After the rush of the holidays is over and the long, cold days of winter arrive, it's a good time to start winter sowing. Winter solstice is usually the time to start winter sowing, although it can be done whenever the last of the leaves fall and the temperatures are staying low.
What is Winter Sowing?
There is a wealth of information on winter sowing online, but the best resource is the GardenWeb site. Users on the site have discovered that seeds that do not need heat to germinate, but can be planted in flats after temperatures drop and put outside for the winter. As they automatically are stratified and prepared for spring, the seeds sit in their covered flats (which can be fast-food containers with clear lids, seed starting kits, or various other clear-lidded containers) and wait for the warm weather to come. Instead of fussing with grow lights, damping off potions, calendars and dry indoor environments, the winter sower simply adds a bit of water to containers that may have dried out or re-anchors lids that have started to blow off. As the temperatures begin to rise, the seeds begin to sprout, but there are no damping off worries.
Does it Work?
So, does winter sowing really work? Many people have tried it and become converts. However, there are limitations. Several plants, such as early squash and tomatoes, still need to be started indoors. Many tropical plant seeds also need to be started in a warmer environment. However, if you want to start Siberian Iris, Cone flowers, Hosta, and many other seeds, you can find success with winter sowing.
How to Winter Sow
To get started, you will need containers. Fast-food containers or other disposable containers can be used. Start by punching holes in the tops and bottoms of the containers, fill them with moistened seed starting mix, and sow your seeds after there have been several hard frosts. If you donít wait until temperatures drop, your seeds will sprout too soon and wonít make it through the winter. Be sure to label all containers with permanent markers. Firm your seeds into the soil, water each flat, and close your lids. Place containers in sheltered areas so that they donít dry out too quickly. Check them at least once a week throughout the winter to make sure lids are still closed and to be sure they donít need water.
As warm weather appears, peek inside the containers and look for sprouting seeds. You should begin cracking the lids during warm weather to keep seedlings from overheating. Once the danger of frosts has passed, remove the lids, but be sure to keep a close eye on the moisture level inside the containers.