account or killer websites.
Guidelines for finding genetics that will work for you.
When choosing to purchase seeds, you want someone who grows and knows the seed stock they are selling. Good questions to ask are;
How long have they been breeding & growing?
Like anything, the longer the better.
Is their bioregion similar to yours?
You want seeds from plants who’ve grown in an environment similar to yours with similar stressors. For example, plants bred for long finish times and arid environments will not do well where I live. We almost always have a wet portion of our flowering period which lends itself to bud rot and powdery mildew. I am always looking and selecting for resistance to these two pathologies.
Further, the region I live in will not get complete finishing times for cultivars needing 11 or 12 weeks of flowering time. We could have multiple killing frosts in early October (or maybe not until November). While cannabis can withstand a light frost or two, she cannot withstand two killing frosts in a row.
Stable cultivars will remain female, even when stressed. Some cultivars, when stressed, will have the female flower create a single male flower called a banana flower, or entire whole male flowers to pollinate herself!! These less stable cultivars are called hermaphrodites. You want to know, will these plants hermaphrodite when stressed? Do they throw banana flowers? The asking of these questions themselves lets the breeder know you have a basic understanding of the process. For example, I recently purchased high CBD seeds from a breeder who directed me to a more stable cultivar he had rather than one that he knew would sometimes throw male banana flowers.
Why is this important? If you have hundreds of plants or are inexperienced, you don’t have the time or skill level for combing through female flowers looking for tiny banana flowers.
If You Need To Be Sure of THC levels for compliance
Certificate of Analysis (C.O.A.)
The definitive way to know what the cannabinoid content is in the flowers is to have them tested. The cannabinoid test printed out for you to see is the Certificate of Analysis. This is not the analysis of your seeds, but the flowers grown from the same seed stock. For example, when I am buying high CBD cannabis I need it to be federally compliant at below 0.3% THC. I will only buy from breeders who offer a guaranteed COA of the seedstock.
If you are a home grower and wanting high THC cultivars, a COA is not crucial. I would take the word of a quality breeder with years of experience working the seeds they are selling over a bigger company that can afford all the testing but doesn’t grow or know their seed stock any day.
Have they grown them outside?
Many breeders grow and create seeds they use indoors. You must ask if they’ve grown them outside to get real information. They can make guesses, but experience is queen here.
How long have they grown the particular genetics?
The longer they’ve worked with the particular genetics they’re selling, the more information they can pass along to you for a successful crop. Take advantage of the gift of their wisdom and willingness to share with you.
What is the finishing time?
Short finishing plants will give you a higher chance for maturation and harvesting if you live in the northern latitudes. Breeders will either give you the date to harvest or weeks of flowering (8-12 weeks). Be sure to ask what region they are giving the data for. To calculate how many weeks of flowering, you’ll need to note when your plants begin to flower and then add the 8-12 weeks. In upstate NY flowering usually begins in early August so 8 weeks of flowering is right around the end of September early October. A 12 week finishing plant is usually too long for my region without a greenhouse. I try to work wit 8-9 week finishing plants.
When is your typical last frost?
While cannabis can withstand a light frost, lower temperatures below 55 degrees fahrenheit shut down growth of the plant and further maturation of the flower. Cannabis plants need daytime temperatures reaching at least 60 so they can continue maturing.I’ve found that mature cannabis plants can withstand one killing frost, but not two in a row. One killing frost and I’m looking to harvest my flowers before the next one.
Resistance to mold/mildew?
As discussed above, if you live in a climate with wet/humid conditions your seeds need this. Tight, densely packed flowers in a wet environment are a perfect formula for mold and mildew.
Feminized or regular seeds?
This is a hot topic. Let’s dive into the basics.
Regular seeds, meaning not feminized, give you a 50/50 chance of getting a female plant (you want females for medicine). You also have a 50/50 chance with every seed of getting a male plant. Regular seeds require you to check your plants at the start of flowering every day until you’ve positively identified every single plant to be female. All males must be removed from the area and composted or you risk unwanted sex, leading to unwanted pregnancies or seeds in your flowers.
“But I want to create my own seeds for next year?” – valid point, but beyond the scope of this article.
In short, you must remove the males from the field so you can selectively pollinate.
Removing males and their pollen is a responsible practice for your neighboring growing community since under the right conditions, pollen can travel on the wind up to 3-5 miles.
Feminized seeds, when produced properly, give rise to only female plants. One of the primary advantages of feminized seeds is when you’re planting large quantities of plants. If you plant thousands of plants you may not be able to walk through your field to ensure that every plant is indeed a female, so feminized seeds are the answer. The second advantage of feminized seeds is if you are only legally allowed to grow a certain number of plants. With feminized seeds you know exactly how many mature female plants you will have. Non feminized seeds require you to wait until late July to find out if you have any males. Males that you can’t use and must remove from the garden. If you want to read a little more about feminization, check out this article.
This time of year, I’m getting daily emails asking for seeds (those requests gave rise to this article).
Full disclosure, I don’t receive any kind of kick back for my recommendations. There are tons of quality breeders and I know a drop in the ocean of reputable breeders. My list is who I’ve purchased seeds from, who I trust, and places where you can actually get them.
Oregon CBD is a big company who has set the standard for high CBD genetics. I’ve used their seeds personally the last three years and trust them for my students to grow successfully as well. New this year, individual people, rather than just farms, can purchase small quantities of seeds.
Colorado CBD Seed Company is a new company to me and I’ll be trying their Froot Loops cultivar. I love the sexy purple Abacus strain and this breeder works with Abacus as the parent stock.
OrganiGrow Canada is run by a colleague and friend who’s been breeding and growing medicine for many years in an environment similar to mine in the Northeast. Alexis Burnett also wrote Homegrown Cannabis . He has tried and true genetics and can answer all the questions I’ve posted in this article. He also has some high CBD cultivars in the mix as well. I’m super psyched to try some of his cultivars in my garden this year. Email him directly for the seedlist at: [email protected]
The Humboldt Seed Company has an awesome reputation and has been breeding for years. You cannot purchase directly from them, but you can research distributors on their website and go find places to purchase the seeds. If you don’t have a distributor in your area, maybe you have a friend who lives near one and can go get the seeds for you. My tried and true best girl from them has been “the muffin”, Blueberry Muffin.
Goat and Monkey hails from Massacheusets with similar growing conditions. I have not grown their genetics yet, but will be trying some this year.
Dutch Blooms – Regenerative Seed Company is out of Oregon and the breeder has been cultivating and breeding and growing outside for at least 14 years in an environment similar to mine in the northeast. This will be my first year working with his seed stock and I’m super excited.
Your Bag of Random Seeds
All seriousness aside, if you have a bag of random cannabis seeds, you hold untold magical potential. Plant them and grow them out. Behold the delight along the way. Who knows what amazing beauty will mature?!
Hopefully this helps you navigate the wild world of cannabis seeds. Good luck and thanks for playing.