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Of all the wonderful things in the wonderful universe, nothing seems to me more surprising than the planting of a seed in the blank earth and the result thereof.

~Celia Thaxter~

Winter Sowing

Our new greenhouse is coming along and should be ready at the end of this month. But my fingers are itching and my nails are missing their regular 'garden' manicure.

All that seems to be growing are cold season weeds and I'm in the mood to see something desirable grow. Winter Sowing to the rescue!

What is Winter Sowing?

The Term 'winter sowing' was introduced by Trudi Davidoff who found herself with too many seeds and not enough grow lights, heat mats and indoor space several years ago. Essentially, it's the realization that seeds are smart enough to know when to grow and don't require artificial light or heat to germinate.
In 2006, Winter Sowing was added to the USDA's National Agricultural Library Thesaurus as an official plant propagation method.

What will I need?

  • Containers. Winter sowing and recycling go hand-in-hand. Milk jugs, two-liter soda bottles, salad take-out containers, and big plastic jars are all popular winter sowing containers.Cut them in half, punch some drainage holes in the bottom and cut several large ventilation/watering slits in the top portion.
  • Potting Mix. Just about any type will do, avoid the kind with 'water retentive' additives, your seeds will get plenty of moisture naturally and having the soil constantly wet will promote rot. Fill your containers with about 3 inches of soil.
  • Seeds, of course! Just about any seeds can be winter sown. Seeds to avoid are those of tropical and tender plants as these seeds do not need a period of cold, nor will they germinate before warm weather arrives.
    Place your seeds on the soil, cover lightly and water.

Place the containers with their tops on out in your yard where they will be exposed to rain and snow.. Check on them every so often to make sure they are getting watered by Mother Nature.
Once seedlings have a set of true leaves (by April or so), lift out a clump of them, separate and set out in your garden.

Why Winter Sow?

Container winter sown seeds get the same exposure as seeds direct sown in the ground. But there are quite a few advantages to winter sowing:

  • seeds in containers are protected from birds and critters so there are more of them left to germinate
  • no guessing whether it's a weed or a seedling
  • seedlings are naturally hardened off
  • provides a great way to combine recycling with gardening during the cold season
  • saves money and time, no need for expensive equipment or lots of maintenance
  • no gnats and/or whiteflies buzzing in your living areas, your dining room table can once again be used for storage eating.

We have put out about a dozen containers so far, mostly perennials. Our carrot seeds will go directly into the raised bed in about 2 weeks. The next empty milk jug is destined to hold a packet of cucumber seeds...
Give it a try, it really works and is a lot of fun!


January in the Garden:

Love-in-a-Mist Seeds
Brugmansia - Angel Trumpet
Confederate Rose