How Can I Start Winter Sowing?

For garden-lovers, winter in the Northeast can be a less exciting time than the spring and summer. However, there is indeed a way for you to do something for your garden in the winter. This method is low-cost, effective, and will produce hardier seedlings than those grown indoors.Don’t believe us? Just keep reading to discover the possibilities of winter sowing.

What Is Winter Sowing?

Different seeds emerge out of dormancy through different methods. Some seeds merely require some soaking or scratching. However, other seeds require cold stratification, or exposure to the cold, to break out of their dormant stage. As explained by Pennsylvania State University, cold temperatures allow oxygen to permeate into the seed and encourage it to digest some of its food reserves, giving the seed sufficient energy to germinate. In short, winter sowing is a method of cold stratification that takes up absolutely zero space in your home.

Winter sowing starts seeds completely outdoors in the wintertime. It works through miniature greenhouses made from recycled plastic containers, which are then left outdoors. Once the weather begins to warm up, the seeds will grow at their normal pace. Winter-sown seedlings have no risk of damping off, when new seeds and seedlings become water-soaked and quickly die. Because these seedlings grow outside from the beginning, they also do not need to be gradually exposed and introduced to the outdoors, a process known as hardening off. All things considered, winter sowing will make your life and the life of your garden considerably easier.

Prepare Your Mini Greenhouses

The first step to winter sowing is to prepare the “mini greenhouses” for your seedlings. These are made of transparent or translucent plastic, such as milk jugs, liter bottles, or other similar containers. It must be deep enough to allow for two to three inches of soil at the bottom, and tall enough for seedlings to grow.

After you have chosen your container, make sure to clean it thoroughly. If you are using a milk jug or tall container, cut the container in half horizontally.

Poke Some Holes

Using a knife or drill, poke the same amount of holes in the top and bottom of the container to allow for venting and draining. Rain and moisture will be able to enter and drain out. The holes will also prevent the “greenhouse” from overheating.

Add All-Purpose Potting Soil

Add a layer of high-quality, all-purpose potting soil. A layer that is about two to three inches is sufficient. Never use soil from your garden in your containers!

Plant The Seeds

For winter sowing, marigolds, poppies, brussel sprouts, carrots, leek, and spinach are just some seeds that should grow well. For more ideas, refer to this list.

On the seed packet, look for terms like “self-sow,” “direct sow in fall,” “direct sow in early spring,” “needs stratification,” or “needs pre-chilling.”

Label Your Containers

By the time spring rolls around, there’s a good chance that you won’t remember what you have sown. Be sure to label your containers using a permanent marker or masking tape.

Water The Seeds

Water your soil thoroughly and allow the containers to drain before moving them outside.

Close Up The Containers

Place the lid of your container back on, making sure that it snaps shut. If you have cut your container in half, simply attach the half back on using duct-tape. In this case, be sure to leave the caps off. Make sure that the tape does not cover the ventilation and drainage holes.

Put the Containers Outside

Finally, put your containers outside in a place that receives plenty of sunshine and moisture. However, make sure that the containers are not exposed to heavy wind.

Retrieve Containers in Spring

Don’t worry if your containers are covered by snow. Once the weather warms up, check the containers regularly for signs of seedlings. Make sure that the seedlings do not overheat and that the soil inside is adequately moist. If you notice soil drying out, add water through the ventilation holes. When the seedlings are finally tall enough to reach the top of the container, you can remove the lids. After the lids are removed, check the seedlings daily and water when necessary.

Transplant Your Winter Sowing To Your Garden

You can transplant these seedlings at the same time you would plant anything else in your garden, depending on where you live.
Winter sowing will bring joy to your gardening life when springtime rolls around! You won’t need to purchase grow-lights, heat mats, or other accessories that require money and space. The seedlings themselves will grow beautifully when they are planted. If you find that you have questions about gardening or your lawn, contact a lawn care professional in your area, like Giovine Landscaping, for personalized information. We are happy to help you build your garden from the ground up.