CATHIE DRAINE: It ‘s not too early to plant seeds for summer success Lifestyles

Christmas is now a pile of boxes and festive packaging waiting for garbage collection. Gardeners expect an annual avalanche of seed catalogs. Catalogs increase our desire to get our fingers into the soil and plant seeds. It is too early to start the seeds indoors and frustration prevails.

But wait! There’s a fun, inexpensive, ridiculously easy way to start certain seeds. The procedure is winter sowing. A few years ago, Trudy Davidoff, a gardener in upstate New York, realized the obvious. Many seeds in the garden overwinter in cold soil protected from leaves and other garden debris, watered by snow and germinated in the spring heat. You would repeat this by practicing autumn sowing. Its great recognition has become a business. (Enter your name in Google and walk through the various links to winter sowing.)

Here is the process of winter sowing. (Remember, it’s not a cost and no work!) The ideal “pot” for your project is a translucent gallon milk container or a roast chicken container from the grocery store. Using a milk bottle, cut about 6-8 inches from the bottom of the container on each side of the container and leave the back side intact to act as a wrist strap. Cut drain holes in the bottom of the tank and cut holes in the neck of the tank to allow air and water to move.

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Put enough ordinary potting soil in a larger pot and moisten it as if you were transplanting a plant. Put the moistened soil in a milk bottle or other similar container and plant the seeds. Then close the milk bottle by pulling tape around it so that the top and bottom remain intact. Place the container in the garden where it will be exposed to sunlight and protect it from the wind.

If the winter is frighteningly dry, you may want to open gallon tanks and occasionally spill some water. This is an excellent and easy way to start hardy plants in this area.

Perennials that can be sown in the winter in our area include echinacea, saffron, bee balm, mallow, rose flower, mask, butterfly grass, calendula, cosmos, foxglove, hollyhock, petunia, black-eyed owl. butterfly flower. , liatris, poppies, rudbeckia and more.

Cold-tolerant vegetables can be started now. In winter, kale, lettuce, cabbage, chard, radish, spinach broccoli, cauliflower and bok choy.

Obviously, there are plants that can’t (or shouldn’t) be planted in the winter. These include tomatoes and most pumpkins.

I germinated some black mallow a few years ago with a winter sowing procedure and it was a success, cheap and great fun.

Seed packages should be available in greenhouses and other stores in mid or late January.

Also part of the fun of sowing in the winter is that it is almost completely free, and the only initial “job” is to spray the seeds into bottles. Everything else happens in the garden milk bottles. The small seedlings will be hardy, hardened and ready for planting in late May. It really works with nature.

Some friends or neighbors may ask if they really think they can produce milk, or ask more politely what they are doing! If you want to attend an hour (free) to learn more about winter, plan to attend the Hill City Evergreen Garden Club meeting on Wednesday, January 3 at the Super 8 community room at 1 p.m., with Hilde Manuel giving a presentation on the process. Plan to come and stay for refreshments.

Cathie Draine is an indigenous and lifelong gardener in the Black Hills. Contact him at

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