I am a little confused. This is going to be my first year WSing. My husband asks me why he can't just plant the seeds directly in the garden, if they can be winter sown outside anyway. What do I tell him? And I would like to WS Zinnias. I love them and it's not cheap to buy a ton of pony packs from the nurseries. So it would be GREAT to be able to grow them from seed. Can I WS them also, or should I just wait til the weather warms up and plant the seed directly in the ground since they are an annuals here and don't seem to reseed. I hope these questions don't sound too stupid, but I am kind of confused. Any advice, encouragement or info will be greatly appreciated!
To WS this is what it says on Trudi's web site. I am also including a link to it.
Look for these terms:
Needs Pre-chilling (freeze seeds, refrigerate seeds, stratify for x amount of day or weeks), Needs Stratification, Will Colonize, Self Sows, Sow outdoors in early Autumn, Sow outdoors in early Spring while nights are still cool, Sow outdoors in early Spring while frosts may still occur, Hardy Seeds, Seedlings can withstand frost, Can be direct sown early, Wildflower, Weed (such as butterfly weed, joe pye weed, jewel weed)
Sherry: I love zinnias, too. I'm planning to WS some.
You can certainly direct sow. If you've had good results with it in the past, go for it. I've done it, too, and results were pretty good. But some seeds wash out, some will end up where I really don't want them. They won't be protected from frost, either, without the container to protect them. Therefore, they'll be a little safer earlier in the season in your zone 5. You can sow earlier and give those roots a head start before your last frost date. Or birds and tree rats (squirrels) might pick up your seeds and deposit them in your neighbor's flower beds. It does save a lot of work, but the whole thing is just less controlled. WS increases the odds.
I might direct sow a few later, though. Experimenting is fun. I hope you'll try to WS at least some seeds. After all, you do get to play in the dirt in winter!
Tell your hubby that you can direct sow if you have enough seeds...maybe 10x more to get the same number of plants you'd get with wintersowing. Birds, water, wind, soil shifting, etc., all take their toll on seeds when they are left to their own devices. If you are purchasing seeds or if you traded for them, you won't have enough to direct sow and get the 90% losses associated with it, but if you collected your own, and have millions, then go for it.
Zinnias *do* reseed. And that's probably a perfect example of what I am saying above. If you had a nice stand of zinnias last year, and didn't deadhead, you will get plants from those seeds as long as you don't mulch, didn't have a gullywasher carry the seeds off, didn't have a gullywasher pull too much soil over the seeds, don't have birds, etc. -- and this is over 2 whole seasons - fall and winter. On direct sowing or wintersowing (and this is for Zinnias, marigolds, Cosmos, and Nasturtiums) you are protected from rain and animals, and it's only for a month, not 2 whole seasons.
For Zinnias, because they are so quick, you want to wintersow them the very last...which I believe will technically make it "springsowing", in this case referring to a wintersowing procedure done after the calendar rolls over Mar 21. This will give you a jump, so, your flowers will be earlier than direct sowing, but later than buying from a garden center. Make sense?
For zinnias, even direct sowing is better than the stupid mixed color pony packs at the garden center if for no other reason than you get to pick your height and color when you choose your flowers from seed! And don't get me started on the Swizzle series of Zinnias! I saw 4" pots at my garden centers selling one Swizzle plant for $4.95!! I started laughing right there in the annuals aisle! A zinnia for $4.95!!!
I am too lazy to look up your town on a map, but going from what I have read from other people in Washington, you have mild winters, yes, but your growing season is about as long as it is here (last frost about Apr 20). If you direct sow your zinnias, you have to wait until the soil really warms up, say May 1-15 to sow. BUT if you'd start those seeds outside, but under a clear cover in their own personal greenhouse (like a milk jug or other WS container), you can sow them 4-6 weeks early. Also, you can place the plants exactly where you want them instead of where the seed falls as in direct sowing.
This took a lot of words to say something very simple, didn't it?