I have been meaning to write this blog for some time on a new method I’m trying for winter seed sowing. As the winter months get closer to spring, I get “cabin fever” and ready to start gardening. I came across an article on how to do winter seed sowing so I wanted to share this with you. This method is good for “hardy annuals” and perennials and gives you a head start on your garden in January and February. Winter seed sowing is an interesting method of outdoor seed germination which requires two things – Mother Nature and a miniature greenhouse made from empty milk and water jugs. Supplies will include:
Empty gallon containers (I clean mine with a spray disinfectant containing bleach)
Something to make holes in the containers
Labels and tape
Gather your empty containers to make a miniature greenhouse – removing any caps as they are not needed. Using a sharp pair of scissors of a pen knife – cut around the container (about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom) and leave a 1/2 inch or so uncut to act as a hinge.
Next, you will need to punch out drainage holes in the bottom and lower sides so the container will drain and have proper ventilation. You can use a drill if you have one or I find it easier to heat a phillips screw driver in the flame from my stove which will then easily punch holes in your container.
Fill your container with a well draining potting soil or seed starting soil. Water soil and allow to drain as you want the soil to be wet but not soggy. Sow your seeds on top of the soil and cover with additional soil to achieve the correct planting depth. I like to gently pat the soil down so I know there is good contact and the seeds are set.
Close the lid and label with a permanent marker. This is very important as I have learned from experience – even though I think I will remember what I planted, that is not usually the case (sigh!) Tape the container closed using duct tape or shipping tape. Place your container outside where it will be exposed to all the elements – rain, snow, cold etc. Find a location that will be out of the wind and safe from being knocked over by curious animals. I put mine next to a fence and placed some lattice in front to keep them from becoming dislodged.
Now you can sit back and let Mother Nature do her thing. Seeds will freeze and thaw just like if they were in you garden. This allows the seed coats to soften and be ready to germinate with the warmth of spring. As spring is beginning and the days are warmer with some occasional freezes still at night, check as seedlings will start to emerge. Make sure they soil does not dry out. Leave the tops closed until the nights have warmed and no danger of frost. During sunshiny days, you may want to open the tops for a few hours to encourage growth.
What seeds to plant??? “Hardy Annuals” are annuals that are usually tolerant of colder temperatures and generally capable of reseeding in your garden. Some that are recommended for winter sowing are:
Sweet alyssum, snapdragons, swan river daisy, pot marigolds, china aster, canterbury bells, larkspur, morning glory, cosmos, china pinks, California poppy, blanket flower, baby’s breath, sunflowers, strawflowers, candytuft, sweet peas, hybrid petunias, creeping zinnias, pincushion flower, nasturtiums to name a few.
Winter seed sowing Vegetables – Alliums (onions, shallots, garlic, chives), beans, beets, broccoli, kale, carrots, celery, herbs, lettuce
Common Perennials for winter seed sowing – Aster, Astilbe, Baby’s Breath, balloon flower, bee balm. bellflower, blanket flower, blazing star, carnation, chrysanthemums, clematis, coreopsis, creeping thyme, delphinium, english daisy, foxglove, hollyhock, lupine, obedient plant, penstemon, phlox, pincushion flower, pinks, plumbago, coneflower, rudbeckia, Russian sage, salvia,sedum, shasta daisy, veronica, yarrow.