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Winter Sowing: Newbie Question

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DMurray407
Buffalo, MN
(Zone 4a)

June 16, 2011
3:30 PM

Post #8634611

I have limited seed starting room inside, so I'm thinking that winter sowing might be a great option for me. I have a question, though. When I plant seeds inside, they have plenty of time to gain some size before planting out in the spring-If they are going to take longer to get to panting size, I plant them earlier . With wintersown seeds, I'm imagining a later start (on Mother Nature's schedule)=smaller seedlings at planting time. Are there ever any times when a seedling isn't big and strong enough to be set out the first year? (I'm thinking perennials and natives)-how would I overwinter these babies a second winter? I live in zone 4 and plants in containers don't usually do well in the severe cold. Do I need to worry about this? Any suggestions?
Thanks!
Deb

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 1, 2011
4:08 PM

Post #8666822

Someone with SUCCESFULL experience at WS would give a better answer, but I'll guess until someone knowledgable notices the new thread.

Maybe you could put 1/3 of your plants out into the ground, pot 1/3rd of them up for a second winter of nursing, and decide what to do with the last few when you know whether the first few survived.

In my garden, the slugs and rotten soil would argue for a prolonged nursing period!

The general attitude here seems to be that "the seed knows" and a WS tub just gives it a little protection and a head start. If the seed "decided" to sprout in your tub, a little more hardening off "ought" to be all it needs to make it on its own in the soil. For example, tilt the top of the jug partly open for a few days to get it used to dry wind and full sun.

Reasoning by analogy with tomatoes, it probably matters more how healthy and sturdy the seedling is, not it's size.

>> With wintersown seeds, I'm imagining a later start (on Mother Nature's schedule)=smaller seedlings at planting time.

I've heard many people say "smaller but sturdier and better-adapted, so they catch up and overtake indoor seedlings".

>> (I'm thinking perennials and natives)-how would I overwinter these babies a second winter? I live in zone 4 and plants in containers don't usually do well in the severe cold.

Is there any way to pretect them just a little in the soil? Like let them chiull down and freeze, then mulch them to prevent freeze-thaw cycles? In my climate, I might say to give them a hoop tunnel, plastic mulch or floating row cover so they don't freeze at all, but MINNESOTA?!? Brrr!

Final warning: all I know about WS is what I read.

Corey
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

July 3, 2011
8:34 AM

Post #8669538

corey, that isn't true. You have posted tons of experience, admittedly not all -- well -- good. Or rather successful. but Thomas Edison never admitted failure. He said everything led to success by exprience. And you have had a lot of that.

I planted sweet peas both indoors and outdoors and found that the WS, while shorter at plant out time, were much more robust and I believe that they are hardier even now. My vote (from another person who knows nothing but what she reads) is that they little seedlings WS will prove much better able to stand the weather and will snap into growth much faster. I plant out seedlings that look beyond wimpy and for years they astound me by becoming el monstro's in short order.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 5, 2011
10:35 AM

Post #8673793

I like a theory advanced by some mail-order place that sells small plants - but very-well-rooted plants.

They publish a picture of two plants the first year, and the second year.

The first year shows a small-but-healthy mail order plant from them, and a showy, blossomy taller plant from Home Depot or a supermarket.

The second year, the Home Depot plant is stunted and recovering from its forced blooms from its first year, while the mail order plant is still healthy, gorgous, and booming laong - much bigger than the one that was flashy the first year.

Healthy is better than faster!

Corey


Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

July 5, 2011
11:11 AM

Post #8673866

Good point, rick. I concur. I keep getting suckered into buying them from time to time because mine are so small and theirs are so robust. At least for a while. I also pick up el cheepos at year end from HD and Lowes. I got three Plum Pudding Heucheras two years ago that were maybe 3" tall and so dessicated as to be dead, but nooot quite. They are now a good 12-15" in diameter and stand (flower shoots) about the same in height. Probably the best use of HD -- year end sales. Same with their lilies. Dahlias, not so much. they are so pumped up that they just succumb to greenery and no energy left for flowers.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 5, 2011
11:31 AM

Post #8673922

>> I keep getting suckered into buying them from time to time because mine are so small and theirs are so robust. At least for a while. I also pick up el cheepos at year end from HD and Lowes.
>> ... Probably the best use of HD -- year end sales.

I'm still at the stage of "temptation" but it's getting stronger and stronger. I always want to start from seeds, but it is NOT always easy!

Corey
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

July 5, 2011
7:17 PM

Post #8674876

I'm going to try to grow some perennials from seeds next year. I usually do annuals to get some different colors and to fill in holes when the perennials die down. And I would assume they would be best winter sown, and leave the 'garage greenhouse' for my dahlias, begonias, and gladiolas.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 6, 2011
1:53 PM

Post #8676552

>> I would assume they would be best winter sown,

That's what everyone here says, and most people say it's easy, or even fool-proof.

In my case, though, I'm still at the flat bottom of the learning curve. Plenty of variables to fiddle with!

Even with perennial seeds that supposedly "need stratification", I had better luck just sowing them indoors in trays, under CFL bulbs.

Well, except for Penstemon. Those have not come up for me, indoors, but MONTHS after I gave up on my WS tubs, tiny-tiny Penstemon fuzz came up that (I guess) will grow into tiny seedlings some day.

Corey
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

July 6, 2011
2:10 PM

Post #8676579

that is amazing. so, like we should hang onto them until they mold away?? I expect meconopsis to take up to a year to germinate (or so the sites I have gone to say) but regular old perennials and annuals. I am NOT that patient. However, never being willing to cry 'uncle' I will faithfully sow my little heart out (am saving gallon milk jugs as fast as possible.) I still have problems with the dividing up. I think I will try what the greenhouses do when they sow in flats. Do straight rows (as much as you can do in a milk jug). that would make separating them in the spring easier. On the other hand, if I only get a couple to germinate, then no problem separating.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 6, 2011
4:52 PM

Post #8676834

>> so, like we should hang onto them until they mold away??

I wish the WS experts would chime in, but until then, here's my 2 cents.

It depends on the species of plant. If you would EXPECT them to have germinated by now, free up the jugs. Maybe dump them all in a marked spot, just in case the seeds are awaiting their chance to tease you by sprouting AFTER it's possible.

On the flip side, I read several sites that stressed the dormancy stubburness of penstemenon, and suggested that if at first you don't succeed, SAVE THE TRAYS for next winter!

I'm not that patient either, but have vast reserves of procrastination and laziness. These came to my aid.

Those WS tubs weren't crawling with mold (just a little tiny bit of green algae), so I let them sit "until I got around to" dumping that soil into a raised bed.

When i got around to that, I was shaking my head at the funny colors of the Perlite ... when I took my glasses off and squinted. Strange, REGULAR funny-colored Perlite.
Smaller than the Perlite I put into those pots, and I doubt that Perlite shrinks.

Each pot had a different variety of penstemon - and somewhat differently colored and shaped Perlite.

Fortunately those specks have not disapeared since I took them out of the tub. I hope they are big enoguh to do something with before the fall rains start. I may have to pot them up and briung them indoors for the Winter.

Corey


As Heinlein's Michael Valentine Smith said "Proper timing is achieved by correct waiting". In other words, "maybe manyana, but without the urgency".

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 6, 2011
4:55 PM

Post #8676835

>> I still have problems with the dividing up.

I really disliked the idea of planting young plants jammed together shoulder-to-shoulder. And yet, I doubt if I'll be able to dis-entangle the rootlets on 6-month old seedlings!

At one point I talked myself into thinking "maybe it's OK" to plant them out as chunks or hunks of seedlings.

- Most people who SUCCEED at WS do that.
- Plants that sprout from seeds in pods must USUALLY do that in nature.
- It will be a lot of work if it IS really necessary, so i'll try it the easy way first.

Corey
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

July 6, 2011
5:15 PM

Post #8676878

lol. I haven't read Heinlein in years. But Stranger in a Strange Land was one of my favorites. My all time favorite however is Glory Road. I can still remember sitting on the sofa, around 40 years ago, bursting out in uncontrollable laughter, not something I was or am prone to do. Just fits and gales. I would try to read part to my husband but couldn't do it over the hysterics. Plus he was not a SF reader, or even much of a reader at all, so it seriously lost a lot in the translation, such as I could accomplish.

"I'm not that patient either, but have vast reserves of procrastination and laziness. These came to my aid. "

I have decided that you are my Heinlein surrogate. lol

Mary

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 6, 2011
5:49 PM

Post #8676954

Ahh, Glory Road! "Oh, 'Scar' will do." And their chit-chat was so risque that the horses blushed!

I think my favorite was The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress ... or Starship Troopers. Have Space Suit, Will Travel.

I grew up on his juveniles, and I'm sure he had more influence on my philosophy than church, school and parents combined. Did you find the short story for Boy Scouts where they learned telepathy and levitation, then discovered secret adepts on Mount Shasta?

Corey
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

July 6, 2011
6:12 PM

Post #8676993

I assume I read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but Starship Troopers!!! Howah! What a great book. Campy, sure. But great none the less. I never read his juveniles. I started reading what they called "double back Aces" in the 8th grade. They were SF paperbacks with two books back to back. I was hooked from then on. Before that it as Tom Corbett, Tom Swift, and the Hardy Boys. I was always 'out to lunch' during English class, even honors English, as I found their choice of material boring beyond words. Really couldn't have cared less about The Scarlett Letter, or in college Rabbit Run and all those other angst filled drivel. Okay. So I am a plebian. Can't help it. And I freely admit to reading Warhammer 40,000 books over the last few years. My son got me into those. Weber, John Ringo also. The only classics I read were SF classics, or horror.

Hmmmmm. That explains a lot.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 7, 2011
11:55 AM

Post #8678427

>> The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Mike the lonely computer? Trying to understand humor?
TANSTAAFL?
Lunar linear accelerators and "throwing rocks" long, long before Jerry O'Neil and the L5ers.
The semi-vegetarian Prof who called ham "pink salmon" if that was all he had to eat.

Good stuff.

>> Tom Swift

Oh, wow! Blast from the distant past.

After I read most of "my generation" of Tom Swifts, I discovered there was a series based on "his father".

I don't think i found any of the books, but I saw titles like

Tom Swift and His Motorcyle or
Tom Swift and His Giant Searchlight

Unless this is a delusional false memory.

Corey
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

July 7, 2011
12:35 PM

Post #8678524

No, I think you are right about Tom Swift's father. Or maybe they only alluded to them but they were never real books. I will have to go look, and also get another copy of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Even if I have read it before, sounds like one to be reread.
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

July 7, 2011
12:44 PM

Post #8678542

Hey, I found the Giant Searchlight book at Alibris used books online. It says it is #15 in the series. Odd. You wouldn't think that would be about his father. I was reading (and collecting) them in the 50's and never saw these titles. Maybe flashbacks?

I guess we have pirated this thread. opssss. sorry.
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

July 7, 2011
12:54 PM

Post #8678564

Okay. Last comment. here is a url to resolve the Tom Swift conundrum. The books I remember were about Tom Swift Jr.
http://tomswift.bobfinnan.com/ts2.htm

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 7, 2011
6:04 PM

Post #8679184

I had forgotten the "Junior". Oh, man: 1910 for Tom Senior! "Uncle Wiggily" I remeber too.

Tom Swift and His Milk Jug
Tom Swift and His Mini-Greenhouse
Tom Swift and His HOS

Corey
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

July 7, 2011
6:22 PM

Post #8679220

ROTFL - And Uncle Wiggily?? I vaguely recall something like that. Can't remember if it was before or after 'my time.' Probably don't want to know. Okay, I checked. Guess it spanned 'my time.'
DMurray407
Buffalo, MN
(Zone 4a)

July 18, 2011
5:07 AM

Post #8698985

So . . . I guess I'll try WS on a smaller scale than I originally planned and work a few of the details out as I go : ) . And, I remember Uncle Wiggily, too (though very vaguely).
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

July 18, 2011
8:20 AM

Post #8699338

I intend to give it another try, also on a smaller scale. And perhaps do some in late October before snow fall, and then another batch next Feb or March. It was only through WS that I was able to save and get poppies from seeds that I had made a mess of planting last fall. I think I have at least some plants for each type of seed a kind DG'r sent me.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 18, 2011
5:35 PM

Post #8700513

Mary,
Thanks for reminding me about "Glory Road". I found a used copy and re-read it with a big, big smile. What a blast from the past!

Deb,
Lurching back on topic for a moment, you said:

>> Are there ever any times when a [WS] seedling isn't big and strong enough to be set out the first year? (I'm thinking perennials and natives)-how would I overwinter these babies a second winter? I live in zone 4 and plants in containers don't usually do well in the severe cold.

I'm facing the same question with some slow, tiny perennial Penstemon, some of which also turn out to be wildflowers. Of course, Seattle-Zone-8 is nothing like MN Zone 4.

maybe you could overwinter them in a c9old frame, plunging the pots into soil or sand or mulch, letting them freeze "a little" and then buttoning up the cold frame to keep them from "deep freezing".

I'm hoping my own babies will survive my mild winter outside if I just put some mulch and plastic bottles over them (cloches) and drape a floating row cover over that. Hopefully the combo will keep them warmer at night, yet not cook them during the day. A full-blown cold frame would probably cook them each day unless it was in shade.

I probably mostly need to keep them from cycling between frozen and thawed, in which case I might have to remove most coverings during the day, but re-cover them each night.

Short answer: I don't know either what to do about "slow" WS seedlings that look too fragile to survive. Maybe I'll even plant osme babies this fall, try to prtect them from slugs, and then find out just how hardy they really ARE.

I will bring a few of each variety indoors in Dixie cups, 3" pots, or a 50-cell plug tray, just in case. Someone said that some plants will sleep, creep, then LEAP and I hope that doesn't happen indoors, because I have very little room under light indoors.

Corey

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