Saturday, March 17, 2018

Using Winter Sowing to Start Seeds

Winter Sowing
Yellow onions in their winter sowing jug.
This is the first year I am using a seed starting technique called Winter Sowing. It's pretty simple, and allows you to start seeds without using grow lights, heat mats, or a greenhouse or cold frame.

You start out with simple plastic jugs, like milk, water, or even cat litter jugs. (Note, I'll take more photos of this process, but wanted to describe it today for a friend.)

It's pretty easy. You need a clean, empty plastic jug, some soil (not seed starting mix, but actual potting soil), scissors, duct tape, a Sharpie or wax pencil, and some seeds.

1. Cut the clean plastic jug almost in half, leaving a hinge on the backside so you can flop the top open.

2. Using a drill or a nail, put some holes in the bottom so the soil will drain. Not big ones, but about eight or ten holes.

3. Wet down your soil in a bucket. I do this before I use it so it doesn't have any dry pockets later.

4. Add about four inches of the pre-moistened soil so it's filled almost to the cut.

Winter sowing techniques
Jugs seen from above.
5. Plant your seeds as the packets instruct with regards to depth and spacing.

6. Mist the top of the soil so some water trickles down and ensures the seeds are nicely wet (but don't flood them!)

7. Close the hinged piece and duct tape it all around the cut.

8. Use a Sharpie or wax pencil (I prefer wax pencils, as they don't bleed or fade) to note the seed sown and the date you're sowing them.

9. If you're using a large jug (like a cat litter jug) put several small strips of duct tape across the open top of the jug, so some water gets in when it rains but not too much cold air gets in.

10. Place the jugs in an area that gets full sun, (but not too windy) and wait. Check about once a week or so and when the seeds are ready, they'll sprout!

When it's sunny as spring advances, you'll want to open the tops and let the seedlings get some full sun, but be sure to close them up again at night.

And prepare to be amazed at how easy it is to start seeds without expensive setups, just some old jugs and some soil.

This blog post lists seeds that work well with Winter Sowing.

In another post I'll describe how to separate seedlings for transplanting which might have grown together very thickly without damaging their roots.