Seeds planted and protected with recycled plastics …
Winter sowing is one of those revolutionary ideas that can change a gardener’s world forever, especially if you live in a Northern climate or high altitude where the growing season is short and the winters long. We updated this article January 2015. We’re still enjoying our winter sowing adventures and look forward to hearing about yours.
WHEN I FOCUS ON WINTER SOWING, I hardly mind the wicked weather outside …
Winter landscape by Sue Langley
Years ago, I learned from fellow gardeners on the web that with just a little outdoor space (in the sun, and somewhat sheltered from the wind is ideal), it’s possible to extend the growing season by leaving seeded containers outside, protected from elements with recycled plastics. The technique is called “winter sowing.” This is a great way to increase the amount of plants you have in early spring, plus condition hardy seeds naturally. Planting in advance for me, means more free time in spring for other projects.
2015: My three new winter sowing boxes are full sized storage containers
filled with planted nursery pots.
Old winter sowing bins get recycled as pot toppers.
Plastic milk and water jugs are typically used in winter sowing, but I ended up brainstorming this storage bin system so that I could stack them away, out of sight, to be used again another day (less clutter, right?) This year I used three new, full sized storage boxes. I punched six holes in the tops, and one hole in each corner of the bottom ~ a total of four holes in the bottoms ~ using a hot soldering iron. You could also use a drill or an awl to make drainage holes. Make sure you work outside if you are using the soldering iron method, the fumes are strong.
Sorting my seeds into winter sowing, direct sowing, and indoor sowing categories.
Every year I have to brush out, wipe, and freshen my containers with a few spritzes of good old~fashioned Gold Listerine. I use ordinary top soil because winter sown containers do not seem to be troubled with damping off disease.
I follow the instructions on my seed packs, and water with a recycled glass bottle with a pouring spout. Then, I leave my planted storage bins on the sunny side of my balcony. The idea is to LET THEM FREEZE and thaw in a natural rhythm.
If you have extreme winter weather, you can winter sow in a cold and sunny protected area between buildings, on porches, or even sunny out buildings. Move your containers outdoors in late winter when the winter is less severe. Remember, the idea is to allow them to freeze and thaw. Near door yards and in warm spots near compost or hay bales can help provide shelter.
My winter sowing February 2014 included some recycled water jugs kept safe from tipping in an open bin.
MORE WINTER SOWING TIPS:
• You can winter sow any time during the winter, aiming for at least two weeks of freezing to help condition your seeds.
• You do not need to water your containers during the winter. I water mine once while planting them.
• For milk or water jugs, cut them nearly in half leaving a sort of hinged side. Group these in bins so they do not get tipped over.
• For plant labels, I used recycled mini blind plastic cut with scissors, then etched the seed names using the tip of an awl.
Checking as the weather warms that drainage is good and seedlings get natural light and air on mild days.
MORE WINTER SOWING TIPS
• If you run out of jugs or pots, you can always use clean plastic drinking cups with holes for drainage in the bottom. Group these inside of plastic boxes with drainage and air holes.
• It’s always a good idea to check your containers periodically to make sure they are draining properly. Holes may become blocked over time.
• Once my containers start sprouting, I leave the tops off during the sunny, mild days. I replace the lids at night or on frigid days for extra protection.
• You can bring your containers inside to speed germination, but I recommend leaving them outdoors and letting them emerge naturally.
• Older storage boxes can be recycled as mini green houses on containers or directly on the ground in the garden.
You will love the vast selection of plants that can benefit from winter sowing.
With winter sowing you can use your imagination and whatever is handy to create the containers and grow lots of money-saving plants from seeds. Here are some recycled produce boxes ready for sowing, photographed by Sue Langley.
Winter sowing by Sue Langley, Sierra Foothills Gardening
My original winter sowing boxes …
There are lots of variations on techniques, bright ideas, and good information from gardeners who winter sow—
Karen Settles I tried this last year and was surprised at my success . . yes, it does work with a lot of seeds and I WILL be doing it again this year. Wish I could find some of those grape containers . . ours around here all come in plastic bags . . lol I improvised with the 5 qt ice cream buckets with the lids cut out . . . cover with saran wrap . . snap the cut out lid back on. . poke a few holes in the saran wrap and you have little mini greenhouses!
Denise Ackermann I do this with my flower seeds, especially Blue Bonnets. Seeds usually do a lot better if they are outside in the dirt thru the Texas Winter, even the freezes.
Winter Sowing My First Year, by Sue Langley
Do you winter sow?