Monarch Math: What’s My Seed Need?

Many of our Okies for Monarchs friends have questions about how much seed is needed for their projects (big and small), so we spent some time this week with collaborative member Sarah McLaughlin of the Johnston Seed Company to find a few answers. McLaughlin is the conservation and native lands specialist at Johnston, a 100+ year old Oklahoma company out of Enid.

I’m a residential gardener hoping to help monarchs. I bought a 1-ounce package of pollinator seed mix. How much area will that cover?

“In general, that will cover approximately 75 square feet.”

I have a large amount of land I’d like to restore to help pollinators. What is the minimum amount of seed mix per acre I will need to add to my place to establish wildflowers back into the landscape?

“In a clean, empty seed-bed I would say no less than 10 or 11 pounds per acre, and recommend 12 pounds. Planting too few seeds leaves the area vulnerable to weed competition.”

Would the recommended pound per acre number “depend” on the current land quality, my family’s historical use of the land, or the plants and grasses currently on our land?

“Yes, several factors influence seeding rates. Assuming a clean, empty seed-bed in soil that is of average quality and being planted with a drill equipped to handle native seeds, seeding rate would be 12 pounds per acre. This would give about 9.5-10 pounds of pure live seed (exact amount depends on the mix used and individual lots).

If native grasses are already present, the seed could be reduced accordingly, depending on how much native grass is present (thick stand, patchy, etc.). If your soil is prone to erosion or you are intending to broadcast the seed, seeding rates should be higher in anticipation of lower germination.

A general rule of thumb when broadcasting is to double the seeding rate of drilling, so in this case use 24 pounds instead of 12. However, seed cost can play into that, since the rule of thumb arises from crop or native grass mixes that are less expensive than pollinator species. With good preparation and management, and good weather conditions, the broadcast rate could be the same as or slightly above a drilled rate and still have great results.”

How much is the average cost per acre for a private land owner like myself to buy and use Okies for Monarchs-inspired regional seed mix from Johnston?”

“At a rate of 12 pounds per acre, cost would be $582 per acre.”

Are the Okies for Monarchs-inspired Eastern, Central, and Western mixes the same cost per acre?

“Yes, because each mix was designed to have similar amounts of pure live seed based on individual species’ base planting rates (even though the individual species vary between the mixes). This means that a 1-pound jar of Western Mix has very close to the same amount of pure live seed as a 1-pound jar of Eastern Mix or Central Mix.

Those in higher rainfall zones may choose to plant 5-15 percent more seed per acre, but they don’t have to in order to achieve a good stand.”

Do you offer a discount to any buyer individual or group (like parks, schools, etc.)?

“Yes, non-profit agencies and schools may receive a discount upon request. Large buyers, such as the NRCS or retails distributors receive wholesale pricing.”