Winter sowing procedure, place and date not specified Photo courtesy of Melinda Myers, St. George News
FUNCTION – Winter sowing can save you money and space to start seeding indoors. This simple technique allows transplanting outdoors without a greenhouse or cold frame.
Growing your own transplants from seeds can save you money, and is often the only option for new, unique, and other hard-to-obtain plants. Not everyone has the time, equipment and commitment to watering what they need to start indoor plants.
All you need are flower and vegetable seeds, milk jugs or two-liter soda bottles, adhesive tape and a quality flower pot. Check the seed package for planting details and timing information. The time of winter sowing varies depending on the growing climate, the individual gardener and the type of seed.
Try to start persistent perennials and self-seeding annuals sometime in the winter until early spring. Seeds of other flowers and vegetables are usually sown at about the same time in winter as when they are planted indoors, or a month or two before the transplant is moved to the garden. Make a note of planting dates and results to help fine-tune your planting schedule and increase your future success.
Drill four to twelve small holes in the bottom of the jug for drainage. A winterer I know fills the tank with water and throws it in the freezer or outdoors at sub-freezing temperatures. After it freezes, it drills holes in the tank. Ice prevents the plastic container from collapsing during the process.
Then partially cut off the jug to create a hinged lid. Make the cut about 3-4 inches above the bottom, leaving the area next to the handle secured to form a hinge. The bottom of the handle of the milk jug is usually a good guide.
Fill the bottom with a moist potting mixture. Plant the seeds according to the instructions on the package. Water gently until the excess is drained from the bottom of the pot.
Gardening partner Patricia uses twisted newsprint or cardboard tubes made of toilet paper to help fill the space and eventually transplant the winter seedlings. Makes newsprint utensils by wrapping 22 ½ x 5-inch strips of newsprint around a 2.5-inch-diameter and 4-inch-high glass. Fold in the end to create the bottom of a 3.5-inch-high pot. Attaching the pots or rolls of toilet paper to the milk jug with clamps, filling them with a potted mixture, applying them with about half an inch of the starting mixture, and then planting the seeds.
Mark the inside and outside of the jug with a permanent marker. Close the lid and seal it with adhesive tape. Remove the cap before placing the milk jugs outdoors in a sunny place where it may be exposed to rain and snow. Keep it handy to avoid waterlogging in extremely wet weather.
Irrigate your outdoor seed starters in snow-free and dry weather. This is much less common than seedlings that grow indoors under artificial lighting.
Your plants can move into the garden at the usual planting times. Just open the lid, harden the plants and transfer them to the garden.
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