I want to thank all the experienced wintersowers on DG who shared their advice and gave encouragement to everyone's Wintersowing Project this year. It made it a lot of fun to share together our trials and tribulations about getting our seedlings going.
I thought it might be a good idea to make a list of all the 'Lessons Learned' this year while Wintersowing in Zone 6A. This is the third year for WSing for me, and with every year's experience, I am getting a little better at it. (I'm a slow learner.)
So here's my list of mistakes/changes, lessons learned, and please add your own list of Winter Sowing "Lessons Learned"
1. Make permanent labels. Use a truly indelible pen and keep a container ID list in my files. Plastic labels don't work. with Sharpies.
2. Try to find a sunnier location--maybe dappled sun/shade would be the best.
3. Don't overplant the containers with too many seeds.
4. If I use aluminum roasting pans, for containers I should make a tent of the plastic Zip Loc covering. Not let it lay on the soil
5. Must make plenty of drainage slits to accommodate spring downpours. Drainage. Drainage. Drainage.
6. Don't fret so much over the seeds and seedlings. "Take the Wintersowing Leap of Faith"!!!
That's it for me (right now). What about everybody else? I know there are lots of good tips to pass along!
tabasco...thanks for the lessons learned...I just started wintersowing this year. The milk jugs worked great for me and I am looking forward to a back porch full of jugs next winter. I plan to sow in January. HM
I sowed so many containers that I never got around to the veggies!! soo, I broke down and bought them!! I'm still not happy about it and may still start some real soon that will be late producers, but oh well, we do the best we can. If was a great thing to learn to do this year and next year I will have a 'tighter" list of what to sow as well.
I think I've finally got the actual wintersowing down (finally). But I need to make myself clean out my beds in the fall and not wait for spring. It seems to be race to see if I can get my beds ready before my seedlings start crawling out of their containers. Also, I need to mark each of my planted perennials when I plant them (not just one tag for the whole planting)...so I don't weed them next spring. I bought three packages of shishkebob sticks just for that reason.
Possibly, I may want to cut down on how many containers I do? Hmmm...that's a hard one...especially if Valueseeds is still around next winter.
OK- Lesson # 99 will come first. Do not put Dahlia seedlings that you slaved over since February into the garage on a frosty night without covering them. Mice, chipmunks, something has eaten them entirely up. They are gone, kaput, vanished. I learned this lesson 2 nights ago.
Lesson # 98. Do not water seedlings with too strong a H2O2 solution no matter how tempting it is to follow the - If a Little is Good, More is Better philosophy. The seedlings will turn brown and die.
Lesson # 97. When the roots are a visible tangled mass at the bottom of the container, it might be time to pot them up, or plant them out.
Lesson # 96. Do not plant out little seedlings in the sun without giving them a tent of some kind to protect them for a few days. No matter how hardened off they are, they weren't ready for that.
Lesson # 95. Whatever happens, smile. It was all a lot of fun.
- keep containers covered until second set of leaves.
-make a list of favorites from this year so I can sow more of them next year.
-mark the bottom of containers and even put a plastic marker in the container. When I moved containers around - I separated the lids from the bottoms - duh!!!
-use mostly milk/water gallon jugs for large sowings and large poland spring bottles for sowing a few seeds. Quart milk containers worked well too especially for tempermental plants like dill.
-plant more seeds!!!
Tie twine around my jugs! I had about 40 1/2-gal milk jugs and 2-liter soda bottles on my patio table...a strong winter wind came and knocked several of them off, disturbing the soil...I am having seeds sprout in the strangest locations in the containers!!!! After a couple of those "wind" episodes, I tied twine around the entire circumference of the group of jugs, and that stabilized them for the remainder of the winter.
Second lesson learned: Winter sowing works and is well-worth the effort :-) !
I've finished mourning the dahlia seedlings. I don't know if I can go at it again this year its probably too late. Drat. But on a brighter note I wanted to add a few good things I learned this year.
1. You really need the 4" of soil in a container especially if you WS early. The root systems are much more developed than I thought and shallow soil ends up stunting the growth of the top of the plant.
2. That said, for something that can be planted out early, the take out containers that a rotisserie chicken comes in were hands down the best containers I used. The high dome accomplished all the good stuff - air circulation, retaining moisture, letting in the right amount of light, and are easy to pop on and off. The other really good containers were clear deli containers, and paper ice cream cartons. I liked the ice cream cartons more than the milk jugs but we didn't have a heavy snow year so the hard protection of the milk jug would be good in snow conditions. The lid of the paper ice cream container - like a Healthy Choice carton, can be cut out, then you lay plastic wrap over it and put the lid back on and poke a few holes. It holds the plastic wrap very tightly and is easier to get on and off than the milk jug tops.
3. I will put my containers in more sun faster next year.
4. I will WS earlier and repeat more often. Although I had 100% germination and all containers eventually caught up with each other, I lost some due to various causes - tipping, guest waterers, rodents! etc.
5. Get a little Perlite or fine sand to sprinkle over the top of really fine seeds. Even though I have a seedling waterer, I ended up washing the seeds off to one side of the container and they clumped up.
6. A tomato grower gave a good bit of advice to avoid the seeds washing to one side, and that is to thoroughly wet your medium the day before you sow, and then let the containers stand a day. If they are good and wet there will be no need to water right away.
7. I would like to continue experimenting with watering with H2O2 when the seedlings are up. I reported before that several seedlings really responded well like delphinium, dahlia, nepeta, shasta daisy, violas. Others, like perennial poppies were nearly killed by it. I was not careful about my measurement of the H2O2.
8.I used new Pro-Mix that had fertilizer in the mix and was satisfied with the results. I think the constant dampness probably caused compaction in the peat component so if I use Pro-Mix again I will fill the containers more so there is still good soil depth by spring.
9. I found big plastic serving trays at the Dollar Store and put my containers on them. It made it a lot easier to move them around when I needed to. Which I did because I laid this all out on my deck.
10. A friend told me that the only containers she lost or didn't get good germination were those she didn't bleach to sterilize. So I soaked all my containers in dilute bleach water before using. I know others just wash with soapy water but I didn't have any trouble with germination or damping off.
11. I sowed 19 kinds of seeds and I felt like I didn't do much compared to others. But now that its planting time I'm glad I started kind of small this year. Starting small is ok which has never ever been my motto in the past but this year I was glad.
For next year I am definitely going to WS my annuals. I look at flats of annuals in a whole new light this spring. I need to find out how to store the leftover seeds from last year and would like to hear from others about how they do that.
I really had a great time with this project. It passed the winter months very wonderfully. I kept the laundry room dirty with bags of soil and trays of containers.
One more lesson I'm discovering -- don't plant in containers that are narrower at the top than the bottom -- even a little bit. I had some large plastic dog treat jars -- they're very wide, so I thought they would work , but the openings are a bit smaller than the width of the jars -- makes transplanting difficult, to say the least!
My lesson learned: covering the seeds is not necessary. This is my first year WS'g so maybe I just had beginner's luck but I put all of my seeds in Pro-Mix potting mix in large 2" deep cheap aluminum cooking pans with some small drain holes punched in the pans' bottoms. I put the pans, without any covering on top, on our patio table. I had at least an 80% germination rate. Next year, to make transplanting easier, I probably will put the seeds in peat pots and bury the pots in potting mix in the aluminum pans. But I do not plan on covering the pans.
This thread's great! I didn't get around to winter sowing this year (could NOT find my box of seeds!!).
I can tell you that Sharpie markers fade in the sun, big time. You need to use something truly indelible, such as a Zig paint marker or another paint marker. There are various brands, but they're the kind you have to shake to mix and pump the nib a few times to prime - they'll say on them that they're non-fading and waterproof.
Yardman, didn't your soil dry out? Were you watering alot? I agree about the peat pots. Sure would make separation easier.
What I did to mark mine, I used those coffee stir sticks from Starbucks and then I wrapped that new Glad Seal and Store around the top of the stick. You know, the stuff that sticks to itself but is easy to handle? I think that's what it is called. Anyway, lasted through the season.
Gosh, with only two inches of soil I would have been transplanting in late January!
By the way, I still have lobelia cardinalis seedlings in wintersowing containers. They look fine, but I'm afraid to do anything to them. The first batch I planted out died almost instantly! And I put them right next to a living lobelia cardinalis, so I know the site is appropriate. Where did I go wrong?
Two years ago I did 100 containers and had 80% germination. I used Miracle gro moisture control that I got on sale the end of summer before ( you can't find big bags of potting soil over the winter). The miracle gro worked great. This winter I plan on doing veggies. And am limiting it to 50 containers!
beaker_ch: No, I did not water the seeds. I ignored them (except for occasionally peeking at the trays through our kitchen windows) until the daytime temps started to go up into the 60s. Then I started to monitor the potting mix's moisture level and misted as necessary to maintain the proper moisture level.
Suggestion for seed labelling: buy a box or two of the cheap, plastic, multi-colored toothpicks. Stick toothpicks of one color around one type of seed. Then simply write yourself some notes about which toothpick color corresponds to which type of seed. The toothpicks should not fade that much, if at all, over winter and your notes are safe in the house. If there are not enough toothpick colors for all of your seeds, then draw a rough sketch the positions of the seed contains in your yard and then define the color/seed correlation by container.
Missgarney, do you think the ones in the containers were used to more moisture? Were they in the same amount of sun as they one growing in your garden? Maybe they need to be acclimated to the sun before putting them in the ground?
Good idea with the toothpicks, Yardman. I bet one could fold pieces of duct tape over the ends of the toothpicks and write on them with a paint marker, too.
Lobelia cardinalis is a shade-lover. I would have to say that the seedlings should have been much happier where I planted them. The container was subject to all kinds of abuse! It had been in blazing sun, had gone without water, and yet the seedlings looked great. Then, I planted them where conditions were just right for them, and they died. I'm starting to wonder if they weren't misidentified at some stage. The second container of seedlings is now on the counter next to the kitchen sink. I'm stymied. I'm afraid to transplant and watch them die.
gardenwife --- you must have much better penmanship than I do, ha. By the time you make the duct tape strip small enough to go around the toothpick and still have enough toothpick to securely stick it into place, that duct tape strip would have to be awfully narrow - much too narrow for me to legibly write on. I would need a BIG piece of tape to make my writing legible, ha.
I sowed so many flower seeds for the last 3 months and I still don't have one healthy plant. They still look like the first week they geminated (only one set of leaves). I tried plant lights to fertilizer but nothing would work for me. My kitchen is full of peat pots, plant pots, plant lights, heating lights, and baby plants. It has been months now and I'm getting so discouraged. I tried to move my babies to different places in the house but no luck either. They are still standing still and looking just like two weeks old. What did I do wrong?? I'm in zone 7B but my baby plants are sowed indoor so that shouldn't make any difference right? I read gardening magazines, searched the internet , and followed every steps in sowing seeds but I just could not get it right. I'm so obsessed with my babies that I literally sit next to them and watch them grow. They're not growing; as matter of fact, they're not doing anything. Please help me!!
Elaine, Not sure I can help but let me get the info correct.
Your seeds germinated then stopped growing? Are they still alive? Very sick looking or just just small. The most common problem with seedlings is damping off but then you would notice your plants collapsing. Are you growing something very slow growing (some perennials)? Are they sown in seed starting mix, potting mix, soil from outside?
Are you sure they are not growing or are you just watching them so closely that you've not giving them the time? What are you growing? I have some things in wintersown pots that have been itsy bitsy for months. Do they look healthy?
Have you tried reading threads in the propagation forum with folsk that grow indoors? That may help too.. I'm all outdoors seed grower myself.
You likely need sun and also possibly deeper soil for the roots to stretch out. I sowed cilantro and basil in 3" of soil in containers and they did nothing at all except make the first set of leaves. Finally when the weather turned hot the cilantro started to grow. But when I put them out into their permanent locations they immediately started growing. Had the same thing happen with 3 types of Shasta daisies and also delphiums. They just weren't growing till they were put out. Since you're in TX you should probably set up something to shade the little seedlings till they get established.
Are the plants a nice green color and fairly sturdy looking, albeit small? Is it just a matter of them not getting larger that is the problem? If so, they need to be potted on or transplanted. They need room.
If they are yellowing, leggy, limp, etc...that would be a different matter.
Hey Dave. Here are the seeds that didn't sprout for me.
Plumbago - harvested from my yard
Crepe Myrtle - harvested from wild
Malva Rose - I did two containers - one did one didn't.
Texas Blue Bonnet - old seed
Marigold - will try again next year
I did well with the Brandywine Tomatoes - actually all my veggies did well.
Re- seedlings not growing and root size: I allowed Verbena bonariensis to reseed in one of the beds I use for annuals so I'd have some plants this year. Last night I dug them out and was quite surprised at the size of the root systems vs the tops. Good lesson learned for me. The tops were anywhere from 1" to 4" tall but the roots went about 3-4" down. The seedlings came up in blocks just they do when they are thickly wintersown.
Another lesson I've learned... I don't currently have a gardening staff and will need to sow in place more for annuals next year.. I will water babies if needed and let them come up as they would naturally and thin out... As much as I've been adverse to pulling out perfectly great plants, it's much much better than having to mess with transplanting as many from wintersown pots. I wintersowed SO much, that I STILL on June 4th, have seedlings in the wintersown pots. I predict that at the end of the season there will still be plants that never got out of the pots. I will focus on a much more tighter list of annuals and grow more perennials from seed. I also will sow lighter and not as densely.
Haven't WS yet but am beginning my container collection as we speak:) I always buy tons of seeds and due to disappointing spring planting and germination I give up and buy bedding and perennial plants. I'm actually going to give Sweet Peas one more try using winter sowing.
Thanks for all the great advice and tips.
I was just looking at my WS spreadsheet from last year and remember another thing I promised myself to do differently. I will not number my containers but will ID them with names. With nearly 100 containers, I got totally confused as to which number referred to which seeds. I plan on using duct tape around the bottoms of the containers with the plant name written on with a cow tag marker pen (super permanent). If the tops get switched or blown off it won't matter.
I have a million questions, but I think the first and foremost (without you giving me an Excel class) is to ask how you learned all the various tips and tricks for germiantion. The H2O2 information specifically. I have never seen any reference for seeds, except on a onsie twosie basis on the seed starting forum. Certainly nothing that would cover all the seeds I'll be starting next year.
Yes, it's just Excel. As for the tips, etc. virtually all came from DG. Either the plant files or the WS forum. Some too reading in [HYPERLINK@www.wintersown.org] and other sites I googled. Some of the seed sellers have excellent references too. There was a huge thread on using H2O2 for seed starting I referred to.
happy, most of it is using the shapes feature. Some of the shapes are sort of freehand, after you have your basic shape you can change/adjust using edit points. I strongly advise going through the tutorial a couple of times.
I also have my plants on an Excel file; I have more info on them than Katy does, but mine isn't nearly as user friendly and makes no attempt to be pretty. I bet a lot of others also use Excel in one form or another. I'm happy to help -- but it would be hard to draw the line between an Excel tutorial and instruction specific to gardening. Maybe it would be better to just have a thread where people could pose questions specific to Excel -- and maybe that is all you were talking about, Tabasco. Initially I thought you were proposing a tutorial.
Where do you all keep your records? I couldn't keep a record without Excel. Actually I don't think I really kept records without Excel altho for a while I kept a really fun diary - the prob is - if you don't write in it the pages are blank. If anybody wants a copy I have a great template to track bloomtimes of all your plants every year. Here is a sample of what the data input page looks like. Edited to put the periods in to hold the place in this msg.
Plant Name...Start Date...NUMBER OF BLOOM DAYS
HELLEBORUS ORIENTALIS...1/5/2006... ..130
PULMONARIA Reginald Kay...4/11/2006...45
This picture might not work - in real life the spreadsheet doesn't have a black background and I don't know how to create a JPEG file out of an Excel spreadsheet.
And you can buy 1 cubic foot containers (about 30 quarts) of the MG Moisture Control Potting Mix at Ace Hardware, at 10.99. It's not on sale, but still seems like a better deal than the 8 quart bags. I recall reading that the mix is better than the "soil." You can order it on-line and they'll deliver it to a local hardware store, which makes it easy (if not cheap).
I'm going to start pinching blossoms on the Black Cherry plants, so no more fruit will set. Hopefully, I won't get stuck with too many greenies. We'll fry a few, but that's it. The rest will get composted.
I just checked and I see a few sprouts in my hardy cyclamen bottle too. Now what? They are small and we may get our first frost anytime now. Should I plant them in the soil now? Maybe keep the top half of the bottle over them for the winter?
Since it has not been mentioned on this thread...I found that the best way to make drainage holes in plastic containers was with a soldering iron. Not only was it easier than trying to cut slits with scissors or a utility knife, but it produced containers with more consistent drainage. Some of my containers did not drain well, but the ones with the soldering iron holes all drained just right. Now I just need to track down my soldering iron.
Do you think gallon jugs and 2L bottles could be secured closed by using a hole punch or awl on 2 or 3 sides both top and bottom and using floral or jewelry wire or twist ties? I'm trying this for the first time this year and have been taking notes from all of your great advice and tips.
I plan to use a lot of orange juice cartons only because my DH drinks so much oj! I'm not certain about how to cut it. Three sides to make a hinge and leave the little cap off. But what kind of tape would be good to use to close the cut sides once the seeds are sown? Any suggestions or horror stories about using orange juice containers ? (edit to say they're the 2 qt size)
OK. I caught the WS bug. Too hard to resist after reading all your posts. I'm going to try it for the first time. I'm thinking of putting some seeds directly into a large planter where I can leave some of them to grow up. Any advice about that? How to cover them, etc.
Also, I read on ws.org about using only ziploc baggies for the containers. I know it's not recycling, but I will only do a few. Does anyone have any baggie-only experience? Thanks.
I was talking about just to germinate them in the egg carton cups then move them to something bigger or would it disturb them too much. I was thinking about really tiny seeds. I was also talking about the styrofoam cups because I had read that pots needed to be sterilized and I figured that the stryofoam cups would be clean and they would be large enough but I didn't know if they would be bad to use for some other reason.
I guess you could, but I'm lazy and wouldn't want to bother with the transplanting. I used gallon water jugs and I didn't sterilize them. I had incredible germination rates and can't wait to try this method again.
Yes you do put them out and leave them out for the winter and the advantages include getting a jump on the growing season, having a more developed root system, and having your plants hardened off (although I'm not sure what that means for you in zone 8a).
I would think an un heated greenhouse, like a cold frame, would be similar.
except that you would have to take care of them all winter with watering. Leaving them unattended outside is the whole idea!! It's great!! I never thought anything could be simpler. I tried to think too much into it last year and all I did was drive myself crazy. I finally said, what the hay, and just put the seeds in the gallon containers and put them outside. The miracle of mother nature was shared with me that next spring. The container is acting like the greenhouse. If you haven't already, you would greatly benefit checking out this website http://www.wintersown.org/ .
Has anyone had luck doing this in flats? I have so many pots and trays, but I really would rather not have to find a cover for them...I would prefer to just plant, leave them on the deck and see what happens...anyone tried that? I know that is really neglient gardening...but mother nature doesn't provide greenhouse effect either..so I was curious...anyone? Thanks...
The biggest problem with standard flats is that they will dry out very quickly. Most people recommend a container that can hold 4" of potting mix and my experience agrees. I tried wintersowing in trays with about 2" of soil. My success rate in those trays was about 50% while it was about 95% for my milk jugs containers.
I would say to anyone asking about the different containers - try it. You've got nothing to lose. I think in general, most of us that have tried this method before used the suggested containers and method of sowing from http://www.wintersown.org/ with great success. That doesn't mean that what you wish to try won't work.
I found that using dry medium right out of the bag turned out badly because when I watered the seeds in they were washed over to the side of the container and I got clumps of seedlings. Somebody on the tomato forum said they thoroughly soaked their soil before scattering the seeds on. They probably stick more easily to the surface of the soil if its wet than if its dry.
Ditto on the 4" of soil. I lost some seedlings because my containers were too shallow and they got rootbound. If they've got depth they will use it. I had delphium seedlings that had nice long 6" roots that came out of a milk jug.
Container wise, if you use pots you have to make tops for them. If you cover the entire top, you are going to have to water. That is why milk jugs and 2 litre soda bottles work so well. When you leave the top off you allow for air and for rain to get through.
Don't forget drainage holes in the bottom too.
Quoting:Container wise, if you use pots you have to make tops for them. If you cover the entire top, you are going to have to water.
I thought the slits you put into covered pots kept you from having to water them, at least that is the way I read it on the winter sow site, or are you talking about something totally different that my tired eyes missed :o)
Thanks for clearing that up for me... I have some pots I am going to be using also... And I don't like having to get out in the cold anymore than I have too lol. But I really like the idea of WSing, If seeds germinate, it really saves alot of time in the Spring after the last frost is over... The only work then is making the beds and planting, I can get use to that lol...
I've never WS'ed before (though I plan to this year), but I would think one additional benefit of using a plastic jug or bottle is that the contents would have a fairly high humidity level, even with the holes in the top. That would be harder to attain if you used a garden pot with a top on it unless you can manage a close fit or put the whole pot in a plastic bag. Just a thought -- whatever works, works!
1. Someone earlier this year said that they don't bother with a cover and they just have them out on the deck with good success. I would think there would be a big risk of losing plants to spring frosts once the seed germinates or to drying out if not closely watched. I guess it would depend on where you lived whether this might work for you.
2. Another person said (who lives in an appartment I think) that they had good success with 4" pots that they lined up in a windowbox. They used vinyl window shade slats to make a support; sticking each end into the pot to the bottom. They then used a baggie they duct taped to the the pot. I think I also saw a setup with a plastic bag twist-tied at the top, but also using the vinyl slats. Alot more work than a plastic jug or bottle IMHO.
Basically, you can use whatever you like as long as you can get about 4" of soil, can provide openings for moister and the container lets light in. You need to try this for yourself and then determine where you can improve. Until then it's a leap of faith.
I think I'm going the 2L bottle and gal. jug route as those are in abundance for me. I guess if someone wasn't sure they could try a variety of methods during their first try and see what turns out best. I think pretty much every options has been covered and I haven't seen alot of postings for poor results:LOL:
I am really excited to try this so I can avoid the guilt of turning serial killer (seedling style) in the spring. It's almost cruel how I care for and nurture those fragile little things then manage to massacre them before they even see the outdoors:LOL:
This will definitely be better for my conscience!
Yeah, I'm a serial killer, too. Now I can leave for Spring Break. That's what stoppped me from starting from seed...the first week of April is always Spring Break and after the first massacre, I just quit sowing. My oldest kid is 21 LOL so it's been 15 years since I've tried!
Oh, I try every year, then just wait, sow outdoors when the weather breaks and then go to the nursery to buy some other stuff. Then I sort through my seeds and catalogs and come here/eBay and buy or trade seeds so I can start again the next season.
Seems kinda sick, once its all said and done:LOL: My karma may improve just by trying wintersowing!
I have a question about the idea of winter sowing...which I an anxious to try, but have mixed feelings. I think if I understand it better I could make a better decision. (Greenhouse vs wintersowing) My question inviolves the very basics of the wintersowing idea, and the more I read about it the more I question this. I understand that the idea is to use the normal course of nature to assist the seeds in germinating at the proper time. If that is correct then why do we need to cover the containers?
A reason here at my place is that a giant gusher of a rain would come along and displace all the seeds. And the cover can create a microclimate that would hurry them along a little bit. BUT if I had a greenhouse, I don't think I'd need to wintersow!
I'm apartment gardening and it's easier for me to do all the WS in one location. There are different growing conditions in each of the three areas in which I would plant something. The front bed is only half exposed due to the eaves hanging over, the back is a patio enclosed by a 6 ft tall brick wall on 2 sides and partially where the entryway forms, the side garden is just where I've dug out along the side of the building (I'm on an end apartment) and it is slightly sunken and alot of waterproof clay, very little sun and against a huge brick building. I plan to do my sowing on the patio and to move the plants from there to their new homes once they are ready.
If I had a greenhouse, well, chances are I'd have my dream home and still have to WS aside from the greenhouse because I'd have the room for all the plants I ever wanted:LOL:
yardqueen, I think the idea is not needing a greenhouse, growlights, or expensive systems ( you don't have to go to the expense or hassle) and having the tops of the containers keeps the moisture in. Once they sprout and you don't have tops on they can dry out in hours and say goodbye to them as that will kill them faster than anything. I don't want the hassle of watering those pots everyday and during the winter I NEVER water them. Only in the spring do I start watering them. I need EASY and this made it really easy and I get lots of plants. Plus I've noticed I may direct sow tons of seeds and only get one or two plants. With winter sowing I get hundreds of plants that do not need hardening off.
Last year I did 50 containers and had about 85% germination rate. The containers that did the worst were the thin plastic that some fruit comes in. The best were the 2 litre and milk jugs. I am reusing all those containers this year.
So if I want to wintersow I could do it in an unheated greenhouse, the only disadvantage would be no rain, but advantages would be no wind and less chance of animals or other pests.(I live in the country) So could that work?
If so then seeds that require stratification I could wintersow in the unheated greenhouse, and other seeds I could start in the heated greenhouse in late winter. Does that sound like a good plan? This is my first year with a greenhouse and I am actually going to have a second unheated one before winter. It is also my first time to go crazy with seeds...I always buy my plants at wal-mart, home depot, or other nurseries and do not plant seeds at all.
Well lucky you! Someday I'm going to set up a greenhouse.
I'm no expect but I'll try to help you out with your thought process.
The wintersowing container is essentially a mini cold frame (unheated greenhouse). By keeping the containers in YOUR cold frame covered you'll keep them in a humid environment (the humidity well also help germination) so they won't need to be watered so often. And they will be safe from animals! My solution to that problem is to entrench my wintersowing area with cinderblocks and lay a sheet of garden cloth (a heavy wire grid) over it that has been framed and weighed down with rocks. I still need to figure out how to keep the slugs out though! You and are have the same zone, so we both enjoy quite mild winters. I think wintersowing would be very successful for you, as it is for me. I do most of my sowing in the fall and mid-winter. With the few tender annuals that go in pots, started in my plant window in the kitchen under a chick brooding lamp!
I think the only other things you should be aware of is to maintain good circulation and watch for damping off. It helps to start with sterile containers and occasionally water with chamomile tea or a weak solution of H2O2. I lost a lot of seedlings to damping off before I learned that trick
I think you'll enjoy sowing seeds yourself as opposed to buying plants in pots. It's like raising a puppy or a kitten instead of buying a full grown animal. There is just so much more joy and attatchment!
This year's important lesson to me is remembering that Winter Sowing really is all about watching and following Mother Nature--not just the cycles of the season, but keeping my eyes open for what is growing in my area. A few days ago I took a walk at a nature center with my husband and seeing all the native plants going to seed reminded me that it's important to sow plants that thrive here, but to not sow plants that might be invasive. We need to use some wisdom and not get carried away with the compulsive urge to sow every seed we can find. ;-O
In response to this I made a few webpages over the weekend to help maintain this concept. There are several WS forums, blogs and discussions popping up across the internet and it's vital to the WS movement that we don't ever become a venue for spreading invasives--that would not be good at all, no no no. The first page has some common sense advice, but most important, at the base of the page are some good links for reference. The second page is a table of North American Links for depts of natural resources, state and province parks, and museums of natural history. All of these links will be regional starting points where WSers can learn more about their native environment, geology, weather patterns, etc so they can begin sowing plants that are beneficial and most importanty, so they can sow plants which are not harmful to our local ecological systems.
Thank you--that's the first time I ever made a table.
I certainly learned a lot about North America too while I made it. I have to admit that I had never heard of Nunuvat--I don't remember that province from eons back when I was in grade school. Some states, when you go looking for their department of natural conservation, seem to have it grouped in with the fishing and hunting license agency--I had to hunt for it ;-) You would think that every state should/would have something vaguely named "natural history museum" but that also isn't so. In some cases, like California or NY, which have a few NHMs, and all of very good quality, I usually took the highest position site on google. RI, doesn't have, per se, a NHM, but has a system of linked museums. WV, has a few excellent museums, but I selected the one "in the park" because it was a natural setting. It took several days, to find and source the links for the table.
The other links, the ones that link to gardening and extension information take a while to select. You can google "butterfly garden extension" and get dozens of hits, but not all have info that dovetails well with WS. I was delighted to find a page of IPM links from Mich.State that was made by a fellow named Randy Heatly. Randy is the grand-daddy of extension websites. It was his ideas and concepts and hard work that made the very first extension site. A few years back, at a conference in Beltsville, I was going to facilitate at a group discussion led by Randy, so I thought "Oh cool. I'll hand out papers and listen in." But he sat down with his coffee, gave me the flo-marker and said, "Here Trudi, you do it. I'm retiring." ;-O I'm very fortunate to have worked with him that day--a few minutes one on one with his mind helped me solve some conceptual problems with WinterSown.Org, since then, what was hard is now easy.
These databases are just a few years old and as such are not complete or entirely reflective of plants which can be WinterSown. It will take at least a decade before any particualr plant can be ruled out for WS.
I received some yellow tree peony seeds in the mail and was wondering how I should plant these. do I soak them over night and put in container and place in the fridge? Our weather temps are in the 50's is this cold enought to start winter sowing seeds now?
My lilac bushes have buds on them along with a few other things, seeds are starting to come up in the garden already and hollyhocks and Irises. My dh's climbing roses have buds on them...
This is my very first time to WS.
I am at a loss as when I should start WSing with our temps being so warm and looks like we are not going to have the really hard cold spells we usually get this time of year...
Thanks Susan! It's a work in process and a labor of love, sometimes more labor than love. I was talking on the phone with a friend in MD today and he said that I am married to WinterSown.Org--in many ways I think he is right.
This is the perfect time to sow your tree peony seeds. They will benifit from the initial warm weather followed by freezes and thaws and then more warm weather. Germination is likely going to be staggered and eratic, you may be nursing your pot of seeds and seedlings for many months into summer and autumn before they all sprout--sometimes a few sprout a year later. Sigh. The best thing to do with any seed known for erratic germination is to sow them into a larger container with good depth of soil, this way you don't become a slave to its needs for water. If you have a patio planter that is self-watering you've got a great container for the purpose. After the first seedlings germinate you can remove them to a bed or another container and overseed the remaining seedlings with alyssum and petunias so you can still use that container while it babysits your unsprouted seeds until they sprout--whenever.
Okay Trudi one more question - This is my first year to WS, and I was really excited about it and then this weather we are having has me baffled...
I have quite a few seeds that need the cold stratification, would it be okay to go a head and start sowing these now even with the temps in the 50's? I don't want to get a head of myself and then lose them... (I am good for doing that)
I have got plants that are already coming up and my dh's climbing roses is starting to bud again along with all my lilac bushes...
This has got to be the most strangest of winters we have had in a long while... if ever!!
Sorry Trudi, I lied, I have one more question, I was going to email you from your website and ask it but thought there might be some that are newbies to WSing that would want to know also...
My hubby bought me the organic garden soil to do my winter sowing with, it is a very heavy and rich soil, My question is - would it be a good idea to add some peat to it? or does it matter? (sorry thats 2 questions :)
I am not Trudi but...what brand is your "organic garden soil"? Does it give an indication of the ingredients? If it is the Miracle-Gro brand, I see that their label has the vague statement:
Quoting:This product is regionally formulated with organic materials (derived from one or more of the following: forest products or compost), sphagnum peat, composted manure and pasteurized, pelleted poultry litter. In California, regionally formulated from forest products, compost, sphagnum peat, composted manure and pasteurized, pelleted poultry litter.
A product like this would probably work fine for wintersowing but it seems to be designed more as a direct soil amendment. I would play around with it some to test the drainage (I might be a little worried about weed seeds as well). Adding perlite or vermiculite would help the drainage. In general I would recommend using a product that is specifically designed for potted plants or seed starting.
It seems to me the principal cost of WSing is buying all the high quality dirt. Has anyone figured out a way to do it right, but economically? I gather using compost isn't the best idea. Of course a sterlized potting soil will become unsterile in a few minutes sitting outside, but I assume it is still far safer to use than compost (which I otherwise adore) for seed starting, because of disease, fungus, etc. The good seed starting mixes cost a fortune. Should I get Pro-mix by the bale?
Happy - I purchased 2 bales of Pro-mix and might need to get 1 more before I'm done. Mine were about $25 each and are the compressed 3.7 cubic bales. After hearing the lousy results from using cheap stuff I'm biting the bullet and just going with what is recommended. I really love the texture of Pro-mix and will probably stick with it in future years.
I'm a little surprised at how much my winter sowing adventure is actually costing me but in the end I'll still be saving a huge amount of money.
You'll probably cringe when I tell you this, but I used soil from my garden for my wintersowing last year. I did have a few weed seedlings, so this year, I just bought some cheap bags of garden soil from Lowe's. I don't know that I would have any better success with any special soil. The seeds that germinated did just fine. It's no different than direct sowing, or what happens when plants self-seed. They germinated in the same soil they would be growing in eventually.
kbaumle: That's great to know. My garden soil is pretty awful -- I constantly amend it with compost -- so that really isn't an option for me. It is horrible clay. And my compost isn't "ripe." So I'm stuck buying something. I have heard that the less expensive bagged soil mixes do not have enough organic material and so they mat down -- I don't know if that is true, but I was cautioned to try to use a soilless mix for that reason. But I have no interest in spending money unnecessarily on, of all things, dirt.
Oh, our soil is clay, too. Believe me. Awful stuff. What I used was the topsoil off the veggie part of the garden, so it wasn't rock hard clay, but that's what we have to work with here. Our town has a clay works factory, making clay tile. What does that tell you? LOL. Actually, they don't manufacture clay tile anymore, but PVC, but they could, if they wanted to. My mom has always said we should be doing pottery instead of gardening. LOL.
I like the Miracle Grow with moisture control too. I don't water my containers until spring and they come out great. I am a little frustrated right now. My containers are outside and we just had two blizzards in the last 3 weeks and I want to plant my seeds already! But right now they are covered in snow. Our snow usually melts off in a 3 days here so I wasn't concerned about getting to them but I haven't started yet and plan to do about 50 containers. I know I have time but I want to get it done now!
au contraire Beaker!! You can count on me to find a way not to do it.. I used spent potting mix a nursery had thrown out.. Got it for $10 a truck load off their mountain... I germinated all kinds of weed seeds. Big mistake.
Trudi: I am so glad you are contributing to this thread -- I know we are in good hands now!
You wrote on your site: "So I look for the biggest and largest bag of soil I can find. It's an economical choice to get the biggest bag because it costs less per pound or quart. Plus, with more soil, I can sow more flats!" Where do you find the cheapest big bags? On-line? (But then there is postage.) Or locally? But my garden centers don't discount bags of soil much . . .
Zenpotter: I didn't realize Costco carried bags of soil. I wonder when they start with the planting supplies? Maybe soon, now that the Holidays are over.
The Home Depot and Lowes garden centers in my area have some pretty huge bags of soil, much larger than what I typically will find at the WM I work at. I haven't tried the smaller nurseries. The ones around here are rather high end so I never think to buy basic soil from them. 1/2 price end of season perennials and hard to find annuals and herb, of course! but not regular stuff. =)
If it is getting slow for you or anyone, please do make a new one... just come back here right away to post the hyperlink to the new thread.. I have been reading this thread and attempting to take in all the good advice herein.. I am sure Judy (tobasco), wouldn't want any of you guys to be held up loading such a long page.. In fact, zen! Thanks for speaking up!! Good timing!
I have both potting soil and ProMix to start a few containers. Which is best? Also how often are you watering? Do you just have drainage holes and water them from the bottom? Clueless but interested.
Teresa in KY
I found the transparent duct tape to be a great improvement so far. Much more flexible than regular duct tape or aluminum. I don't have to worry about tape covering where I wrote the seed type. And it's cheaper than aluminum tape. I'll let you know how it handles the winter and how it removes in spring.