Already thinking of winter sowing.

ponyexpress_1August 18, 2013

After my first year of winter sowing, I think I have learned a few things. I am going to use better soil and I am definitely using only milk jugs. I also learned to start saving jugs
sooner: ) I got addicted! I will make sure I have a marker inside the jug as well as a number sheet. Thank you to the member that suggested that. I also learned that some things just take a long time to sprout. I have baby columbine in a jug I forgot about because nothing was happening. It took a LOOOONG time to sprout, but at least I got a new variety. I wish I knew what it was at this point, but I guess it will be a surprise,assuming it makes it through the winter. I experimented a lot with new varieties, and made some decisions on the results.
Is anyone else planning ahead? What mistakes have you made and what knowledge have you gained along the way?

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I'm using toilet paper and paper towel rolls, cut down, inside my containers this year. Did it last year to see if it would help with things that were hard to transplant and it worked so well I'm using it for everything this year. I've started a seed list, too!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 7:28PM
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You know that is a great idea. Sometimes the seedlings' roots get tangled, or the soil gets hard and makes it hard to separate. Did your soil dry out faster though? What type of soil did you use? How deep did you cut the rolls to?
I haven't started a seed list on paper just yet. I am still trying to collect seeds from this years flowers, but I do have a mental list going : )

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 8:39PM
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chilliwin(EU DK 7)

I am new to this Winter Sowing Forum. Still I do not understand "winter sowing" thoroughly, I knew the words meaning but my question is, are you going to keep the containers/plastic jugs (whatever you used) outside in the winter? It may be a silly question but I am serious. I lost about 50% of my seedling this season on sunburn. So I am thinking to put my (sowed seeds container or jugs) outside but I never did before except a few small seedlings about 2 inches tall covered by a Coke bottle put outside in the winter snow all of them died. I think if I started everything outside probably the seedlings may survive in the snow. I have a couple rose plants without any protection they survive every winter.

So could you please explain to me a little bit about "Winter Sowing" or any useful links could be helpful.

Regarding to tangled roots, coco coir has no problems. I have experiences of paper towel, sphagnum, coco coir and potting soil. Here is a picture of coco coir seedling.

No tangled roots. You can remove the coco coir completely.

Another coco coir seedling.

Very easy to remove the coco coir. The easiest way to remove the coco coir is make it almost dry when you decided to re-potting.

Thank you for this subject.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 4:46PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Chilli, winter-sowing is a method of sowing seeds in recycled containers, and then putting the containers outside in the winter, where they are kept moist by the rain/sleet/snow, and subjected to freezing cold temperatures. These conditions are called "cold stratification" and this helps to prepare certain seeds for germination by softening the seed coat. They will then ready to germinate when it warms up in the late winter or Spring.

If you read the FAQ at the top of this page, or the website, you will learn a lot of information.

I am not thinking about winter-sowing yet. Too early yet and there is lots of other crap to do. I have started collecting seed, and enjoy doing this throughout the fall.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 8:56PM
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chilliwin(EU DK 7)

Hi Terrene, thank you for the reply.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 3:33PM
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I grew my summer veggie garden in raised wooden beds. I am wondering if I can use one of them to winter sow...with plastic over the top, with air holes? What do you think?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 11:17AM
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Sorry Ponyexpress, didn't notice there was a question about the toiletpaper rolls. Didn't notice them drying out any faster than the others, they were packed in pretty tight, though. Someone suggested putting a small amount of potting soil down then seating the halved toilet paper rolls in that soil then filling/tamping from there. My experience was that they wicked water up just as well as just potting soil in the milk jugs. I used miracle grow, just because that seems to be all that's easily available that late in the year in my area.

Another advantage, the rolls are just slightly smaller diameter than my bulb auger that attaches to my drill---ease of planting!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 10:08PM
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Deanie, don't see why not but it'd probably depend on what you plan to wintersow. If you're planting perennials that are hardy in your area I'm sure it would work, if you're trying to get a head-start on vegies it might not work as well, depending on the vegie. Maybe some of the more cold season ones? Hopefully someone with more vegetable experience will reply.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 10:12PM
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I'm doing a lot of shrubs and native plants this season. I still have about 9 jugs still waiting to be planted out. We have not had consistent rain in our area.

Chillwin, welcome to Winter Sowing, don't be shy ask away. Lord knows I did and still do on something I have not had success with in the past.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 4:54PM
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I am just planning on winter sowing perennials...I'd like some new ones...I think I will give it a try....I wonder when I should sow...Dec.? maybe....any ideas on that? Thanks

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 7:05AM
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Campanula UK Z8

I normally sow a lot of seeds around now and overwinter any seedlings which germinate in my greenhouse. However, because of scale (I have a much larger acreage to fill) I am doing the milkjugs thing outside. Have already sown many campanulas, lathyrus species, penstemon, mertensia and so on in these jugs.....but cannot help feeling a little apprehensive. If germination occurs, what should I do (usually, I simply leave the seed trays or pots in the greenhouse or cold frames as winter sends a lot of seedlings back into hibernation or, at the very least, they just stop growing and sit there until March or thereabouts.
I am a little confused because autumn has always been traditionally that start of the gardening year, with many seeds being sown but only in the more traditional open seed tray methods.
Up to 22 containers already - is this likely to be an epic fail?

Also, I am not adding drainage holes to the jugs, just adding a little water, closing the lid (with transparent preserving covers and elastic bands) and sitting them against my north wall. I prick several pin-sized holes in the lid.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 8:28AM
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tamela_star(Zone 7)

I'm trying winter sowing this year too? I'm hoping my plants will flower earlier if I winter sow instead of waiting until the last frost. In my area they usually say around April. I did plant some pansies a couple weeks ago, and they haven't sprouted yet. Hopefully, they will soon so I can have the bloom in November and around here the flowers last through the winter.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 12:33PM
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moonphase(z7 Ga)

Campanula,you are going to regret not putting holes in the bottom of your containers.your seeds will just get water logged and rot.In wintersowing.,never leave the cap on.throw it away.that jug needs to get adaquate amts of rain/snow.Believe me,I have learned a whole lot about wsing.I always use miracle grow mix,never soil.I have it down to almost perfection every yr now with very few failures.I still can not grow lavender.....and that is my favorite.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 11:58PM
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I have learned that if the jugs are sitting on concrete, sometimes the holes are blocked. So, I now make sure my jugs are all sitting on the ground. Also, as well as holes in the bottom, I make about 8 holes in the sides about 2" from the bottom.

Also, I too will only use milk jugs from now on. I definitely have the best results with those. As far as the TP rolls, don't they fall apart when wet? I have had no problems just cutting the bottom off the jugs, taking out the solid plant materials and then slicing through with a serrated knife (like cutting brownies). I then plant the squares either in the ground or in pots to grow for a month or two. I find that transplanting the little squares into pots makes watering them all much easier until they start growing well.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 5:55PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I've been wintersowing for 8 or 9 years, and probably will do it for the rest of my life. I never start planting until late December, because I don't want some poor seed to germinate early and then freeze when winter truly sets in. There are definitely exceptions. Some seeds need warm-cold-warm cycles to break dormancy. But, I'm not that ambitious. Most perennials that are hardy in my climate sprout reliably with just cold stratification. So, I start perennials in January/February, along with some hardy annuals. Tender annuals, like zinnias, cosmos, petunias, etc., I start in mid-April. The greenhouse effect of the milk jugs allows the potting mix to warm sooner than the soil in the garden, and the jug protects the seedlings from most late frosts. My biggest downfall is always planting too many containers. I always forget how much work it is planting everything out in the spring. Good luck to everyone!


    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 11:44AM
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I always plant about 50 or so jugs in January and every year I tell myself it won't be a big deal to plant them out in the spring and summer. HA! It would be a big deal anytime of the year but in the spring with clean-up, hauling mulch, etc. it ends up that I don't complete the project until September.

But January, after the stress of the holidays with kids, gkids coming out of my ears I need the relaxation that winter sowing in milk jugs gives me. I love it!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 2:11PM
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This will be my fourth year of Winter Sowing, and I have decided to cut back on it this time. Like Martha, I have planted too many containers in the past. This summer was pretty dry for us, and most flowers did okay. The only reason I'll have a lot of containers is if someone wants some extra flowers in their garden, because I am running out of room.

Brad AKA Moonwolf

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 10:56AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Hey, Brad! Good to see you. I've not been here much over the summer. Also, once you have plants in the ground, they keep getting bigger each year and space becomes even tighter. Remember that the first year perennials sleep, second year they creep, and the third year they leap. I just finished my second year in this new yard, so next summer will be a leaping season. So, I need to be extra careful not to over plant.


    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 6:45AM
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smarmyclothes(6a Kalamazoo, MI)

Thank you for your note about cement sometimes not allowing proper drainage.

The few containers I had that either didn't germinate well or at all seemed very waterlogged when I opened them up, despite the drainage holes. I had ALL of my containers on a concrete slab! I will make sure to put them on the lawn this time around.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 5:35PM
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I'm thinking about it - need to go through my seeds and see what needs warm/cold/warm for germination - those have to get started real soon now.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 8:39AM
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heavenlyfarm(zone 6b)

This will be my first time wintersownig and am collecting various jugs and containers but not the milk jugs because they are that white color now. am i correct in not using these? because it seems like that everyone is using milk jugs but around here, I haven't found one store that carries the clear ones like they use too.
I'm also probably gonna end up with doing too many but my logic is, i have 3 small hills to fill with flowers so its okay lol

    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 10:40AM
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Thanks LizinElizabeth!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 7:32AM
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I love the toilet paper roll idea, has anyone tried Jiffy Pellets inside a jug?

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 8:10PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Vic, I don't like the jiffy pellets for sowing in any manner, lots of us growing from seed have had issues and won't try them again. That netting on the outer surface of the pellet isn't nearly as degradable as you might think being one objection to how well they work.

Here is a link that might be useful: earlier thread on pellets

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 10:59AM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

If you can put your thumb inside the white milk jug and still see it through the jug you can use it. It doesn't have to be clear. Green 2Ls can also be used.
Don't forget about gal water jugs which are clear.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 8:13PM
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