• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Winter Sowing  RSS feed

 
Susan Monroe
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Did you know that a very high percentage of vegetables, herbs, trees and flowers can be sown outdoors in the open in winter?  No greenhouse, no hotbed, no shelter, totally exposed to the elements.

Doesn't this sound more convenient than doing it in spring, when you have so many other things to do?  Well, I've done it for the last four years, and it works wonderfully!

Trudi Davidoff is the genius behind this groundwave of knowledge.  Her site below.  When she first started with this idea a few years ago, she suggested that all those seed varieties that contained 'chilly' words in their names could be winter sown:  'Siberian', 'early', 'Himalayan', 'arctic', 'mountain', etc.

Then people started trying other kinds of plants, just for fun, and discovered that MANY of them could be sown after the winter solstice, left out in the cold, rain, snow and ice, and they would pop up when they got the signal from Mother Nature that it was time.  And they contacted Trudi, so she added them to her lists.  She's got winter-sowable lists by types of plants (annuals, perennials, etc), by USDA zones. She's got all kinds of lists at her site.

Trust me, I was hesitant when I read about this. But then I thought:  hey, all these plants were around long before people started saving seeds, and they grew just fine.  So I started a few containers.  The next winter I tried a few more. Then I got crazy and had most of my deck covered with containers of planted seeds, to the point where I didn't have anyplace (or the time) to plant them once they did sprout.  The success rate of sprouting was amazing, very high.  BE WARNED:  This hobby is addictive!

So picture yourself in January, sitting at your warm kitchen table, wearing your pajamas and bunny slippers, with the cat on your lap, sowing seeds in comfort, instead of on your knees in damp ground in spring with a long list of other things you could be doing.  Could you handle this?

What you need:
Containers - I like those high-sided plastic meat trays that you get from places like WalMart (ugh!), margarine tubs and one-serving yogurt cups (tops must be wider than bottoms).  Lots of people use washed gallon milk jugs.  If you want to use regular plant flats, you'll need to place a couple of layers of newspaper on the bottom.  Of course, regular plant pots are fine, too.  Thrift shops have lots of plastic kitchen ware that is adaptable.

Drainage Hole Burner - I've tried scissors, box knives, hot nails, and none do very well.  So I bought one of those small El Cheapo ($7) soldering irons. Preheat it, turn all your containers upside down, and just go right along burning drainage holes in the bottoms of your containers. (see sources below) This stinks -- do it outdoors.

Potting Soil - Choose your brand very carefully - the cheap junk is garbage - and sift out any chunks. Or, you can mix peat moss with sand or perlite. Pour hot water over the peat moss to force it to absorb water more quickly (stir), then add the sand. About 50/50 by volume should do, adjust to personal taste.  Make sure the potting medium is damp, as it's hard to water dry stuff.  I put it in a 5-gallon bucket and sit it on the floor with a scoop in it.

Sifter - If you need one, just cut four lengths of 1x4" cedar fence board (one 6-ft board makes an 18x18" frame), and staple a piece of 1/4" hardware cloth (metal mesh) to the bottom (wrap up the sides for extra strength and staple that too). 

Seeds - Bought seeds, saved seeds, traded seeds (see below).  Be aware that some seeds will rot before they sprout with this method. Corn and warm-weather bean seeds come to mind.

Labels - These are very important.  Wood rots and gets moldy. My preference is those narrow plastic blinds, cheap from thrift shops.  Cut them into the lengths you want with scissors, while you're watching TV.  Unless your markers are GUARANTEED fade-proof, use regular old lead pencil to write on them.  It's handy to put more info on them than just the type of plant.  I tend to put something like "CROCOSMIA 'Lucifer' - P - 5ft" which tells me what kind, what variety, that it's a Perennial, and it gets 5ft tall", very handy info for planting out, so I don't have to wate time running indoors to check on each type as I get to it.

Fill your containers, sow your seeds to whatever depth is indicated. Surface-sown seeds are okay just pressed into the surface. If you sow more than one variety to a container, be sure to visually divide them with sticks or something.  LABEL AS YOU GO-- no one has that good of a memory!

P = Perennial (lives from year to year)
A = Annual (only lives one season, dies in fall/winter)
T = Tree
G = Grass

TIP:  if you get interrupted when sowing, lay an ID label across the planted container so you won't start planting something else on top of what you've already planted (don't ask why I recommend this); if you're only partly finished, stick it in the soil at your stopping point so you'll know where to start again.

TIMING IS IMPORTANT:  Many, many seeds are sensitive to the number of daylight hours, and if you start planting too soon, they will sprout too soon and freeze.  To be safe, don't start planting until the Winter Solstice (December 21 for those of us north of the Equator -- the fewest daylight hours of the year). 

Place them outdoors in the open where they will get the benefits of rain, sun and weather (some seeds NEED freezing or chilling before they will even think of sprouting).  I guess you could put them directly on the ground, but that invites disturbance by animals and birds, attack by slugs and ground insects. A few 2-hole bricks with some old planks across them is far superior. 

Once they are moistened, don't let them dry out.  Drying will disturb the seed 'mechanism', kill sprouting seeds, and allow wind to blow the top layers of soil off the seeds.  If winds are a real problem, you'll have to get creative.  A woman in OK laid her seeds on a concrete pad and covered them with a Reemay-type gauze, held down with bricks.  [Also called 'spun-bonded floating row cover', many other brands; this material keeps out debris, insects, and wind, while it allows sun, rain and air in.]

Spring in the PNW can be deceptive -- sprinkles can dampen the ground, but isn't enough for seeds.  Check frequently and water as needed.

Trudi Davidoff's Winter Sowing site:  http://wintersown.org/ ;

Cheap electric soldering iron from American Science & Surplus (which I love) but you could check your local Harbor Freight and local hardware stores, too.
http://www.sciplus.com    Type in Item #88242 (shows drawing of what it looks like)

GardenWeb Seed Exchange: 
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/exseed/
free seed exchanges; some people will give you seeds if you send them a SASBE (self-addressed stamped bubblepak envelope) if you have nothing to trade. Please note that these exchanges move very fast in fall/winter, so 'todays' posts can be several pages long. If you want to trade seeds you've got, make sure they are properly identified and labeled, properly mature (not green & unripe). Use padded envelopes for all but dust-like seeds to prevent destruction going through PO stamping machines, as writing 'hand stamp' on the envelope is usually ignored.

And have fun!

Seed-crazy Sue
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
SueinWA wrote:
TIP:  if you get interrupted when sowing, lay an ID label across the planted container so you won't start planting something else on top of what you've already planted (don't ask why I recommend this); if you're only partly finished, stick it in the soil at your stopping point so you'll know where to start again.


I know exactly why! many times I have came back to my spot I was planting after taking care of some pressing chore (critter escapees, childrens bathroom runs, etc..) I also write in my notebook the dates I planted things, the variety, and its location in the garden as well as anything interesting like "newly amended with compost, or mulched with straw, last years seeds, slow to germinate etc.... My notebook goes to the garden with me and the seeds. A year or two down the road when I'm trying to remember "which type of spinach did so well that year?" or 'what was so different about the kohlrabi this year?" I can break out my notebook from that year and get some clues. great post by the way, winter gardening oppurtunities tend to be sorely neglected.
 
Susan Monroe
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Leah, you're more organized than me! 

I work more along the line of "I wonder what the seeds are in this cup?"  Although I've gotten better. Mostly    I end up ripping a corner off a notepad and write what plant they came from.  But personally, I do consider that progress.  Having ADD is a pain in the A$$.

Sue
 
Susan Monroe
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm just bumping this up in case someone meant to start winter sowing and forgot.

I've started my seed sowing, and will continue while the weather is cool/cold.  I've got some hardy cuttings out there, too (Peegee hydrangea, which doesn't produce seed).

If you're thinking I'm crazy, just plant a couple of containers of seeds and put them out where the weather can get to them.  I'm not talking corn, beans, squash or other warmth lovers, but things like asparagus and rhubarb, onions (seed), all brassicas, chard, herbs, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and thousands of ornamentals, and many, many trees.

After all, plants were reseeding themselves under extreme conditions long before Mankind started dinking around with planting.

Try it, you'll like it.  And once you get going, it will free up time in spring to be doing other things.  It's nice to be able to sit in a warm kitchen in your pajamas with the cat on your lap, sowing seeds into butter tubs, yogurt pots, sturdy meat trays (WallyWorld kind), aluminum lasagna pans, old cake pans, etc.  Just be sure to put drainage holes in the bottoms.  Small pencil-type soldering irons are perfect for plastics (but do it outside -- it stinks!).  Drills with a quarter-inch bit are nice, too.

Today:  hollyhocks (single perennial), parsley, dill, two kinds of hostas, tall skullcap, varigated Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate, a small Darmera, and some rhubarb.

And more tomorrow.

Sue
 
Gwen Lynn
Posts: 736
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I need to get some seeds started. DH has been laid off. Not much room in the budget to buy plants in the near future. I couldn't do something like sowing seeds with one of these siamese nimrods in my lap. We have to play -keep them away- when we try to play scrabble. They are infamous for landing right in the middle of the board, scattering tiles everywhere!  You know what they say...beauty is as beauty does! 
IKE-ALP.JPG
[Thumbnail for IKE-ALP.JPG]
 
Susan Monroe
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cats, the ultimate pest.

"Pet me!"

"Throw this so I can chase it!"

"Can I sit on that paper for you?"

"Pet me!"

"Whatever you're doing, I want to be between you and it."

"I SAID 'PET ME'!"

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
and then of course its... mmmmmmm cabbage seedlings..... tasty. oh and look tomatoes seedlings! a cats dream I knew there was a reason natural selection gave me the ability to jump high...it was so I can get to the top of the refrigerator to kill the life sustaining garden plants of my owner. then when they (my owners) die of starvation...I'll eat them! yes I, as a cat, was indeed endowed with far greater intelligence then homosapien
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
still too early here to start anything really as we can't plant tenders until after the full moon in June, and even semi hardy have to wait until nearly May generally to go in, but i have got my seeds bought, and plants ordered, soil on hand and saving all kinds of containers that normally would get thrown out to start some plants in..i have my calendar set to remind me mid march to start sowing some early seeds inside, and have my greenhouse and glassed in porch ready to accept some flats as soon as i get them going..top of frig and freezer are cleaned off for bottom heat..yup i'm already, just waiting on the calendar.
 
Liar, liar, pants on fire! refreshing plug:
Jacqueline Freeman - Honeybee Techniques - streaming video
https://permies.com/wiki/65175/videos/digital-market/Jacqueline-Freeman-Honeybee-Techniques-streaming
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!