So far as my experience has told me, the "accepted" time is when the deciduous trees in your area have finally shed ALL their leaves, then you know you TRULY have Winter, and it's safely time to winter sow. In a zone just a tad "warmer" than yours (6b, for example, not sure which "6" you're in), I would also suggest to not only watch for the leaf-fall on the deciduous tress, but ALSO for the official Winter Solstice. (just in case the leaf-fall comes prematurely due to other conditions/situations).
I hope this has helped you, and sorry it's so late!
Oh yes, CL, for you in your area, your timing will be very different than in a warmer zone, absolutely. The trick though is to not put some stuff out too soon, so-as to prevent them from germinating too soon, and causing the new tender little seedlings to freeze to death. < =/ Eeeeek! (been there, done that, it's no fun) :(
It can be really frustrating, huh? Especially when ya think "Aaaaaah, Winter at last, where are all my milk jugs? I'm ready to Winter Sowwww!! :)"... then that warm spell hits outta the blue, just long enough to trick some of the less sensitive seeds to germinate. It either takes ya right back to the jugging board, or leaves ya fretting about those
little ones until Spring. < =/
here in 9a winter sow did not work for me. They all sprouted too quickly or not at all. Now I have better luck with putting the seeds in the freezer and sowing indoors about 2 months before I want to plant. sometimes here the spring leaves push off the brown leaves from the year before. This is especially true for live oak. My maple tree hasn't even turned color yet and half the leaves are still on the Tallow treel. That is right now. With this wind we are getting, they will probably be all on the ground by tomorrow.
There's a gator season that fits in there somewhere too, no? =) I hear gator is really yummy; do you get to eat it? That's on my "Would Love To Try One Day" list.
One of the "biggies" to remember about winter sowing is that not all seeds are alike, and some won't necessarily do well with winter sowing in some zones, no matter what. In a warmer climate like yours, Steadycam, if you've got seeds that give you any indication at all that they'll need cold stratification, then, for you, they wouldn't work well winter sown, you have to do like you've been doing; throw 'em in the fridge or freezer for a while first. Those indications could be anything from actual instructions ("needs stratification", "needs pre-chilling", stuff like that), to the name of the flower/plant itself ("Siberian", "Mountain", "Desert"... names that indicate where they grow naturally and what those conditions are like).
Of course the reverse is true as well. Seeds that indicate a warmer clime, like ones with the word "African", would not necessarily work being winter sown in, say, a zone 3b.
I am constantly amazed at our Mother (nature, that is). I think that is what makes gardening so much fun. There is hardly anything more exciting for me than waiting for seeds to come up!!! And waiting for fruit or veggies to form? Wow, better than TV any day.
[quote="steadycam3"]I am constantly amazed at our Mother (nature, that is). I think that is what makes gardening so much fun. There is hardly anything more exciting for me than waiting for seeds to come up!!! And waiting for fruit or veggies to form? Wow, better than TV any day.[/quote]
I could not agree more with you on that one. We are all from the earth and being in tune with our planet through the beautiful act of gardening is a gift.
What sorts of ways do you cook yours? Not meaning to totally derail the whole point of the thread here, I'd also enjoy you keeping us posted on how your winter sowing adventures unfold as well. :)
Enjoying nature and working in/with it... sorta like language(s), there are always so many variables, always something new to learn, always something fun and different and exciting. (yeah, more so with nature than with language.. but, work with me here!) ;) I think it's the trillions of variances and suprises that keep me hooked. :)