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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Wenzel

How to Winter Sow Seeds: UPDATED!

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

One of the things I despise about starting seeds indoors is all the clutter and mess it makes inside the house. Wouldn't it be fantastic if you could just throw those seeds into the snow and have them magically sprout up in May? Well, you basically can. Sort of. It's called winter sowing! Supplies: Empty 1-gallon milk or vinegar jug Duct tape Soil Sharp knife or blade *Seeds *Hardy plants that aren't too sensitive to the cold are the best for this method. Here are some examples: Flowers: Alyssum, calendula, petunia, cosmos, foxgloves Vegetables: Beets, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, radishes, carrots, kale Directions: 1. Rinse out your 1-gallon jug. Using a knife, add a few drainage slits into the bottom of the container. 2. Take a knife and cut almost all the way around in the center of the jug. Leave about two inches, so it remains intact (like a hinge) but in two halves. (Alternative directions at the bottom of this page.) This is the way WS is traditionally done but I believe it can be done better!

3. Plant your seeds and add some water to moisten the soil Place the top of the milk jug back on and duct tape it back together. 4. Label the milk carton, so you'll know what's growing inside. Place your milk jug out onto your porch or outside in the snow. 5. When the temperature is correct, your plants will start to grow. The milk jug protects your young plants from the harsh elements and animals' nibbling on them. It works kind of like a mini greenhouse. 6. When it's past the danger of frost, transfer your plants from the milk jug into the ground. Have you ever tried winter sowing? How did it work for you?

UPDATE! It's time for an update now that I've had a little more time to practice winter sowing. There seem to be very few tips on how to REALLY winter sow, and what's out there already is a bit vague.

Tip 1: You do need to water your plants! HA! Yes, this one seems obvious, but so many resources indicate that watering isn't necessary. It isn't at first, but you'll want to start when the weather warms up.

Tip 2: Speaking of water, there is a design flaw when preparing the milk jugs. It needs to be addressed. The opening of a milk jug is simply too small to allow much water onto your plants. So, place your cuts higher instead of cutting in the middle of the pitcher as initially instructed in step 2. Then put the top piece inward to make a funnel. This step allows for a much wider area for rainwater to enter.

Tip 3: Use weight and support! When I WS my marigolds last winter, they were all over the yard. I even tried to place them along a sunny fence line, hoping the wind would be tamed. It didn't work! Use a shallow tray or clear tote to put all your containers into. Also, consider placing a few gravel pieces in each jug below the dirt.

Have you tried winter sowing yet? If you loved this content or found it educational, please show us a little love by clicking the heart! Thank you for reading!

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