1st time using WS method, and...

thebluemoth(7)January 31, 2013

I'm SO glad to have a community where I can share my results with people who will understand!

Don't get me wrong, sharing stories of my progress on FB is great and I do get replies and inspire others to garden, but it's definitely NOT the same as having the eyes/ears of other gardeners. Gardeners who understand what it means when you lose half a day's work and a full season of growth to moles or watch as beautiful seedlings suddenly up and die for any number of reasons.

Last year, I had a really good garden in terms of what I planted early via the direct sow method, but my chickens ate and/or scratched up almost everything planted later in the season, and proved to be an even greater hindrance in terms of the fall planting I had in mind. However, my Ravenous Horde is now behind bars and I can actually get back to the actual practice of gardening again.

I've saved containers for months in preparation for trying out the method of winter sowing, and I now have several containers ready & waiting to be filled. I have (more or less) figured out which seeds I'm going to start with and I've also prepared the soil and it's ready to go.

But I have one question I want to ask those of you who've done it (WS) before...how do I determine how many seeds to place in each container? I don't want to waste space, but I also don't want to sow too thickly either.

I'd like some general rules of thumb to follow, please...your general rules, in fact...:).

Also, I have some blue potatoes with some really beautiful sprouts beginning to develop. Ideas or suggestions for a first time potato grower? I have a feeling they could be planted now, I just don't really know quite how to begin. I have some really nice areas where they could be growing, but not sure what kind of environment they prefer either.

Thanks ahead of time...:)


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Hello, Blue, the most general advice I can give in regards to how many seeds to sow is really "How many plants of that you would like?" and How many can your gardening area withold?

This is my 3rd year, one thing I have taken into consideration as too sow only what I need, so as I won't get too overwhelmed from having sowed too many seedlings.

This is your first year so have a lot of fun with it. If it's your favorite flower or vegetable, go for it . . .! If it's a perennial or herb that has a tendency to takeover, sow a very little of it and observe it during the summer.

I hope this helps. Sincerely, Avis

This is coreopsis, my fav's, I over sow these each year.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 9:08PM
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Thanks for the advice and the picture, Avis! I do not yet have this kind of seed but, now that I've seen it, I will definitely add it to the list of things I'd like to grow.

I'm going to focus on cold hardy vegetables and a few herbs for this first go-round, and then proceed with the veggies and herbs that prefer warmer weather later on in the season.

I haven't yet decided if I'll use this method for flowers or not, but in all likelihood I will probably try a few. How well do marigolds respond to this method or is it easier/better to direct sow them?


    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 9:21PM
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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

Hi Blue and welcome. This is my sixth year of ws and I love it. The first things I ever ws were petunias and marigolds and they did great. I sowed in Feb. and by May had nice healthy plants. One caveat, you won't get blooms as early as the greenhouse plants in the stores do, but if you're patient you'll get plenty for the summer and they'll be vigorous.

I've never done potatoes, although I'm thinking about it. If you can get things in the ground now you're farther south than me -- we're getting snow right now. I have 22 jugs/2L bottles out now with everything from delphiniums and hollyhocks to lettuce and carnations with a lot more to go. The one thing I tend to oversow is tomatoes -- I usually do about 25 tom plants a year, but I have such a good germination rate doing this that I usually wind up with more than that. One of these days I'll learn to trust that if I put in six seeds I'll get five or six plants, but to be safe I always do more than the # I actually want.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 7:59AM
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Caryl, let me know when you WS marigold. I really want to get away from starting anything indoors and still need to add a few things to my dates of when to WS everything.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 8:13AM
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The number of seeds/container is pretty subjective. As a failed indoor under lights sower it seems germination and survival of seedlings is much better with wintersowing. Last year was my first try wintersowing and it was so successful I was an instant convert.

I over-sowed my containers last year not knowing how well or even if they would grow and a lot of the resulting seedlings were as thick as grass. I just pulled the entire bunch out and gently seperated them into clumps and planted that way, seemed to work very well. This year I'm sowing a bunch of older seeds left over from my previous indoor attempts and deliberately over-sowed again, assuming the older seeds will have a lower germination rate.

If you want to conserve seeds, though, I think I'd try something similar to the square foot gardening approach, put your soil in the container and tamp down, then use your finger or a tool to make indentations an inch or 2 apart (depending on how vigorous you're expecting the seedling to be) and sow 2-4 seeds in each indentation.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 12:56PM
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SusanC(9b/10a Sunset 17)

If I have enough seeds, I pretty much follow this old country saying about how many to sow: "One for the mouse, One for the crow, One to rot, One to grow." So if I want 10 of something, I'll sow 30 to 40 seeds. Even if they all come up, there will usually be some casualties along the way or some puny weaklings that can be culled out.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 12:57PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

After a couple of years of over sowing I came up with a system that works well for me. For large seeds in a milk jug 6-9 seeds, usually sowing two or three more seeds than plants wanted. For medium sized 12-16; small seeds sow thinly, a tiny pinch scattered over the surface. If I want fewer plants of any size I use a 2L container. I don't sow many extra seeds as find that I generally have good germination.

For 2L, large seeds 1- 3 seeds. Medium seeds 3-5 seeds. Small seeds, a tiny, tiny pinch scattered throughout. I sometimes use a small piece of paper to pick up and place medium and small seeds.

You might try different amounts in some of your containers this year to see what might work best for you next year.

Winter sowing has been a easy, fun and very successful way of starting seeds for me.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 9:23PM
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Oh wow...I didn't expect so many responses so quickly, and so helpful too! Thank you All for your WS sowing 'rules of thumb'! They've given me a very good idea of how to begin and, more importantly, some confidence and support just when I needed it most. It's good to know that even if I over-sow, I'm still doing just fine and haven't done anything wrong.

I'm glad for the replies in re the marigolds! I went (intentionally) marigold crazy this year and I'm now the proud owner of about 2000 marigold seeds of various colors, types, and kinds. I've given a few away, and still have some set aside for gifts to friends and family, but many - maybe even most - of the seeds will be planted all over my yard and in as many pots as I can spare this year.

I kind of have a plan for them...or, well, the petals, which I plan to feed to my chickens next fall and winter. I've heard it helps enhance the color of the yolks and also provides some nutrients, too. It's something of an experiment, but considering how well they LOVED eating my flowers last year, I think I'm on to something...LOL!

Thank you all for being so helpful! Really!


Btw: Anyone else grow food for their animals, specifically chickens?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 7:21PM
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pghgardengirl(6b SW PA)

I grow beets for my chickens.( I don't ws the beets, though) They love the leaves. I also grow extra lettuce for them and some for my family. They also love Swiss Chard. I saw Sustainable Seed Company has a package of garden seeds to grow for chickens...looks promising. Not sure yet what of that packet you can ws. This is my first year Ws, also. I have 3 hens behind bars, too. City chicks. :0)

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 8:12PM
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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

My brother has chickens and for Christmas I got him a book called Free-range chicken gardens: how to create a chicken-friendly yard (or something to that effect. I got it on Amazon.) His chicks are caged, too, but I figured he might like to grow some things specifically for them since he is a gardener. He would have no chickens left if he didn't cage them, and even then he lost one last year to a raccoon -- nothing left but some blood and feathers. He suspected a raccoon since whatever it was had to reach through the totally-enclosed cage and grab the chicken. He set some have-a-heart traps and wound up catching three that he re-located.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 6:52AM
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Thanks for the info pghgardengirl! I'll check out Sustainable Seed Company and look for that. And LOL @ your City Chicks...aren't chicken just the best pets/friends?! I really do enjoy their company...so long as they stay in their area and not on my front porch...LOL!

I am running experiments with WS this year, but I'll direct sow a lot of stuff anyway.

And, caryltoo, thanks for the heads up on that book...I'll be looking for it. I understand your brother's problems, but that's why the dogs now live in the pen directly beside the chicken coop...LOL! We had to do something, or lose them all.

By the way, my WS cauliflower was sprouting last time I checked! Whoooohoooo! :D

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 7:31PM
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pghgardengirl(6b SW PA)

thebluemoth: Yes, they make wonderful pets! And I love their contribution to my compost pile!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 8:35PM
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