Question and Answer

Is it better to plant seeds or plugs for my monarch habitat project?

Many factors play into the decision of whether seeds or plugs, or some combination of the two, are more appropriate for your habitat project. Seeds are often the most economical option, but establishment may be more successful with planting plugs if your project budget can handle it. If an area is large, using a diverse native seed mix will require less time, whereas it will require significantly more time and labor if transplanting plugs throughout the entire area. For smaller areas, like gardens, placement of different species within the habitat might be more important to you and in this case, plugs might be a more appropriate option (because you have more control than a seed mix). Plugs have a head start and generally establish and reach maturity more quickly than seeds.

You can explore what works best for different species, and could find that a combination of techniques works best, depending on the species you are planting, the location and size of the project, the project budget, and the labor or equipment resources available to support the project. To save cost but maintain the higher success of plug establishment, some start seeds indoors (or in controlled containers outdoors) which they later transplant as plugs. Some plant a diverse seed mix and supplement it with plugs. Others stick to just using one technique or the other (plugs or seeds). Each habitat project is unique and there is not one best option that fits the needs of all.

A consideration for all habitat projects is site preparation prior to planting. To give seedlings and plugs the best chance of survival, it is important to keep weed pressure low. Ensuring that weeds and weed seeds are eradicated from the site prior to planting will improve the success of establishing native plants. 

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