Attempting to Winter Sow Seeds










The holidays are over, and I am in full “holiday hangover” mode!  I’ve got the winter blues, and I’ve been looking for a way to keep myself occupied for the duration of the winter months.  It’s 62° today in zone 5b (Upstate New York) on January 13th, and that’s making it even worse!  Sure, I have multiple “projects” around the house to do, but I really need a gardening activity!  So I started looking into winter seed sowing. I have some seeds I’d really like to get a jump on, and just don’t have the set up for sowing indoors.  As I was doing my research I found that it’s really easy to do, and I thought some of you might want to try it.  So here’s what I found…

Seed Selection

You must pay attention to the seeds.  Most seed packets have information regarding the seed’s germination requirements. 

Look for certain terms such as:

  • Needs Pre-Chilling (freeze, refrigerate, stratify, etc…)
  • Needs Stratification
  • Will Colonize
  • Sow in early Autumn, or early Spring while nights are cool
  • Hardy Seeds or Seedlings withstand frost
  • Can be direct sown early

Look for common names that indicate natural environment such as:

  • Plains
  • Prairie
  • Desert
  • Swamp
  • Mountain
  • Field
  • Etc…

If you’re like me your seed catalogs have started to arrive in droves.  Any one of these catalogs should have a germination table, and if you can’t find one just like anything else you can always Google it.

Now that you’ve selected your seeds it’s time to sow.  As I did my research I decided on the re-use, recycle method of using old plastic containers.  Whether it’s a plastic milk jug, or old Chinese delivery container, it’ll be perfect for winter sowing.

Steps to Sowing your Seeds

  1. As I said use gallon milk jugs or similar containers like, food trays with clear lids or old Chinese delivery containers (I have a lot of these).  If using jugs, cut open horizontally around jug but leave hinged just under handle.
  2. Punch several holes in bottom for drainage, and several holes around neck or in the top for to let air in and allow evaporation.
  3. Also punch 2 holes in the sides of the container.
  4. Fill with 3-4" of regular potting soil, not soilless mixture.
  5. Moisten the soil or bottom water to start.
  6. Plant the seeds you’ve selected as required by their size, etc… And Be sure to label them, I always forget to label and end up playing a guessing game!!
  7. Tape the jug around the cut, and place on patio next to house.  I have a screened in porch that I’m going to use.  I might be able to use some less hardy seeds as it stays relatively warm.
  8. Check occasionally for condensation and water when sunny & the need is there.
  9. Put extra holes in container in the spring to get rid of extra moisture or you may want to open the top all together.
  10. When the frosts have passed, separate your seedlings into clumps or individual plants and plant in garden.
  11. You may want to use fertilizer for first few weeks after planting in ground, at least until your seedlings “take hold”

And there you have it!  I can’t wait to get going, I’ll be sure to keep track of the progress (if there is any) and post an update in the spring.  For a little luck I think I’ll have my little girl help me sow, I think it’ll be a fun activity for her as well!!

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