Good Bye to Pokeberry Hill...


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wintersowing-- Starting Seeds OUTside in Winter!

I've been doing a little bit of wintersowing every chance I get. I have my big bag of seed start mix sitting in the kitchen for those odd days when I have spare time. I organized all my seeds in my old 3 ring coupon organizer earlier this winter, so I can pull some out and get busy on a moments notice. I never have a whole day to just 'do it' in a big batch, and I prefer to do a little this/a little that anyhow.

Today I'm doing some wintersowing as soon as I get my chickens in the oven. I've got 2 chickens I've butterflied, I'm going to start some stock from the back bones, wings, organs and necks while I roast my chickens. I'm dredging the chicken in flour and then browning them in a bit of oil and butter in a cast iron pan before roasting them at 375 in my oven for about an hour. Once the stock has begun to simmer on the stove and the chickens are in the oven I will get busy with some more wintersowing. *I've been making dinner in the morning more and more lately. This way its done and can be reheated and eaten by any of the 5 of us living here whenever we are ready to eat. It seems to work best as we live in shifts here with 5 adults in one house going to jobs, school and the new house to work at various times.

I'm sowing veggetable seeds, annual flowers and perenial plants. I need all the cost cutting help I can get this year with plants--every year I guess. ;)

I want to put in a large garden at the new house and I also need landscaping plants. By growing my own plants from seeds I save a ton of money, also by doing cuttings in my little backyard nursery. (see older posts)

I took some photos a while ago when I did a batch of wintersowing so I could post them here with a few tips. There is no 'right' container for wintersowing. The idea is that you start seeds with enough soil in a container to keep them growing without having to be transplanted too soon. *Actually I use a soiless seed start mix, compost works too if you sterilize it first.(you can do that in the oven--but Hubby frowns upon it) You need at least 3 inches of soil. If a thing will be in the container for a long while 6 inches is even better. You also need the container to be covered with something light can get through. I like to use milk jugs and diet coke bottles--because our family uses them and they are free. I also use some recycled pots with plastic bags around them--doubled sometimes.

I put my containers in a sheltered spot outside and they get enough light to germinate when its time and to grow on a while before it is warm enough to put them in the garden.

I have a favorite type of tape I use, its a shiny aluminum looking tape that is used for ductwork. I use it mainly to make 'labels' for my pots. With a ball point pen I write the name of the plant on the label and it indents the tape so it is like an engraved marker. This holds up long after the easier to read labels have washed out and faded in the weather. Its pricey tape though so it should be used for labels only--although sometimes in a pinch I have used it to tape my containers together.

To make a wintersowing container with a recycled bottle you cut the bottle into two peices--making sure the bottom will be deep enough to hold at least 3" of soil. You cut drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Then pre-wet some soil in a big bowl or bucket. When it is 'mud' use some to fill the bottom of your container. Add your seeds. Cover the seeds if they need it--according to package directions. After seeds are planted just put the top back on the container and tape it to the bottom.

Make sure you put labels on the bottles! I put a label on the bottom usually and also on the sides. Later I will have tons of seedlings and I don't want to be wondering what the heck they are at planting time!

For more info on wintersowing go to Gardenweb's Wintersowing forum or go to the wonderful Wintersowing website--same folks started the website and it is full of very useful info.

The cool thing about my wintersown seedlings is I can almost totally ignore them from now until planting time. When the weather becomes consistantly warm I can take off the tops and start to water them. I do check them now-- and water if needed--but it is seldom needed. Leave the little lids off the bottles by the way--as the bottles need to get air and water in them.

I am already taking my wintersown containers to our new house. Since I do not have to water them much I can let them grow out there.

Most seeds 'know' when they should germinate. I learned that by doing this. At this time, February, most of my annual flowers, all of my perenial flowers and cool season vegetables can already be in wintersowing containers outside. Since I live in the south--I can also start my tomatoes, peppers and warm season plants soon. You want to sow things at least 6-8 weeks before its time to plant them in the garden. Many seeds however can be out in the wintersown containers all winter and won't germinate until it time for them get ready for the garden. Its like magic! Love it!


  1. This looks like a magnificent way to get seeds going! I remember another blogger puts his seeds in ziplock baggies in moist soil, and then pins the baggies to the outside of his curtains in the house so they get light and warmth! I thought that was kinda neat also! Maybe for a smaller batch of can certainly get more into your larger milk jugs!

  2. It works very well, the only problem is you sometimes have more seedlings than you know what to do with--so its probably good I don't have enough time on my hands lately to do as much as I think of. ;)