Friday, February 13, 2009

Winter Sowing

What is Winter Sowing?
"Winter Sowing is an easy germination method that starts many seedlings for just pennies. During Winter seeds are sown into mini-greenhouses that you make yourself from recyclables. After sowing, the mini-greenhouse is placed outside to wait for the end of Winter. The seeds will begin to germinate at their own right time when weather warms. "

After reading about winter sowing and the success that others have had with this method, I decided to give it a try. I am planning to convert a pretty sizeable area of my front lawn into a flower garden. Some of the nice folks from the Rocky Mountain Gardening forum ( were kind enough to share some seeds with me (yay!) and I picked up a few other packets on clearance this fall so I have something to start with.
The containers used most often for winter sowing seem to be milk jugs and 2-liter soda bottles. We get our milk in re-useable containers and don't often have soda in 2-liter bottles, so I had to do a little scrounging. I picked up a few milk jugs at Starbucks when I went in for coffee grounds but I got the bulk of my containers through Freecycle. I had to do a little picking & choosing (and some washing) and my recycle bin got a little extra material, but I got enough containers to start.

First I moistened the soil with warm water in a bucket and let it sit while I cut the containers. I started the cut with a small exacto knife and then used scissors. I cut 3/4 around the jug and left a hinged area. We get such strong winds I didn't dare completely cut the tops off my containers. I also used the exacto knife to poke about 5 drainage holes in the bottom.

To avoid confusion later, I labelled the containers before sowing seeds. It's too easy to get distracted and since I am working with plants that are new to me, I probably wouldn't recognize most of the seedlings. I read a lot of comments about sun fading the ink so I wrote on the jugs and for safety, outside and inside my folded (metal) mini-blind labels which I tucked into the front of the jug.

Next I scattered the seeds on top of the soil. I covered some of them, but left most of them on top of the soil. Others reported the seeds heaving up to the top on their own so I decided just to let them start there. I hope that doesn't turn out to be a mistake. I did lightly tamp most of them to be sure there was seed-soil contact. Then I put a piece of duct tape on the front to hold the lid closed.

When sown, I put the containers into some well-used storage crates we had in the basement (hey, these were a bookshelf once upon a time- many moons ago-) I put all the containers into something else because of the wind.

Then the little guys go out to the container corral (yep, more straw bales!) I actually added one more crate full of 2-liter bottles after I took the photos. I'm also trying some seeds in strawberry containers and chicken containers. I put the strawberry containers in the boxes because I read that some of them are made from plastics that don't hold up well to the elements.

I put the containers in the corral for a couple reasons. We get some very cold temperatures and some very warm temperatures, often in the same week and the change usually comes with a lot of wind. We also have very intense sunshine here. This corner has slightly filtered light from the neighbor's tree. The straw is to provide a bit of shelter from the wind and sun. I hope this will moderate the temperatures some so the little guys don't get fooled into popping up too early. Although they were watered before going out (I put them out Jan. 8 & 15) I did notice they dried pretty quickly. I'm sure this is due to the VERY dry windy climate. I moistened them with the mister setting on the hose sprayer one warm day and will check them during our next warm spell. Watering will be much more crucial as spring approaches but for now they should be ok.

1 comment:

Annie's Granny said...

Greenbean, I hope this experiment turns out just boggles my mind when I read about this method! Right now it's something I can't try, since I spend my winters here in AZ. The weather at home would still be much too warm to put the seeds out before heading south.