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How good are overwintered seeds at deciding when to come up?  RSS feed

 
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What I'd like to believe- Nature is perfect, so by planting vegetable seeds right before the first snowfall, when the soil is certainly too cold for germination, you can guarantee yourself the earliest possible crop of whatever you planted, because the seeds will come up as soon as they can possibly survive and not a day sooner.

My concerns- They might come up too early and get killed by frost. They might come up late because the soil takes a long time to reach germination temperature. The seeds might mostly die given a long and cold enough winter. Animals might find them and eat them. Everything might work OK but it's still slower than doing transplants well. (this last one is acceptable because of the amount of effort and risk saved)

Anyone tried?
 
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If you sow plenty you'll likely find that they come up at slightly different times.  Some are likely to survive, and those ones will likely produce seeds that 'know' when to come up in your location.
 
pollinator
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Overwintered seeds are excellent at deciding when to come up. They will only germinate when specific conditions have been met, with some species including a cold stratification period necessary beforehand, to make sure they don't sprout in a late warm fall and die at the first frost.

As Burra mentioned, they will suit the specific microclimate into which they fall, so the seeds at the top of the furrow won't germinate at the same time as those at the bottom of the furrow (assuming furrows and hand-broadcasting).

The best examples of these are garden beds that have gone self-seeding. I have heard from people on this site who have to start new garden beds because the old ones have gone into a self-seeding polyculture of things like chives, strawberries, kales, and radishes. You literally just leave a few plants of each type to go to seed every season, and there's your garden for next year.

-CK
 
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I plant very few of my vegetables. I mostly just tuck kitchen scraps, and they come up.
If I am "sowing" seeds from tomatoes that came from south america, I don't think it will give the best result. But if I get it from this old lady down the road that have been saving and replanting her own seeds for over a decade, it does a lot better, and needs less babying.

So if you are buying seeds, double check to see if it is cultivar that like your humidy/arid/cold/etc area. Also check to see the time to harvest time. If you have a show growing season you might have to get cherry tomatoes vs beefsteak seeds. And hot peppers might just not ripen for you no matter when you plant it, how much you baby it short of growing it  inside a heated four season greenhouse.

 
L. Tims
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Thanks everybody.
 
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I've never really gotten anything like this to work. Squirrels love buried seeds. Squirrels get real hungry in the winter.
 
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I think it would depend a lot on what TYPE of vegetable seeds. Most have been selectively bred to sprout quickly under certain conditions (and they have surely lost the genetic traits needed to ensure they don't sprout too early and get killed off by frost assuming they ever had those traits)

Weeds are a huge problem where I live.  I don't have raised beds and any bare patch of soil will sprout a whole lot of something in no time flat which makes it pretty much impossible to just throw seeds out and expect them to survive the competition unless they are beans or peas or something that can grow under mulch.

Though this year I have come up with a possible way to over winter some small cold hardy seeds like poppies. In January when nothing is really growing I plan to dig little planting holes and fill the top few inches with sterile seed starting mix (surrounded by mulch) and seed them. Hopefully that will ensure the tiny seedlings can come up early and not have to compete with any faster growing weeds.
 
Chris Kott
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Poppies require a cold stratification, last I checked. If you don't get a freeze, it might be necessary to cold-stratify them in the freezer before they will germinate.

By the terms set out in the OP's question, overwintered seeds will have weathered the early winter already.

I also am not familiar with seeds that have been bred out of their germination niches. If the crop that the seeds grew from grew in your area from seed, chances are it's not some nursery throwback.

The best way to get seeds that will overwinter is to plant a variety from seed the fall before. Everything that sprouts in the spring is a candidate. I would note which plants sprout earliest, set flowers first, and which have the tastiest fruit.

I would plant all the seeds out and repeat the process, noting characteristics that I like and don't like. Seeds that don't overwinter are a non-issue. Fruit that's less than tasty isn't replanted. Eventually all you're left with are seeds from plants that overwinter and produce tasty fruit.

As noted above, the key is getting genetics that work for your specific microclimactic conditions. The seeds you end up with might not like it exactly the same outside the range of conditions present in your situation, but they will be adapted to your needs.

-CK
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Chris Kott wrote:Poppies require a cold stratification, last I checked. If you don't get a freeze, it might be necessary to cold-stratify them in the freezer before they will germinate.



Yes most poppy varieties do require a good freeze (easy to do in the freezer overnight). Though some "farmed" varieties have been selectively bred to germinate in warmer temps though they may not grow well in hot conditions.

We get random freezes up until April but only get snow every couple of years.
 
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What I've noticed about volunteers, which is all the experience I have, is that they seem much hardier than the seedlings I grew. They sprout really early and by the time I'm setting out my tomato seedlings they're as big or bigger than my seedlings. Perhaps it's like the calf that's born in the pasture is hardier than those born in the barn.
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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John Duda wrote:What I've noticed about volunteers, which is all the experience I have, is that they seem much hardier than the seedlings I grew. They sprout really early and by the time I'm setting out my tomato seedlings they're as big or bigger than my seedlings. Perhaps it's like the calf that's born in the pasture is hardier than those born in the barn.



The volunteers may represent 1 survivor out of 25 seedlings that germinated but died before they were noticed, so that one survivor is a genetic rock star (or a late germinator if frost killed the others). The ones you start in seed cells often all survive because they are protected from environmental stress that would kill the weaker ones off.
 
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This reminds me of the concept of "winter sowing" popular among folks growing more ornamental things, but certainly applies to lots of useful permaculture plants. I haven't done it in years, but was planning to do a big batch this winter. Not sure if links are allowed (I'm fairly new!), but if you search "winter sowing", you'll come up with Trudi Davidoff's (sp?) website, which lists lots and lots of seed types that are successful this way.  They tend to use labeled containers set out to overwinter in order to keep track of what germinates, but you could certainly do mixed sowings in dedicated areas. 
I used to start a lot of my perennials, herbs, and some veggies this way - and yes, I found that those plants, especially the tomatoes, were much hardier throughout the growing season.  I kind of love the container method, because I can sow new (recycled) containers in the winter "downtime" of January and February; it makes the wait for spring seem a little faster.   Happy planting!
 
Kyle Neath
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Hey Amy, welcome to forums! We definitely encourage links, especially if you find the content valuable! I did some searching, and I believe this is the website you were mentioning: Winter Sown.

I like the containers idea! I do a similar with seeds I need to stratify (apple, elderberry, etc). Keeps the squirrels away!
 
Amy Maria
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Thank you, Kyle!  That's the one. :)
 
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