Winter sowing vegetables in zone 4?

mandolls(4)March 10, 2011

It's the middle of March and many of you are seeing green things with buds in your yard. I still have 18inches of snow on the ground (can't see the tops of my raised beds yet)

In the past I have only started vegetable seeds indoors under lights, or purchased starter plants. Our growing season is to short for direct sowing most things, but I would like to see if the WS method will give me enough of a jumpstart on the season.

I am trying to decide when to attempt winter sowing for cold season vegetables. We probably wont get any more below zero weather, but it will still be in the teens and possibly single digits some nights. Is it to early to winter sow, spinach, lettuce, broccoli and peas? Can I try tomatoes now with any hope? Obviously none of these need cold stratification, so I'm not sure how early/late to try them.

Are there experienced zone 4 people out these who can give me some advice?

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Of the things mentioned, I've only tried tomatoes. They started slow, but eventually caught up with the ones I started indoors, so you could go ahead and WS them now. I would think you could go ahead with the others too, but I'm sure you'll hear from those with more experience shortly :D

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 2:33PM
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ccoupkir(z5 Il)

Hi mandolls,

I live in the coldest part of zone 5 and have had good luck with lettuces wsed in March. With legumes, you run the risk of them rotting. I have wsed toms and had some success but they fruit much later in August. Spinach is best when direct sown as soon as the ground can be worked and be sure to use seed for this year as it must be fresh. I have also wsed broccoli and brussel sprouts but they never got large enough to produce. I find it best to purchase starter plants for them. I try to ws lettuce every year as it seems to be the 1st container to sprout and gives me so much joy after the long snowy winter. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 8:42AM
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Thank you for the input. I went ahead and tried a few Early Girl tomatoes, Baby Romaine lettuce, Spinach, & Cilantro along with a bunch of perennials and a few annuals. For some reason I kept forgetting I had ordered Spinach seeds, and ended up getting them from three different sources, so If they dont transplant, I have plenty more.

This being my first WS trial, I am sowing almost everything under lights as well, plus plan on turning the raised beds into cold frames as soon as the snow melts (which might happen this week !) for some early direct sowing.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 9:11AM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

Sorry I can't help you. The only veggies I ws are lettuce and some tomatoes. Both of those could be started now or even earlier.

For years I have only grown tomatoes, a few peppers, lettuce, beans, spinach, cucumbers and spinach. Most tomatoes and all peppers are started inside with the other seeds sown directly in the garden.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 6:21PM
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Hi everybody,

I've been lurking on here a bit over the past week to gain some info, and I'm bumping this thread up because I am going to be launching my first WS attempt this weekend, and I had the same question. Rather than making a whole new thread...

Overall, I am all ears for any advice about zone 4 veggie winter sowing before I get started.

Some specific questions I have are:

Am I too early or late for any specific vegetables?

Are there certain veggies that I should definitely wait on? If so, wait until about when?

Is there a preferred type of weather for placing WSown plants outdoors? (AKA, does it matter if it's snowing like crazy, howling wind, and/or very far below zero? And, conversely, does it matter if it's warm-ish. like above freezing?)

Your favorite WS containers (I'm using milk jugs and similar containers)

Any other tips or advice.



    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 7:35PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Hey, Fannie,
I can answer a few of your questions. Most people favor milk jugs, 2 liter bottles, and those clear plastic salad/spinach containers for sowing.

The weather when you set out containers does not matter to the seeds, though it might matter to you, lol.

Most seeds can go out any time, but they won't sprout until the temps in the containers are warm enough for germination. I like to place my containers in a sunny spot on pavement or against a building to provide protection and a little extra warmth. Just be careful if the weather gets even mildly warm. Those containers can get too warm in direct sun. Once things have sprouted, get the tops off, or move them to dappled shade.

Larger seeds, like beans and peas, can rot if they are kept in a moist container too long before germinating. So, those I would wait to sow until the snow is gone.

Hope that helps.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 8:59AM
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Thank you Docmom, that does help!

I found the part about larger seeds being subject to rot especially enlightening:) I haven't read anything about that while doing my "homework", so thank you!


    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 9:50AM
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