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Put A Little Spring In Your Step

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Put A Little Spring In Your Step

This is the time of year that we gardeners start to get “ants in our pants.”  It’s too early to do much of anything outside and still way too cold anyway.  Winter walks can be very satisfying but if you need to get a quick gardening fix this time of year why not try winter sowing. 

Winter sowing is an easy germination method that starts many types of seedlings for just pennies and provides a fun gardening activity when few others can be done. During winter seeds are sown into mini-greenhouses that you make yourself from recyclables like milk jugs, plastic soda bottles, etc.  After sowing, the mini-greenhouses are placed outside to wait for the end of winter. They remain outside in the sun and are happy with the cold fluctuating temperatures, snow coverage and/or rainstorms. Seeds can be started January-April and will begin to germinate when the temperature conditions are correct for the type of vegetable, herb or flower planted.  The seedlings get just the right amount of light to keep them from getting too tall and spindly and they become acclimated to the outdoor temperatures meaning they will be naturally “hardened off.”  When large enough, the seedlings can either be transplanted into individual cell packs or directly into the garden if the soil conditions are not too wet.

This method is effective because it supplies everything that a plant needs in a natural environment. In order for seeds to germinate they need: oxygen, water, light and certain temperatures. Winter sowing supplies the first three requirements by using loamy soil that provides needed space for oxygen, condensation and the sun’s natural light to penetrate along with the warming of the mini-greenhouse as spring progresses.  A detailed description of the complete procedure can be found in the links below.

Using recyclables as greenhouses outside has many benefits. It saves money, space and electricity needed for indoor grow lights and heating mats. It conserves resources required to move seedlings into gradually larger containers.  It also saves time because once the containers are outside they can be left alone with minimal attention until the plants are ready to be planted in the ground.  Besides it satisfies that gardening “itch” many of us get during these long cold months.

Winter sowing works with perennials, hardy annuals, vegetables, herbs and tender annuals. You just have to get the timing right. Sow seeds for plants that are hardy in your zone—including hardy annuals and vegetables—anytime during winter. Tender plants—including annuals and vegetables—should be sown closer to spring (March or April in Zone 5/6). Heat-loving vegetables, like tomatoes, should be planted about a month later but again this depends on the zone in which you live.

Here are some great links that you can use to start your own winter sowing adventure!




A good resource for gardening information is the Advice, Tips and Resources page found in Gardening Help. It has detailed information on a wide variety of plants for your garden.

Jan Gowen, Kemper Horticulture Assistant

| Categories: Winter | Tags: Seeds, transplants, recycling | View Count: (5258) | Return
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