Can someone describe what to do when seedlings emerge?

connietnJanuary 16, 2010

I was wondering if someone could give me an idea of what you do when the seedlings start to emerge. This is the part of winter sowing that I feel like I have the least understanding of and need reassurance about! :)

For example, do you cut gradually bigger slits in your plastic to "harden off?" How often do you usually have to water? How long is it usually after they come up before you transplant them to the garden? Do the seedlings generally require a lot of babying after they go in the ground?

I am not only new to winter sowing, I am also new to growing from seed. Last year was the first year I've attempted anything other than morning glories from seed. I did some zinnias because I'd heard they were very easy too.

Anything you can share about the final stages of wintersowing would be very interesting to me! Thanks!

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shinyalloy_5(5b IN)

When you get your first wintersown sprouts do like so many of us do THE HAPPY SPROUT DANCE. After that check all your other jugs, then log on to GW and tell us all about it. After that it depends on the weather. I added more ventilation holes mid spring, the when it got above 60 I'd take the tops off to let the seedlings breathe and to keep them from frying, and also checked every couple of days to make sure the jugs were still heavy (had enough water). Other than that they pretty much took care of themselves.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 8:31AM
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When things start to sprout is when I really start to pay attention to the weather and temperatures outside. If things are going to be spring-like for a week on the extended forecast, I don't worry about anything. If there is going to be jump in temperature beyond the 15C (60C), and the temps are going to start staying there, I take the tops off completely. Consider that any temps above that and the inside of your containers will be much warmer so you don't want to roast everything.

...bigger slits in your plastic to "harden off?"

You can, or you can open the container slightly by some other means. Hardening off is not an issue with wsn plants since they are germinating outside.

How often do you usually have to water?
As Mary says, weight is a good indicator. Here in the north east we get good rains in the spring and in 9 years I've never had to water my containers but I'm sure you have a different rainfall in TN? Maybe, maybe not? This is where you have to make a judgement.

How long is it usually after they come up before you transplant them to the garden?

The only plant I transplant ASAP is annual poppies. Others, I let grow a bit and then get them in the ground. Some folks plant as soon as they see true leaves. Everyone has their preference. If you visit me, you will also see I still have a lot of things in containers well into August. :O)

Do the seedlings generally require a lot of babying after they go in the ground?

I don't 'baby'. If there is a bit of a dry spell then I do water, but that is usually not necessary here. It may be for you.

This is the part we all worry about the most in the first couple of years, but then, as time goes on it's a piece of cake!!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 9:25AM
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About once a week I increase the size of the slits to get the seedlings used to the wind--they're already tolerant to cold and sun, but the extra wind gives them hardier stems. It's in the FAQs and you can do it you want or not. WS is meant to be very flexible and adaptable to the gardener. Usually, by the time three or four weeks have passed since germination your seedlings should be transplanted into the ground. HO is not a long process, I just do it to get the seedlings used to more wind.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 9:32AM
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I have never needed to increase my ventilation. The babies stay in their containers until I am ready to transplant them. If the weather is getting too warm outside, I take the top part of the container off. I do have to water mine quite a bit. We don't get much rain here so I have to bottom water a couple times a week in the spring. That is usually when I decide to transplant them.

Don't forget what shinyalloy said....first do the happy dance, run inside, and let us all know!!!!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 12:21PM
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After the Happy dance....take a picture :)

I make the slits bigger or crack open the top so they don't fry. Here it is not a big problem cause it does not get too hot.

I know it is hard to worry but it is hard to mess this up.

you could move them to shade to keep them from getting so hot inside also...


    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 12:37PM
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When do you start winter sowing .when do you put your jugs out?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 12:38PM
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Some people will start Dec 21st on the solstice, others wait until February. We put the jugs outside as soon as we sow them. Welcome renagirl! Check out the FAQ, and also There is so much information you might find it a bit overwhelming, but you will absolutely love it!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 2:20PM
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It really is too much fun! :) It has been a great source of entertainment for me this winter!

Thank you so much everyone for all the encouragement and helpful replies. I am right around 115 containers, I think. If even half of them make it, I will be delighted!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 2:44PM
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is this your 1st yr wsowing?!!!
Wow, You really are trusting to do 115 containers (so far).
And you are RIGHT!! I only did 40ish last year. Boy was I surprised and thrilled.
Both/all you newbies will be blown away in shock how great this works.
This year, #2 I'm experimenting with everything I can find/trade for.
Keeping on topic, don't worry too much, Mother nature knows what she's doing. Your seeds won't sprout untill conditions are right.
I love WS,

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 9:03PM
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quilt_mommy(5/6 Northeast Ohio)

Laura - same here, I did about 40 or so containers last year and most of them were just seeds I had leftover from direct sowing the previous year. This year I've got seeds from all over the place to sow and experiment with.

I don't remember if I cut back the jugs last year to get my plants exposed to the wind. I remember I read on Trudi's site that I was supposed to but I think I forgot when the time came, but everything was still fine. The only problem I really had was with birds eating my seedlings. I planted out bachelor's buttons and painted daisies as teensy babies and I think the birds left me like, one. :)

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 9:30PM
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Yes, Laura, I'm putting a lot of faith in you guys!! :D LOL

The way everyone here goes on about it, I guess it must have a good success rate :) It's very exciting, because I was able to get seed in trades for a lot of things I've been really wanting, but was going to have to pay $5-$10 a plant to get them. And some things, like the white beautyberry, I just couldn't find anywhere. The quest for the white beautyberry is what started the whole thing. I saw one at our local botanical gardens and fell in love. I went back to see if some of the berries might accidentally fall into my pocket (shh!), but they had already cut it back. Oh no!

So off I went to search the internet, and I came up with nothing. I had been casually browsing the winter sowing forum (it was up at the top of the page on all forums for a while), and my curiosity was piqued. When I couldn't find the white beautyberry anywhere, I noticed there was a Seed Exchange forum.

I started stalking people's trade lists.

Then I started seeing lots of other things I'd been wanting. And I couldn't believe that there was a forum where you could just trade for these things, for postage. Wow! I had a few seeds from some of my plants, and some I'd gotten in a trade at a plant swap. I started trading with people, and about three trades into it I found someone who had...white beautyberry!!!

I offered her anything I had, told her what was in my garden I could take cuttings from, basically begged like a...beggar. :p She was so sweet - she didn't want or need anything I had, but offered to send me some for postage! She also included some purple ones.

The people at the Seed Exchange and here in WSing have been so kind and helpful. I remember reading in the FAQs, trudi said, "It's like have to collect them all." Hilarious! And how true...I started out in search of just one thing, but once you start looking and realize how many cool things are out there, it's hard to stop!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 9:39PM
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PVick(6b NYC)

I feel you, connie! The thing that "trapped" me - 9 years ago - was a search for how to grow tomatoes in containers.

Be careful what you look for!

And welcome!!


    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 9:54PM
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lol... hard to
What are you talking about?
You are so right!!! lol

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 10:07PM
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floodthelast(5 N. OH)

When I start getting sprouts, happy dance and then I check to make sure the containers are still showing condensation and aren't in full sun. I just keep an eye on them till they get first leaves then the tops come off. I don't have a lot of full sun in my yard so once the tops are off I don't have to worry over much.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 10:29PM
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I'm going through the usual "winter sucks" mode, and visited the local nursery/tropical plant/seed rack/overpriced outdoor furniture place. Saw some seeds that I would have liked..not what I wanted..(red yarrow). Seeds I liked were 4.99 a package for 20 seeds..WHAH!
Did not spend a cent. Came home and posted a "want" on the exchange..seeds are on the way.
You gotta love this..

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 11:38PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

Mostly all of this has been said, but the most important thing is to take pictures and post them here. There is nothing like the sight of several jugs filled with green to induce serious zone envy for those with several inches of snow still on the ground.

After you've done that, you'll need to watch the temperatures inside your containers. It's easy to fry young seedlings under the cover of plastic. So what I do is remove all the lids of sprouted containers. When the second set of leaves appear, I start planting out. I do this with perennials and hardy annuals that can take a bit of frost and cold.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 5:53AM
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I hate to ask this again - but if we get the jugs out now, do we leave the cap on until hey sprout or it gets warm?

Last year ( my first WS) I didn't start until much later, and left the cap on until germination but I am still confused about what to do during "real winter" when there is snow and cold air, etc.

If we leave the cap on, do we water occasionally?


    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 10:12AM
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if you mean the little round plastic piece that closes the very top of the jug (people sometimes use cap meaning the top half of the CUT milk jug, so want to make sure the very top colored snap/screw cap is what you mean) - throw it in the garbage! :)
You want snow and rain to be able to get in through that opening.
Happy WSing!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 11:25AM
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jessewo(5 PA)

GRIN! :)

I (try to) document the dates I sow & have sprouts-after these years it helps to be able to look back and be able to say "Oh yeah, that one is a slow sprouter! Give it time!"

I uncover the jugs when it starts warming up, but I keep the tops handy in case hard weather is forecast. Have faith-it doesn't seem like this should work, but it sure does-you're gonna love it!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 11:49AM
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I throw away the caps....they are then my vent holes for the containers.

This is fun. My first year(which was last year) I had about 80%- 90% success so I had LOTS of planting to do. I even had some perenials that only grew green leaves last summer so I should get some great surprises this summer.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 2:52PM
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