What if I don't get snow?

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I've been saying, "Next year I'm going to WS" ... for years. Well, "next year" has arrived, and I'm gonna do it! I have some questions, though.

1. I'm in zone 6 and we definately spend many winter days below freezing - but we hardly get any snow (well, except for last year). Should I provide additional insulation for my milk jugs? Also, we get LOTS of sun all winter (blessings of the desert), even when it is cold. Should I keep my containers in the shade?

2. How well do sunflowers transplant? I am thinking of sowing them in individual plastic cups (I got a bunch for free) in a plastic "under bed" container. If they don't transplant well, then I may direct sow this winter instead and see what happens.

3. I just planted out all my garlic a few weeks ago (400+ cloves) and I am feeling the urge to sow, sow, sow. We have not yet had our first hard frost. Should I wait, wait, wait until we have stablized into winter? Weeds are sprouting like crazy right now, and I've been "tipping them over" with a light hoeing and hope the cold will zap them. If I plant now, will the seeds think they are supposed to sprout now, too - and then die a freezing death in a few weeks?

Thanks for such a great forum. I've learned a lot by reading the various threads. I fear I will "over plant," however, as I am certain I don't know how not to!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I think with WSing, you have to "be" the seed that falls to the earth. Thinking of what happens in those terms helps you see that it's really a very stress-free undertaking. If a seed fell to your ground and you get no snow, somehow (rain?) the seed got the moisture it needed to come up in the springtime, right.

Regarding insulation, I'm not sure on this one, 'cause I'm in the south with no snow. My jugs stayed in mottled sunshine/shade on top of our spa cover all winter. No insulation whatsoever, but avg. daytime temps were in the 50s-40s. If you think they could use some insulation, you could nestle them together in some cardboard boxes, maybe. But, your daily sunshine should capture enough heat inside to keep the soil nice and warm.

Regarding sunshine or shade, again, "be" the seed. Hmmmmmm. Where did I fall? Some in the sunshine, some in the shade. So, I'd put some jugs in both places until I see which seeds are doing the best and adjust accordingly. Keep in mind, though, that if you get sun all winter, your little milk jug "hothouse" will heat up, so make sure you have many holes drilled in the top for ventilation. If the soil looks like it's drying out, just hit all the jugs with a couple passes of the garden hose. Easiest watering job you'll ever do, with all those holes you drilled in the top of the jugs for air, and in the bottoms for drainage.

Nothing beats a wish but a try. On the sunflowers, go ahead and sow some in your container. If they transplant well, fine. If they don't, direct sow them at the proper time.

What type of seeds are you chomping at to sow, sow, sow? If it's brassicas (cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli), root crops, and greens (including spinach), then, I think you can go for it. You can protect the seedlings from freezes by making clotches with some of your milk jugs or soda bottles until the danger is past. Better still, construct a PVC pipe hoop house (in 15 minutes) over your seed bed and sow to your heart's content! If the freezing temps are dipping for too many days in a row, slip an electric heater or some christmas tree lights (the old fashioned kind that heat up) under the clear plastic cover at night. The soil will have collected heat during the day from all your sunshine, so you can provide a little extra overnight.

Here's a pic of some hoop houses (including mine under the striped sheets -- I was in a hurry and didn't have the clear plastic at the time, but I do now. 4-6 mil plastic should do it for you.

Hope this helps! And, others may come along and confirm or correct what I've posted. It's all good, and we all learn!


P.S. Lemme know if you're interested in details on the PVC hoop house. Piece 'a cake to make!

Thumbnail by Gymgirl
Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

You don't need snow to winter sow. Just water your jugs to keep them from drying out. No need for extra insulation. As for location, I'd put them on the east side of your house and provide some shade for part of the day.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

I'll echo what the gals said... you dont need snow... just COLD. Snow is a good insulator, but not needed.
also, as mentioned - water if the soil is dry and NOT frozen. when it's frozen, it looks dry, but you dont have to water it.

Sunflowers -- I have not had luck with them, partially since the squirrels and bunnies just love munching on the tasty seedlings. it seems the only ones that grow for me are the ones the squirrels bury in the Fall.

They may also be one of those plants that dont like to be transplanted... so if you try them, plant them when they are young, and try not to disturb the roots.

OH -- and we all "over plant" it's just so much fun.

Welcome to Winter sowing....


Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Thanks, all! Got our first 25*F night, but the days are still up in the 60's - just love the high desert temperature swings.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

Brrrrrrr, we are not even that cold yet.

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