veggies to winter sow

ryseryse_2004December 28, 2012

What vegetables do you winter sow? I find that tomatoes and peppers germinate way too late with this method and don't have enough growing days for 5A.

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I'm not in your zone, but I do have a problem with peppers. I usually have to get them from the nursery. The tomatoes do fine here.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 6:05PM
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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

I've found that hot peppers like jalapenos do fine, but bells and eggplant do not. As for tomatoes, I've not had a problem, and last year they germinated really early thanks to the warm winter.

One key for tomatoes, particularly in your zone, is looking for lower DTM varieties, like 70 vs. 85-90 day types.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 8:35AM
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lois(PA Zone 6)

Yes, for tomatoes, the lower DTM helps a lot.

Also, I will confess that I cheat on the wintersowing when it comes to tomatoes. (I hope I don't get kicked off this forum, LOL).

I wait until temps outside start to hit 40 during the day.

Then I plant the tomato seeds in 16 oz plastic cups and let them germinate inside.

On the day I first see that tiny strand of green appear out of the soil, I cover the cup with a sandwich baggie that has holes in in, and put the cup outside during daylight hours.

But I take the cup back inside before dark. I do this until nighttime temps start to rise above 40 or so.

Then I plant the seedling in the garden and protect it with a clear 2 liter soda bottle until daytime temps start to hit 60.

It is a bit more labor intensive than the regular wintersowing, but it's worth it to me because I don't have to worry about the seedlings dying from damping off inside, or having to be hardened off when it's time to plant.

It's worked well in my zone for the past 3 years. I also do the same thing with melon seedlings.

1 Like    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 9:08AM
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caryltoo Z7/SE PA

Lois, I cheat by starting a few of the longer DTMs in the garden window, although I lost two of the four I did that way to damage caused during hardening off (left out too long, too early). Replaced them with the same variety that was ws and they did great. But again, everything was early last year.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 11:26AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I winter sow all my vegetables except green beans. They seem to not do well, but everything else does fine. I do sow my veggies later, maybe late March and into April.

I have sown lettuce, spinach, beets, onions, scallions, squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, carrots, peas, and cukes. I usually do my herbs at the same time as vegetables too.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 12:06PM
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sassybutterfly_2008(7 NorthWest GA)

Lois ~ I do almost the exact same thing with my tomatoes.. and it's a real chore cuz I start about 60 varieties But, it works fantastic for me, so I just keep doing it! :)

I start my peppers in April outdoors as they always die on me inside... and we have a long growing season so that works for us.

Good to know on the eggplant tho, I will wait and start those outdoors as well.

Dee ~ do you WS your lettuce in containers larger than the 2 liters?


    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 9:59AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

sassyb, I started off with the milk jugs, but found that they can be too small - I sow fairly heavily and cut the baby lettuce, and then let it grow another crop.

I still use the milk jugs in a pinch, but I prefer to use bigger containers. One of my favorites is the lasagna/roasting pans with the clear plastic lids. I've found some that have nice, high lids to them. I fill the pan with peat pots, fill with soil, sow (about two to three seeds per pot), cover, and then harvest the baby lettuce, and usually by that time the cover is off for the second harvest. (I do squeak in a third harvest often but it can be a tad bitter.) I suppose I could just fill the pan with soil and skip the peat pots, but I find the pan doesn't seem quite as heavy and is a bit easier to handle/move with the peat pots.

I can never get enough lettuce, but I've been lucky to work with a woman who grows at a local farm and sells at market, so after my little wintersown crop I'm in lettuce all year long!


    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 11:40PM
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Great topic. I'd like to teach kids to winter sow vegetables. We have a 4-H workshop day on Feb. 2 where kids can sign up for what they want to attend ahead of time. Adults, too.

I also would like to show the kids at the daycare at our camp how to winter sow vegetables & flowers for their own yards and some for children's gardens at camp. We have 10 kids in the program I do & another 90 in the other, so I'm not going to be alone in this endeavor; however, I'm the experienced gardener. (ha, ha) I'll be teaching others how to teach the kids in small groups.

I've wanted to do this for a long time, so kids will grow & eat their own vegetables. I thought if we winter sowed extra early determinate tomatoes they would be plant in their own front yards with the common 3 ring cages.

Last year, I wintersowed tomatoes as an experiment in repurposed 16 oz + plastic cups. It worked great to set the cups into clear totes & set the totes in a flimsy 3 shelf upright plastic covered "greenhouse". Like Lois inside to germinate then outside during day once germinated. They were slow growing at 1st, but took off later when it warmed. I used my finger or a scissor to snip seedlings leaving 1 per cup. This year will put them in full sun earlier on to speed it up.

I appreciate any tips you have for transplanting as well. I struggle a bit with the jugs & seedlings, so end up cutting the jug apart to be able to slide out & divide into 4 chunks to plant. With vegetables spacing is more important. I'm not sure kids fingers can handle the jugs without supervision, so would want to show parents how to do it, too.

Thank you,

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 12:28PM
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pghgardengirl(6b SW PA)

We can't get enough lettuce in my house, either so I needed large scale winter winter sow leaf lettuce directly in the ground. I cut several hula hoops in half and stuck at intervals in the ground. Covered all with clear garbage bags sewed together or clear painters drop cloth and weighed down with brick and rocks on edges. Germinates in March for me.....

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 4:36PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

pghgardengirl, I've been thinking of doing the same kind of thing. I have also used the opaque, under-bed storage bins to sow lettuce in when the foil roasting pans weren't big enough. I could - and do try to - have salad every day, so lettuce is a must-have crop for me!

I've used those bins for spinach and baby carrots as well for winter crops in a cold frame. Since my space is limited, I sow in summer in the bins on the patio where it's sunny, and when I pull the last of my veggie garden out in fall, I place the bins in my raised beds and put my cold frames around them. You've got to think "portably" when you don't have a lot of sun, lol.

Corrinne, good luck with your programs! I don't see any problem with cutting open the milk jugs to get the plants out. If you sow thinly enough (maybe four tomato seeds to a jug) you can use your trowel to kind of dig out the seedling. Or you can wintersow in smaller things - water bottles, cups, etc.

Personally, I like to promote recycling as well as growing one's own food, especially with kids, so I would not *buy* cups to use; I would recycle single-serve water or sports drink bottles. (If you have an ice rink near you, you can make out like a bandit with all the bottles tossed out there, lol!) Although, I think getting a seedling out of a milk jug is still easier than getting it out of a water bottle or even a cup, but that's my preference.

Good luck and have fun with the kids!


    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 5:32PM
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My winter sowen broccoli did great for me last year. It produced until the Fall when I left it go to seed.





I winter sow broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower in March. I winter sow watermelon, cantaloupe, and squash in April.

2 Likes    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 3:39PM
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