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.
When I focus on winter sowing, I hardly mind the wicked weather outside …
Winter path by Debra Treffry Clark; tricycle in the snow by Jenny Alexander.
Years ago, I learned from fellow-gardeners on the web that with just a little outdoor space (somewhat sheltered from the wind is ideal), it’s possible to extend the growing season by leaving planted containers outside protected from the elements with recycled plastics. The idea was called “winter sowing” and the wizards I learned from typically used plastic milk jugs as mini greenhouses. Milk jugs never fit my gardening needs, here’s what I use to sow seeds in winter:
Since the heart of the idea is to create a micro-climate for seedlings out of something recycled or re-purposed, lots of different household objects will work, but for my own purposes (living in a very small house) my first priority was to come up with a system that was easy to clean and store off-season.
After many years of learning hands-on, my contribution to winter sowing wizardry is to use plastic shoe-storage boxes with drainage holes made with my soldering iron. Inside these boxes, I use stackable, sturdy nursery pots I have saved year-after-year (like the typical kind shown below). When I run out of those, I use foam mushroom boxes I have saved. I’ve even used plastic drinking cups from the grocery store.
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.
I plant my recycled containers with a rainbow of perennials and vegetables. Not everything will germinate, not everything will survive the onslaught of slugs once they are transferred to the garden, but now I have so much more stock with which to fill the beds in the Spring.
And slowly my mountain garden is being transformed by a few of the survivors from the many varieties of plants I have tried, like most of these above. My heart bursts with joy when the seedlings are a sea of green in early spring.
And, if it snows before I’m ready to plant my seedlings in Spring … they are so easy to cover, safe and sound!
There are lots of variations on techniques, bright ideas, and good information from gardeners who winter sow—all on the Internet. Flea Market Gardening’s editor in chief, Sue Langley, has an article on her first year winter sowing here.
Do you winter sow?
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