FAQ

We get questions! Here’s answers to some of the common ones that you may be wanting to ask us yourself:

What is the best way to reach you? Please email us at info@northwestmeadowscapes.com. While we do have a business phone, it is tied up frequently during daytime hours as we coordinate shipping, handle farm business, and fend off robocall scammers. We care about you and your planting success. To offer the best and fastest response, we love it when you can email us with specific questions or comments.

Do you have a brick and mortar retail location? We do not maintain a public store front, and are frequently outside anyway, working under rainy or sunny skies (we prefer the rain!).

Can I visit your farm? We periodically offer small field days at our Whidbey Island research and development farm, which are announced to email newsletter subscribers. Because of busy schedules, frequent seasonal flooding, and tricky field access, it is hard for us to accommodate the many requests we get for visits.

How long before my order ships? Most orders ship within 2 to 5 business days. During busy seasons, larger orders may take slightly longer to pack and ship. Most orders ship via USPS Priority Mail with typical arrival times of 1 to 3 business days in the Northwest.

Can I pick up my order instead of having it shipped? In order to maintain a “normal” home environment for our family, we cannot accommodate pick-up requests for orders and are limited to postal delivery only.

Do you ship to Canada? Yes! Please note that most shipments enter Canada without any delay (especially regular seed packets). However very large orders are sometimes temporarily held for customs inspection, with most clearing in 2-4 business days. Very large packages may be subject to customs duties which are the responsibility of the customer, although this does not seem to be consistently applied. Because seed is alive and because we lose quality control oversight when seed leaves our shop, we are not able to restock or offer refunds for seed that is refused by customs inspectors or by customers who refuse to pay import tariffs. To minimize delays, we ship all Canadian orders via USPS/Canada Post (rather than UPS). This provides the fastest and least troublesome delivery.

Do you ship outside of the United States and Canada? Because of the complexity and variability of international phytosanitation regulations, we are not able to export to other countries at this time.

Should I wait to order “fresh” seed for an upcoming project? We frequently run out of inventory for most species, and there are never any guarantees that we will be able to restock those species in the future. Harvests can be highly variable from year to year. To put it another way, plants have “boom and bust” years depending on weather and other factors. Because most seed has a long shelf life, if you need something for an upcoming project, you should order it when it is available.

How should I store unused seeds? Seed that isn’t going to be planted soon should be maintained in a cool, dark, dry location. For periods of a year or so, you can simply put it in a moisture-proof container in your refrigerator. By all means, keep seeds away from heat, especially in enclosed vehicles!

How long will stored seeds remain viable? Seeds of some plant species can remain viable for years, decades, even centuries. Among the amazing stories of seeds are instances where ancient seed banks in the soil will reemerge after a fire or some other land changing event. Recently in the UK, scientists observed wetlands that had been filled-in for agriculture more than a century ago sprouted native plants from ancient seeds, including some plants thought to be almost extinct, when the ponds were excavated to restore their original hydrology.

Among plants, some have much longer viability than others. As a very general (and imperfect) rule, most of our perennial plants have longer seed viability than our annuals. Our perennial wildflowers also tend to have longer viability than our grasses. For a comparison of how long seed remains viable, we seen decade-old camas seed germinate perfectly fine, and yellow rattle seed that’s more than a year old not germinated at all. If you store your seeds properly, you can maximize their viability.

Where does your seed come from? We grow some of our own seed in dedicated production plots, sustainably harvest some of it from collection sites that we own or have access to, and source a few other species from a handful of farmer friends.

How pure is your seed? And is it quality tested? We have seed quality test information for most of our larger seed lots and can provide that data for large bulk purchases. Occasionally, tiny seed lots that are hand harvested may not have a seed test available. Our priority is to ensure there are no noxious weeds or invasive plants mixed into our seed lots. Some of the seed that we handle – such as goldenrod – may have the seed pappus (i.e. fluff) intact, as we do not always have the machinery to clean off these seed appendages. Also note that because we clean multiple types of seed on the same machinery, occasionally a rogue seed from another garden plant or wildflower may show up accidentally in a different seed mix. We constantly work to minimize this by vacuuming out seed cleaning machines and screens between different species.

Can you recommend species for shade? We specialize in seed for open, sunny meadow habitats. Because of this, our inventory of shade-tolerant plants is limited. For deep-shade projects, we recommend seeking out a native plant nursery that specializes in forest understory plants such as ferns, salal, and similar species. Some of the species that can tolerate partial shade include: Western Columbine, Red Fescue, Diamond Clarkia, Cow Parsnip, Cooley’s Hedge Nettle, Oregon Phacelia, and Pearly Everlasting.

How can I get assistance or advice for my meadow project? We now offer individual project consults via phone, Facetime, Zoom, or Google Meet. More information and scheduling options are available here.

Are your seeds organic or treated with pesticides? While we are not formally certified organic, none of our seeds are genetically modified or treated with pesticides.  

What can I plant to compete with blackberry and other weeds? No native meadow plants can completely prevent the encroachment of blackberry and other invasive weeds. Rather, to reduce weedy vegetation you should implement three strategies: 1) Perform very comprehensive site preparation to remove all the weeds in advance of planting a meadow (including working to minimize soil disturbance which can bring up long buried dormant weed seed), 2) Establish a dense cover of desirable meadow vegetation to help reduce open spaces for weeds to grow, 3) Conduct regular hands-on inspections for weeds in your meadow and selectively eliminate them. Meadows are low-maintenance, not “maintenance-free.”

Do you recommend sheet mulching to prepare new areas for planting? Sheet mulching (covering existing vegetation with lots of organic matter to smother it) can be an effective way to prepare an area for meadow planting. We don’t personally use it ourselves because it is cost and labor prohibitive to sheet mulch on a large scale. The materials needed can be very heavy, time-consuming to apply, and it can be hard to find cost-effective sources of materials to work with. In addition, it is important that the sheet-mulching materials be weed-free. For an alternative (and an alternative to the use of black plastic) we have seen good results from people using large flattened cardboard boxes to smother an area in preparation for planting. Usually the cardboard is weighed down with rocks, and watered to form a heavy, soggy barrier that kills off existing vegetation after several months, leaving a nice planting site when the cardboard is removed.

Should I cover the seed with wood chips after planting? Please no! Wood chips and wood mulch create a tough barrier for very tiny seedlings to emerge from. We also think the added weight of rain-soaked wood chips compacts soil, leachate from the wood chips can create an unhospitable chemical environment for seeds to germinate in, and we’ve seen way too many wood chips that included ground up blackberry bushes (including live seeds).

Should I amend my soil with compost? In general, no. Native plants, especially wildflowers are adapted to natural soil conditions, including nutrient poor conditions. Non-native turf grasses and other weeds tend to thrive in enriched soils and can outcompete native plants – especially wildflowers.

How do I keep birds from eating my seed? Many songbirds are primarily insectivores and eat seeds only as a lesser portion of their diet. We don’t see much real-world harm to newly seeded meadows caused by birds, even when they do pick-up a few seeds. Many of our native wildflower seeds are really, really, (really!), tiny and make an unrewarding food source for birds. Larger wildflower seeds, and grass seeds, face more pressure. Aside from a scarecrow, you can lightly rake seed into the upper surface of the soil. Where possible, it also helps to water newly seeded areas immediately to help settle the seed into the soil. Additionally, we have had good success covering newly seeded areas with very light layer of weed-free grain straw, or thin straw erosion mats to help hide seed and make it less accessible to birds.

What can I plant that will be deer resistant? Deer will browse most native meadow plants periodically, even occasionally species that they supposedly don’t like. Still, they do have strong preferences, such as newly emerged Camas flowers. Some plants they prefer not to eat include: Lupines, Gumweed, Selfheal, Sneezeweed, Seablush, Blue-Eyed Grass, Irises, Western Buttercup, Yarrow, Sommon Fiddleneck, Lacy Phacelia, Oregon Sunshine, Spring Gold, Barestem Biscuitroot, Pearly Everlasting, Douglas Aster, Meadowfoam, Showy Tarweed, Milkweed, and most native grasses.

Should I direct sow my seeds or start them in containers? This depends entirely on your goals. Most annual plants are best started by directly seeding them in the ground where you want them to ultimately grow.

Among perennials you can either seed them directly in the ground, or they can be grown in containers until they are big enough to be transplanted into specific places where you want them. This latter approach is a great way to produce your own transplants for adding to existing grassy or natural areas to increase meadow diversity. It’s tremendously rewarding to grow your own native plants from seed over the winter in containers, then transplant them out into a field in the spring.

A few native perennials produce large roots that need immediate room to grow. These include Big Leaf Lupine, Mule’s Ear, Barestem Biscuitroot, Yampah, Cow Parsnip, Milkweed, and Spring Gold. We recommend planting these directly in the ground, or in very deep containers so their young root systems can grow to their full potential.

What can I plant directly into existing grass? Seeding into existing grass usually produces slow results. That said, with repeated annual sowing, a few native plants can establish within existing grass. Some of the ones we use with moderate success include Farewell to Spring, Riverbank Lupine, Self-Heal, Prairie Burnet, and Camas (note that Camas planting from seed may not appear in flowering form for many years, and will be most successful with ongoing repeated sowing). The density of wildflowers will always be less in dense grass plantings compared to sites where all grass was removed prior to planting. Heavy seeding rates will increase wildflower establishment success among established grasses.

Can I plant meadow species over a septic system? Yes. Native grasses and wildflowers are compatible with most septic systems, and do not produce the expansive woody root systems that make trees and shrubs problematic in those same locations.

What do you recommend for abused sites, such as areas compacted by construction? Among meadow plants, some of the best colonizers of difficult conditions and damaged soils are Common Fiddleneck, Foothill Clover, Riverbank Lupine, Yarrow, Gumweed, Red Fescue, and Prairie Burnet.