Friday, March 23, 2007

Winter sowing-it isn't too late to start some now

It's not too late, in fact, right now is a good time to start annual seeds.

Gather your containers, any shape or size will do, even those dark plastic coffee containers will do if you cut a circular opening out of the top and cover with plastic wrap.
Using an exacto knife of box cutter, cut all the way around the container, leaving a flap of plastic connected. Please be sure to cut away from yourself so there are no trips to the emergency room for stitches.

Then you will need to make drainage holes. You can either use the knife or use a soldering iron to melt some holes into the bottom. The soldering iron works super fast, although melting plastic does smell awful.

Gather up your seeds!

Get your soil moistened and ready to go. You want it moist like a sponge, no wetter, no drier. You will hear lots of "have to's" on the type of soil mixture to use. This year I mixed together potting soil, seed starter mix and a few hand fulls of perlite. Last year I just used plain old garden dirt (note that I said dirt instead of soil) and had no problems with sprouting or growing at all. BUT-I did have difficulty removing the plants from the containers because it was compacted and hard, even when moist. So don't be discouraged if you don't have the money to spend on bagged soil. Do with what you have, which is what I try to do.

Fill the bottom half of your containers with your soil mixture, sow your seeds (if using larger seeds, I place no more than 5 evenly spaced per 2 liter bottle. When using small seeds, I just scatter and will thin the plants later) and lightly cover with another layer of mix.
Tape your containers shut, I only use a small piece, just to keep the top closed to the bottom. I do not seal all the way around the container. This will allow air circulation.

Mark your containers with type of seeds. I use a china marker on the container and also on pieces of mini-blinds and put the piece of blind into the container. DO NOT USE A SHARPIE. Although it may be permanent on your skin or on your kids clothes, mother nature will wash it away very quickly off of your containers or mini-blinds!

Take your containers outside and put in a sunny location that is protected from the wind (to prevent them from being blown over). This batch is on the south east corner of the house. If you put them directly onto the ground, most likely you will have less watering to do, as they will absorb water from the ground. Bottom watering is better in the long run for most plants anyway. I have not had to do any watering at all yet and my first batch was put out December 28. Once it starts staying warm outside, I will remove the caps and keep them off to prevent over heating.

Here is all of my containers, around 60 total. Last year I used a lot of smaller water bottles. Although they worked out okay, those smaller containers are a lot of work, so I have gone to just using larger containers.

ANY kind of container will work. In fact, you can even use zip type baggies, just poke a couple of holes in the bottom, fill half way with soil, sow your seeds, cover with a bit more soil and seal closed except for a corner. Hold the corner open using a clothes pin or something that will allow air to release, since it won't be cut in half like a plastic container. I used some baggies last year and they work really well. Think of those large baggies that blankets and sheets sometimes come in.

Winter sowing is really nice. It allows a gardener to garden in the winter. So many of us are not lucky enough to have a greenhouse to play in and this is an affordable option. You can start right after Christmas, you can start before Christmas! So save those containers. This is a wonderful way to recycle all of those milk and juice jugs. Wash them out well before using, I run them through the dishwasher and it works great.


Sissy said...

How are yours doing??!! Mine are full of sprouts!q

Angie said...

sissy- I have just started getting sprouts within the last couple of days. It is so great to see growth! You are lucky you have so many!

Colleen said...

This is my first year winter sowing. I have about 60 containers, as well. It's good to hear that garden soil will work--I still have annuals to sow, and I don't really want to buy any more soil. I'll try the dirt from my garden. Thanks for the tip :-)

Petunia's Gardener said...

Thanks for the demonstration! I'm going to give it a try! I'd like to do a cloche or hoop covering for a veg bed but may study them and do it in the fall. Winter sowing would give me a way to get some things started now. I know a good source for lots of milk jugs so I round them up next week.

Petunia's Gardener said...

I did it! Husband reminded me of the 4 milk jugs I was carrying around with water when my radiator was having some mystery problems. Problem solved and I no longer needed the emergency water supply. So, I started 4 containers this afternoon. I'll try to post a photo in the next several days. (too wet to go out to the other garden, so this was just right.)

Kristi said...

These are great tips! I'll have to collect my jars and bottles so I can get started soon. Have you ever heard of Winter Sown SASE? They will send you free seeds for winter sowing.

Angie said...

Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I have gotten SASE seeds from! It is great! I have saved all my jugs from last year, so that is a few less steps I need to do this year.