how do u prep and sow your containers?

duane456January 2, 2012

I thought it would be good to see the differences on how some of us preps and sows their containers. Here's how I do it----

-I split my seeds I want to plant between ones I can plant in the cold and ones I can plant when temps get warmer(spring).

-Then I make a list of those I want to plant in the cold. Numbering 1 thru ......

-I usually do about 6 at a time.

-While watching TV, I put masking tape on each container marked with two seperate numbers and name of seed. (e.g.---50, 50, salvia Yvonnes )

-Put containers in a tub that holds all six .

-at the sink, plug sink drain partially,to try to keep dirt from going down the drain.

-turn on water to slowly soak the container completely thru and thru.

-put back in tub and so on.

-have seeds ready before arriving at sink, and sow seeds in container.

-cover seeds if they need covered with dirt. (I use vermiculite).

-spritz top of container with water sprayer(mist).

-put one piece of tape to close lid

-outside you go

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bakemom_gw(z6 Central Ohio)

a lot of steps there. 4 containers in sink. fill with 3-4" mg potting soil, toss in the seeds. 1 small piece of ductape to secre lid. foil label on bottom...out they go.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 11:27AM
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donn_(7b-8a)

Take 4 jugs off the Garlic Chain:

Carry them to the office wet bar, cut hand-sized 'windows' and triangular drainage holes:

Stick a coffee filter in the bottom of each jug:

Fill with mix and soak in the sink:

Sow with seeds and cover with 1-gallon food storage bag with a small hole for the jug neck:

Out they go...check daily for germination:

Remove bag when the weather warms up:

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 12:18PM
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duane456

Hi Donn,
Like your system, couple of questions--
Does the one gal. plastic bag have holes in bottom for drainage? And do you find the coffee filter inhibit drainage at all?
Duane

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 2:11PM
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donn_(7b-8a)

Hi Duane,

The bag goes upside down over the top of the jug, with a small hole nipped in its bottom, to fit over the jug's neck. I doesn't get in the way of the drain holes at all.

The coffee filter lets water through just fine, but keeps the soil in and the slugs out.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 2:41PM
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donn_(7b-8a)

Here's a small variation, to compartmentalize the jug:

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 2:52PM
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sandysgardens

Hmmm - I might need to try the coffee filter on the bottom of some jugs.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 5:02PM
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gardenweed_z6a

I use an ice pick to poke holes in the jug bottom and on each side an inch from the bottom. Cut the jugs open with scissors, leaving about a 1 1/4 inch "hinge" at the base of the handle. Open the jug, fill with growers mix, set it in the sink & pour 16 oz. water over the mix in a back and forth motion until water drains out the bottom.

Sow seeds, sprinkle bird grit over seeds to aid in making contact with the mix. Insert a label with seed name on it at an angle so it can be read through the jug opening. Close jug with 5" piece of duct tape. Write seed name on upper part of jug with paint pen. Log the jug in my spreadsheet and out they go.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 5:09PM
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brander(z5 WV)

Excellent photos. Thanks so much. I have a couple of questions. In some photos it looks like you cut out a window and in others it looks like you just cut around the bottom leaving a hinge. If you have a window, how do you cover it? Do you tape the cut out part back on for winter protection? I don't see any plastic bags on the outdoor photos. Do you remove the plastic bag after germination? I know I do that when growing my seeds indoors. Thanks.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 8:01PM
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dieg01991(4b)

Don, I like the way you did your jugs too. One of the reasons I don't like using milk jugs is because you can't see the sprouts.

Gardenweed - Doesn't the marker fade away by spring? I've used marker on plant tags before and it takes only a few weeks to fade to nothing.

I like to blog about my gardening stuff, and have written a few posts about winter sowing and the containers I use. I prefer containers that have a lid that is easy to remove. And also containers I can clean easily and reuse for more than one season - that cuts the prep time down a ton. Here's a post I wrote about preparing the containers and winter sowing in general... Winter Sowing ...And I've attached another link to a post I wrote about the containers I prefer to use.

Amy

Here is a link that might be useful: Containers for winter sowing

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 8:58PM
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ladyrose65

This is a good post. That coffee filter looks good. Esp for Butterfly seeds. Thanks to all who posted.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 11:27PM
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gardenweed_z6a

@Amy - I don't use a permanent marker because they fade. I use a paint pen. Sharpie makes them; Michael's sells all different colors. The paint pen is ideal for winter sowing because it never fades. Three years of winter sowing and these labels look the same as they did the day I wrote them, even the ones that are stuck in the dirt next to the plants:

Deco & Elmer's also make paint pens but they're not readily available where I am.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 5:47AM
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ssmdgardener(7)

Gardenweed, do you poke holes on the top of the milk jugs for ventilation? It looks like you only have holes at the bottom. I was told that not having these ventilation holes will fry the seedlings during a hot spell in the spring (but I'm in zone 7).

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 7:52AM
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gardenweed_z6a

ssmdgardener - I don't poke holes in the tops of my containers for ventilation. For winter sowing, my pot ghetto is located on my east/west facing breezeway. The containers are mostly in shade. Last year they were buried under several feet of snow the whole winter. I get sprouts later than folks whose containers get more sun but I don't have to worry about fried sprouts.

By the time things begin to sprout, it's warm enough to open the jugs so the sprouts can soak up some sun. Part of the breezeway gets morning sun starting in mid/late April. I set up folding tables around that time so the containers are up off the ground.

Here's what my pot ghetto looked like back in June:

I pot up most of my sprouts to grow on since the beds weren't ready for planting and/or I hadn't made up my mind where I wanted to plant things and/or I was giving them away to family/friends/neighbors.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 8:32AM
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dieg01991(4b)

@gardenweed - wow, that's great! Thanks for sharing that tip. I will definitely have to pick up some of those paint pens. Your handwriting is very neat by the way, lovely!

@ssmdgardener - for milk jugs, the hole in the top is enough to allow water in. If you have a container that doesn't have a natural opening, you'll want to poke holes in the top so water will get to the soil and keep them from drying out. They shouldn't fry as long as you keep them out of full sun. They should get either early morning sun, or evening sun only! I made the mistake of putting them in a sunny spot my first year, and most fried. Now I put them in a spot where they will get only morning sun and they do great!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 2:45PM
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ssmdgardener(7)

Gardenweed and Dieg, thank you so much for your response.

I'm afraid the only spot I have available for my jugs has a full southern exposure.

I *could* hide them underneath the porch steps when it starts getting warm, and only bring them out when it rains. Would that work? If I'm worried about them getting too warm in early spring, should I drill those ventilation holes now? (I haven't started yet; still too warm here in DC!)

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 5:52PM
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magpie_grower(5 NY)

Donn and Gardenweed the pictures are great! Gradenweed I will have to buy a paint pen this year. In the past I used permanent marker and cut up a vinyl blind. I wrote the name on both ends of the blind that way if the marker faded from the sun on the end above the soil, the writing stuck under the soil would still be there.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 6:29PM
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geekdean(7b)

gardenweed, do you use the oil based paint pen?

Here is a link that might be useful: Paint pen link

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 1:15AM
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dieg01991(4b)

@ssmdgardener - yes, you will definitely want to protect them from full sun. Could you put them on the west, east or north side of your house? Most of mine are on the east side of my house, right next to the foundation where they only get sun until about 11am every day. I also tuck some of mine under the bushes on the SE corner of my house when I run out of room in the spot next to the house. Drilling larger holes will make them dry out faster, and they'll probably still get too hot in full sun.

Amy

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 4:09PM
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paulan70(5)

With mine I cut the half gallon milk jug completely apart and then I use a hole punch and punch holes in each corner of the top and bottom part of the cut jug and then I use the green floral wire and cut ties from the roll (I cut nties before starting to sow the seeds) and then I gather all of the seeds I have already at this time seperated and sorted the seeds by when they get sowed.

And so my system is
1. Prep the jugs if needed. I punch holes on the bottom and the lower side of the jug and also cut the jug in half. Using a sharp knife.
2. Punch holes in the corner of the top and bottom part of the cut jug with a hold punch.
3. Fill up to a certain level in the milk jug
4. add seeds do this 12-14 times (my sink holds this many jugs at a time).
5. Take the jugs to the sink and wet down all at once making sure the soil at bottom of the jug is wet.
5. let drain while these are drainging get the next set of jugs ready
6. attach the lids to the bottom of the jugs and then outside they go.

If I am reusing jugs then I skip steps 1 & 2.
Oh I also use a sharpie pen to mark the outside of the jug. Yes it may be gone by end of season which is good to reuse the jug the next year. but I mark it on two places on the jug one on top and one on the bottom on the jug for after when the lid (top part of jug) is removed.

Thhis way has worked well for me for the last couple of years.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 9:00PM
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ellenrr(7a)

Donn,
fascinating, and great pictures.

do you use scissors to cut out the window in the jug, or have you found another tool that works better?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 12:00PM
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donn_(7b-8a)

Ellen,

I use scissors:

I got them from Lee Valley, and, at $7.50, they're the most useful little utility scissors I've ever had. Stainless steel, with a serrated blade. Great for all sorts of things, including gardening.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 12:12PM
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ellenrr(7a)

Amy, I was reading yr blog, and when you said you like the tops to be easy to take off and on - me too! I love to watch for early sprouts.
What I do is - I use the bottom half of a 1-gallon water container. To cover I use a sandwich bag, approx size 11 x 11 inches, poke holes in it, and slip the container inside.

This is easy to slip in and out when I want to check it. Also, as the spring heats up - it is easy to just leave the container half-covered, or whatever seems appropriate depending on the temp.

I used to use large rubberbands, and a piece of plastic with holes poked in it, but find this even easier.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 12:37PM
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beatrice_outdoors(6a MA)

With a glass of wine in my hand. ;)

Seriously, though-I'll follow up with specifics later...

Beatrice

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 1:31PM
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akasjs

Great topic! I'm getting psyched just reading it! I have not started sowing yet, but I have some seeds and lots of jugs waiting for my attention. Potting soil is on my shopping list.

I won't give you the full routine, just the things I do slightly differently. I use scissors to poke holes (poke in and twist) as well as cut the jug almost in half. I poke holes in the top half, 4 or 5 of them near the spout, and then another 8 or so in the very bottom. I write the name on a piece of duct tape with a permanent marker and put it on the bottom. I also write the name on a popsicle stick with pencil to stick in the dirt. I place my containers in a busboy tub (purchased at Sam's Club - love it - use it for all kinds of things)and then fill with dirt and water. My workspace is the laundry room, which is on the first floor between the dining room and bathroom.

Once they are sown I take them out to the deck. I have some landscape timbers that I use to separate the rows of containers. If possible, I set them on flats so they are easier to move around later on. At first they are out in the open with no shade at all. Later in the Spring I move them to a different part of the deck that is partially shaded during the day.

I also keep a log on a legal pad of what was sown, when, how many containers and the date on the seed package. I try to note whether I had germination or not for future reference.

Happy planting!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 6:58PM
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dieg01991(4b)

@paulan70 - great list! I follow a very similar pattern. I remember someone else describing how they punch holes in the sides and attach the milk jug that way rather then using tape. I might have to try that. One of the main reasons I don't use the jugs is because the tape is difficult to work with. Thanks for sharing your tips!

@ellenrr - funny!! I also like to take the tops off on sunny days and put the seedlings in the sun. Not sure if this helps, but it's fun! :-)

@akasjs - What types of flats do you use? I have a couple that work great to transport a bunch of containers at a time, but would love to get more!!

Amy

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 11:28AM
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jaggudada(5A)

Great info guys and equally great photos!!!

Can you tell me what type of soil do you use? what is that white stuff in it? your soil looks pretty cool as is everything.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 2:52PM
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dieg01991(4b)

It's best to use a seed starting mix. You can buy it at any garden center. The white stuff is perlite.

Amy

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 11:20AM
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ellenrr(7a)

Re soil-
there are several long threads on this forum on soil, but just to say-
my experience - do not use the cheapest soil. I used hydroponex once, [something like that] and it turns into a brick!

I really like pro-mix and I have better germination with it. To me it is worth paying a little more.
altho not always easy to find.

I also avoid the soil with fertilizer in it, bec. for those that are going to be planted out as soon as they are ready, no need for fertilizer. If sprouts need to stay in the container for a while, I prefer to add my own (much diluted) fertilizer.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 11:38AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Jaggudada - any good quality potting mix/soil, products formulated for growing mature plants in containers. No need for a specific seed starting mix, many of us find them too light.

Ellen - Hyponex: the soil that has given many of us headaches but at least only once, I don't think anyone buys it twice :) Hydroponex (hydroponics) is the practice of growing plants in fortified water, no soil at all. Growing hydroponically, my plants would be suspended in ice this morning, just like my hummingbird feeders were :)

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 12:04PM
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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

How I prep my containers:

1. Fill a large utility tub with potting mix and dump a couple gallons of water in and mix.

2. Take 25 gallon milk jugs and drill 2 holes opposite the handle to close with pipe cleaner, and holes in the bottom.

3. Use boxcutter to start to cut jug in half and finish up with scissors, leaving the hinge at the handle.

4. Label each jug with paint pen.

5. Fill each jug with wet potting mix.

6. Plant seeds in each jug as labeled and tamp down.

7. Tie each jug closed with pipe cleaner, take a photo of the whole batch for later reference, and set outside.

I usually prep the containers to the point of labeling them one night (about an hour's work). And I plant the jugs the next night (also about an hour).

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 3:11PM
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donn_(7b-8a)

"2. Take 25 gallon milk jugs and drill 2 holes opposite the handle to close with pipe cleaner, and holes in the bottom."

Where on Earth do you find such large milk jugs, and how do you lift them when they're half full of wet potting mix?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 6:37PM
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akasjs

I use flats that I got from the garden store when I purchased annuals. The are all around the same size and are handy for moving multiple containers around.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 5:48AM
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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

donn - you are hilarious. Obviously I meant 25 1-gallon jugs.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 10:52AM
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ladyrose65

There are a lot of newbies on Facebook. Bring this to the forefront.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 11:40PM
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daisydawnny(5)

I used the duct tape method for my jugs. This year I will wise up and get a paint pen. My work space is my unheated greenhouse...funny I clean up the mess in the greenhouse better than I did using the kitchen sink. I fill jugs with water and bring them out with me to moisten the soil. On a sunny day it is a warm space to work in, I am going to have DH bring out a small heater only to be used while I am wintersowing. My greenhouse is really used mostly as a potting shed, I can't wait to get started....hope my seeds from the swap come soon!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 7:40AM
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growsy(8b GA)

great thread. Informative & funny - an excellent combo!

Donn - what sort of paper are you using for those dividers? Is that simply to keep the roots from getting tangled with larger plants like tomatoes? Also, did you use paint pen or permanent marker on your duct tape labels?

Thanks for all the helpful info, everyone. Love the photos!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 10:17AM
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oliveoyl3

donn - why the window? I'm teaching a winter sowing workshop for 4-H with children and maybe your method of prepping jugs is better for kids because they can see.... But the bags are an extra expense + rubber bands and room for error on part of children.

We have a relentless rainy season until July, so the jugs need to have good drainage & ventilation to avoid moss and algae growing inside.

Any other PNW out there with suggestions?

Corrine

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 10:25AM
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growsy(8b GA)

Corrine, I am trying this out myself for the first time, but I can tell you that you can get plastic bread bags at Walmart for about $1/100. I don't remember if they come with twist ties or not, but I doubt a bag of rubber bands will cost very much either.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 12:22PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I sow almost exactly the same as gardenweed - I use a soldering iron to poke holes in the bottom, and I cut around three sides of the milk jug, leaving a bit bigger of a "hinge". I also tend to use more tape to close things up, but I'm trying to break myself of that habit - it's really not necessary.

FWIW, my containers are in pretty much full sun. I certainly don't bother moving them around. They go out and they stay there for the winter. And as far as seeing any germination, all I do is go down the rows of milk jugs and stick my eye in the opening, lol. Sometimes I have gotten a way-closer-than-I'd-like look at a spider or other bug that way, but other than that it works.

I try not to use plastic bags in WSing. IMO, it's just another propagation of the use of plastic, and I like to think of WSing as a way to reuse and reduce, not introduce more plastic use into the equation. Not passing judgment on any who do use bags - I can definitely see the convenience - but just a) stating my preference and b) giving a bit of food for thought to newbies who are still perfecting their methods.

For marking/labeling, I use a sharpie. I write on all four sides, because the side getting more sun does fade somewhat, but I've never had a problem with fading to the point of illegibility.

Sorry, no pictures to share!
Dee

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 4:13PM
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katy_bug(z8a GA)

I am sowing my perennials today so I thought I would share. This is my 2nd year so I feel like I actually know what to do.

1. I took out all my jugs last night and labeled with a paint pen. I number the containers and put a brief plant name. The numbers correspond to a spreadsheet I have with all the source and variety information.

2. I use a utility knife to cut 4 triangular slits in the bottom of each container and then cut them mostly in half leaving a hinged top.

3. This morning, I took all my containers outside and filled them all with a coffee filter and then dirt. Watered them all good and will let them sit out till this afternoon so the outside and tops will be dry for the tape.

4. This afternoon I will seed the containers, tape them up and put them out.

Last year I did 2-4 containers at a time and felt like I was a mess all the time. I really liked doing it all at one time this year . . . but I only put out 25 containers.

In February I will WS my annuals and it will be a much bigger affair so I may not be able to do it all at one time.

Containers filled, watered and waiting for seeds:
From wintersowing 2013

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 11:56AM
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plantmasterm(z7)

Amy I enjoyed your article on containers..honestly I thought I was the only one who used these type of containers..I personally prefer the 2 lb fruit containers because they are already set up the way you need with the holes..do you put anything in the bottom to keep your soil in..I use a damp paper towel..I think once ppl try these containers they will prefer them..only my opinion.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 10:57AM
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midmented(6B)

Great post! I read them all. Thanks so much for including the pictures.

Last year I was a newbie at this and did not get a very good germination rate. I really wanted to germinate a lot of peppers and only got about a dozen bell pepper plants. I planted 3 types. I'm not sure what I did wrong. I think I might have put them outside too early (mid-January). Does anyone do something differently when WSing pepper seed?

I'll add the paint pen and coffee filter idea to my jugs. My writing came off in the sun as well. Great idea on using the mini blinds as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: DW's Blog

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 8:34AM
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oliveoyl3

Great photos from start to blooming & explanations for anyone new to winter sowing or wanting inspiration to try again.

Corrine

Here is a link that might be useful: Seed Sowing in Milk Jugs

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 1:07PM
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lilykit64(5)

Has anyone ever used the chicken/turkey containers that you get in the store in the rotisserie section with any success ???

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 5:19PM
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Darcie507(7b British Columbia)

This year, I prepared my containers by:

1. Cut two windows in the top half of each milk jug, and added drainage holes.

2. Filled with soil mix.

3. Let them sit outside in the rain for a few days/weeks.

4. Inside job - for each packet of seeds, I make up a plant marker from old venetian blinds and write the name in pencil. Stick the plant marker inside the seed packet.

5. On a suitable (non-rainy) day, I take my box of prepared seed packets out to where the milk jugs are stored, sow each container and place the plant marker in the corner of the jug corresponding with the handle. That corner gets the least amount of weather, and is too low to be worth putting seeds there. By preparing the markers ahead of time inside, I don't have to fiddle with them out in the cold or wind.

6. Surround the container area with rocks to keep critters from knocking them over.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2013 at 10:31AM
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jaggudada(5A)

Sow with seeds and cover with 1-gallon food storage bag with a small hole for the jug neck:

Don

Why do you need to cover it with food storage bag? Aren't most people just set it outside? without plastic bag???

    Bookmark   January 13, 2013 at 8:52PM
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plantmasterm(z7)

lilykit64 I have, and I love them so by all means use them

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 1:28AM
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mori1(5b/6a)

plantmasterm , your not the only one who uses fruit container. I don't drink milk but I eat a lot of strawberries. So I saved the containers and use them for my winter sowing.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 9:20AM
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ryseryse_2004

I use a very cheap soldering iron to make the holes in everything. I use a magic marker and duct tape on the inside top of the containers with the names of the plants.

I put my ProMix in 5 gallon containers in the fall and put about 2 gal. water in each. I don't stir - not necessary since by the time I am ready to use the soil, it is evenly saturated. (I store this buckets indoors so they won't freeze. BTW, even the dry ProMix freezes if outdoors so think ahead!)

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 4:15PM
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nathan1991

I, like everyone else, am gearing up for the wintersowing season and was just wondering if anyone has had success with the opaque white gallon milk jugs that you buy in Costco? I am hesitant to use them because i'm not sure what the light penetration would be like, but at the same time i bet it lets more light in than i think.
on a related note, i have heard differing opinions on this site as well as others about sowing containers and putting them in a cold frame. i have three cold frames ready to go and it just seems easier than wrangling a ton of milk jugs. any thoughts on this use of a cold frame?
-nate

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 8:21PM
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growsy(8b GA)

nate, I sowed seed in both clear and white milk jugs for the first time this year. Seeds have sprouted in both for me. I am in the sunny & warm south, so I have even had my jugs for the most part in bright shade. Just moved them into the sun yesterday when it got cold.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 8:08AM
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danaoh(SWOhio zone 6)

Does anyone use the styrofoam containers from the fish dept at the grocery stores? the fish is delivered to them in those boxes

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 7:07PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

I used the large styrofoam containers from the fish dept to hold my baggie containers the 1st year when I ws all my seeds in baggies. But, yuk, they still smelled like fish even the next year and I hate the smell of fish so haven't used them since. Wonder if they are still in the garage?

Sowing in them should work okay as long as you can cover them with a clear sheet of plastic. You might want to make some dividers like Donn showed above so you can plant more than one variety of seed. Also don't forget holes in top and bottom for air and moisture and drainage.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 4:29PM
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Poolgoddess67(5b)

The one thing I do that hasn't been mentioned yet...When I wet my promix, I use warm water. It seems to soak in quicker and more completely.

Because I'm still new at this, my seed starting abilities are about 50/50 before winter sowing. It's such a relief to be able to get almost 100% germination with winter sowing.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 8:38AM
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ladyrose65

Donn, I like your method, but how do you get the plants out without damaging them? I'm thinking about trying your method for my future sowing?

Gardenweed, where do you buy bird grit? We have a local Agway would they carry it?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 8:23PM
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It's late to put some seed out that needs a longer...
prairiemoon2 z6 MA
Has Anyone Wintersowed Burnet?
Love the tall, wispy flowers like Tall Verbena and...
lizbest1
Where did everyone go?
I know lots of folks are on the FB WS group but where...
indianaplantlover
Brrrrr! Pretty cold out there, too cold?
I just started winter sowing and have my first containers...
prairiemoon2 z6 MA
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