Updated: Jan 6
Some of us crazy gardeners think about all that comes with playing in the dirt, All-Year-Round! Recently, I discovered a new method of getting a kick start on my seedlings, referred to as wintersowing. YES! We can sow seeds when there's snow on the ground, and there's very little maintenance! Nature gets to take its course and do all the work for you!
If you haven't already guessed, wintersowing is a technique gardeners use to start seeds in clear containers or jugs in the winter months. Wintersowing is an excellent option for those with limited space or lighting to start seedlings indoors. It is time-saving and takes the learning curve out of successfully starting perennials from seed. Here in north Idaho, seed types that use the description as 'cold hardy,' 'cool-season,' 'perennials or biennials,' or if the directions state to sow in the fall or early spring, then they're good candidates for this method.
Here are some great examples of plants I've successfully sown in the winter months:
Delphinium, Yarrow, Poppies, Snapdragons, Bachelor Buttons, Canterbury Bells, Sweet William, and more!
I plan to add Bells of Ireland and all sorts of new perennials to my list for the new perennial bed this coming season.
Many winter sowers also successfully start some of their cold-hardy vegetables with much success. Early crops of lettuces and anything in the Brassica family seems to do well.
I sow my perennials & biennials the first or second week of January because most require cold stratification to germinate. Others I'll plant through March. Timing for this method is precise between the Winter Solstice and the last frost of Springtime.
Here's a list of supplies needed to get you started with wintersowing:
Several clear or transparent containers such as a gallon milk jug, 2-liter bottles, or any clear container with a lid.
Potting soil, the higher quality, the better, but most will work.
Strong tape, like packing or duct tape.
A weatherproof marker that can withstand the elements because you may have a hard time identifying the seedlings in early spring.
Box cutter or utility scissors.
Wintersowing an easy step-by-step:
*Once you've gathered your supplies, cut jugs and bottles three-quarters of the way around to create a hinged opening.
*Puncture holes in the bottom to ensure good drainage; this is so important!
*Fill the container with soil 2/3 full, set it on a tray or in a sink, water thoroughly, and let the water drain through.
*Plant your seeds according to the package directions. The general rule is one seed packet per container.
*Close up the container securely with strong tape. I use good ole duct tape.
*Label the container with the name of your seeds and the planting date(it's essential to use a weatherproof marker, I use Sharpie Extreme Permanent Markers).
*Leave the cap off the bottles and jugs to allow air circulation and water entry.
Set your container outside in a sunny location. Then wait!
The takeaway is that you create a sheltered environment for the seeds. The natural freezing and thawing process loosens the seed coats to aid germination. Your seeds will sprout when the temperatures and daylight are ideal for them, and then you can transplant your seedlings into their permanent location in the garden when the soil is workable in early spring. There is no need to harden off the seedlings since they'll already be acclimated to the outdoors.
Here are a couple of tips-
*Depending on the type of container you use, it may be wise to put them in a secure location where the wind can't blow them over. You can weave twine through the handles using milk jugs to add stability. Some folks keep them in a wagon drilled with drainage holes,, so the water doesn't pool and drown the seeds.