WS Questions or Stop me before I do something really wrong:)

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 7a)


I've never tried WSing before, but when I saw Critter's article I knew it was the right answer for me.
I shot off a quick email (thanks so much for getting back with me Critter) before I'd read through the posts sufficiently. I got up this morning so excited and happy to begin. After a few interruptions; and a more thorough reading of the threads its now almost 5:00 and I haven't even started yet.
Before I begin, I had a few questions I hoped folks could help me out with.

First, I've noticed the discussion about soil. Looks like soil may have been my first mistake.
I purchased a large bag of Miracle Grow Organic Mix. Looks like folks don't particularly care for this mix. Should I invest the time/money to purchase one of the better mixes?

Second. I noticed a reference to H202 is this the water with peroxide mixture I saw mentioned or something else?

Also, I've got picky neighbors and milk jugs and other assorted vessels won't fly in my neighborhood:( My idea was to use my four inch plastic pots and place my pots on the seed starting thingie (pictured here). I bought it at a really good sale!!
It comes with a plastic covering that I thought would do well to protect the seeds from wind/birds, etc.,

Lastly, I'm trying to figure out how to keep these guys watered.
Any Suggestions?
OK, PLEASE intervene before I make a costly boo-boo.
and Thanks:)

Thumbnail by Marlene4
Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Hi Marlene,
I can comment on a few of your questions:
First, I see no problem with Miracle Gro mix. I've used it for several years, and at least for me, it's fine. You just need a soiless potting mix with good drainage--
I do not know anything about your question about H202. Generally WS seeds and seedlings just get rain water to keep them going--they don't have problems with damping-off or funguses.
Secondly, you CAN wintersow in any sort of protected containers placed outside--people do it in cold frames on the ground--but the seeds do need to be exposed to at least some daily light, especially as the little seedlings grow. From your photo, your mini-greenhouse looks like it's under an overhang. What is the sun exposure?
Finally, the potting mix in the containers should look dark and damp, not light in color and/or pulling away from the sides. At the beginning there's little growth and no need for supplemental watering. As the seedlings grow in the Spring and the sun's heat increases, folks might need to water the containers. You try to get them planted out before they are too large (and water-needy.) I never get all mine in the ground in time without some supplemental watering!
Perhaps other people can give you better advice about using the mini-greenhouse for wintersowing. I myself use the jug-method, tucking them into inconspicuous places around my garden.

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

I am new to this too. Can you water from the bottom if needed? I may cold frame my tomatoes but wanted to try some coleus and other annual flower seeds in jugs or storage containers. I am concerned about keeping them moist. Today they would have gotten tons of rain lol.

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

Can you water from the bottom if needed?

Hi bluegrassmom! Although I've never needed to bottom-water my milk jug WS containers--if they need supplemental watering I just either direct a gentle stream of water from the hose-nozzle or a watering can into the open holes in my container tops--I do know that some folks with drier and warmer springs do bottom water by setting their WS jugs, cups, or whatever into a larger container without drainage holes. Just don't let the containers sit too long and get water-logged.

I may cold frame my tomatoes but wanted to try some coleus and other annual flower seeds in jugs or storage containers.

In my experience, certain flowering annuals, like marigolds, pansies, violas, etc., are easy to get good germination through wintersowing, and again, the containers don't need much watering other than the moisture that gets in naturally through the holes in the top of the container courtesy of Mother Nature in winter and early spring. Then when seeds have germinated and temps have warmed up, just check the soil color and add any supplemental water either through the top or from the bottom.
Having said that, I've never had any luck wintersowing coleus or other tender annuals like impatiens--too cold for 'em outside. I start 'em inside because they need temps of 65-75 F to germinate, and I wait until outside temperatures are least above 50 F for setting out seedlings. This doesn't happen around here until after Memorial Day! But I don't really have experience with cold-frame seed-starting, just wintersowing in containers.

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

Marlene..I used Miracle Grow last year but found it full of broken twigs, particles of broken mulch and I wanted to try something else this year but availability to other brands when I was ready to start my wintersowing this year made me choose MG again but I added perlite and even some seed starting mix to make it "lighter" I went to 3 garden centers/nurseries one day in Jan. and there was nothing but MG, one place sells nothing but Hoffman's. I wanted to try Fafard or Promix..Well Promix BX, which comes highly rated by veteran wintersowers, if it was available was so expensive. I made many phone calls to nurseries/garden centers around in our area to be told they don't get their shipments until Feb. If you want to buy Fafard or Promix products, you're going to have to drive about 20 miles to get it. I know Behnke's sells Fafard, which is what I wanted to try but I haven't got to Beltsville yet to buy it. Some of the garden centers that had any Promix products left over from the Fall, you needed to take out a loan to buy it! One place on Ga. Ave. near 16th. St. wanted $58 or $59 for Promix..Highway robbery! If you are just starting, my suggestion to you is Dr. up the Miracle Grow and then next year, you can try something else. I'm 1 mile from Home Depot so that kind of sealed my decision and I didn't want to wait until Feb. till Fafard got into the garden centers that sell it. I bought original MG this year and I took one of those black pots that you buy Azeleas in(holds 7 c. of soil)and filled that up 5 times=35 c. added 1 back pot of perlite and 1 c. seed starting mix and mixed this up into one of those orange Homer buckets that I bought last year at Home Depot. If you don't want the orange, they sell white paint buckets(minus the paint)real cheap. I think it was about $3 or less. I mixed the above in my bucket and I have an old hand rake that is an antique tool that I used to mix it up good. I keep the bucket of potting mix in the kitchen as it will freeze in the garage and have to be thawed out. Learned the hard way last year. This is my second year and my biggest challenge is knowing what seeds to cover lightly, what seeds not to cover or what needs darkness.. If you want to D-mail me, maybe we live close to each other.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I am not big on WS for annuals since they don't need a winter chill stratification. The only WS I do is for perennials, especially Irises, etc.

Below is the photo of my plastic shoeboxes with lids.(Walmart) filled with potting soil and perennial seeds. I water the mix before planting, keep the cover on all winter. The boxes are on the north side of my house. The seeds sprouted in April with warming of weather. I check to make sure no animals have disturbed the boxes but they do not need watering since they are covered.

All my iris seeds germinated, along with perennials. I uses Miracle-Gro topped with seeding mix. You can also mix your own with even amounts of peatmoss and perlite, or vermiculite. I use that in rooting cuttings. Years ago, it was considered a grower's mix. Now they don't sell it.

This message was edited Mar 5, 2011 7:46 AM

Thumbnail by blomma
Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Do you have any drainage in those boxes?

(Edited for bad spelling!)

This message was edited Mar 5, 2011 6:35 PM

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I have holes at the bottom for when I need to water after they sprouted in the spring.

Edited to add that the box in the center have small plastic salad containers with tiny seeds sown.

This message was edited Mar 6, 2011 9:30 AM

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 7a)

Hello Everyone,
And thanks for your replies! This thread was a little while in getting started so I went ahead and began sowing. (I just couldn't wait:)
CapeCodGardener, you are right about the placement of the stand. I went ahead and relocated it to a sunnier spot.
Hey Pipi21 I noticed that we live close to each other. I purchased a small bag of promix (though I don't think its the Promix that everyone's been talking about. Then using Critter's great advice, also used MG mix. The bulk of the mix is MG with a topping off in each container of promix.
I must say, I wasn't that impressed with the promix. I found a plastic (like the surgeons use) glove in the mix.

Critter also shared with me that H202 is a water peroxide mixture. I use Superthrive in my water, so I think that sure take care of the damping off etc.
I am having a problem regulating the temperature in the greenhouse though. One warm day the temp inside went up to 80 degrees! I've been watching it carefully ever since.
Plus, the containers seem to want watering at least every other day. I wish I could figure out an easy wick watering system for them. But I'm loathe to dump what I have already started to place a wick in the bottom of the containers. I may try it for future containers though. Can anyone share their wick watering experiences?

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Marlen4, I owned and operated a commercial greenhouse in Nebraska during the 80's so I know how hot they can get quickly. I had a cooling system. A shade cloth where the sun shined the hottest---the west side. Without a cooling system (a swamp cooler works) there isn't much you can do do cool it down. Plants can easily cook in soaring greenhouse temps.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I bought a square yard of 'rayon batting" at wal-mart for $6. I cut it into about 6 tray-size peieces, and laid them on the bottoms of trays, then sat "6-pack inserts" or "plug trays" on top.

Now I feel OK about bottom-watering them, since the batting spreads the water aorund. But those are indoor seed-starting trays, not WS tubs.

A 1" strip of that batting wicks water up several inches and over the lid of a can, then drips down at the rate of one big fat drop per second, with 10" of 'drop" from the lip of the can.


(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

I'm a weekend gardener, and swear by capillary matting systems for continuous bottom watering. I've used several over the years, now prefer the extra sturdy system from Gardeners Supply. It's designed to fit their smallest grow bed, about 15 x 22. The matting sits on a platform set on a tray with water in it. The matting hangs down into the water and wicks it up to the pots on top. They fit perfectly into my mini greenhouse, which I used last year for transitioning.

I just found out they also sell the matting separately, 21" x 36" for 14.95. Last summer I kept one tray outside for small starts and divisions. It worked really well, but by fall the matting was toast, so I'm happy that now I have a lifetime supply!

I haven't tried WSing in the mini gh though. This year- my first effort- I used plastic boxes similar to Blomma's (thanks for that tip, Blomma), and left them out where they get rained on. I just started a couple of weeks ago, so have yet to see how it goes. Fingers crossed...


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Gardeners Supply ... capillary matting
>> 21" x 36" for 14.95

Hmm! At $5 per tray, and strudy enough to be re-usable, that's not a bad deal. My rayon batting looks like it plans to dissolve if I move my inserts around too much. (I let them sit directly on top of it, and just water a little each time it approaches dryness.)

Being cheap, I think I'll keep looking for some rayon blend felt that might last longer than batting, and yet cost closer to $1 per tray, instead of $5. (But then I'll have to decide whether to discard it, or wash, bleach and re-use.)

Lee valley has something for $20, 36" x 72" with a plastic underlay. I think I could cut up to 9 trays out of that, which mazkes it hard to beat if it's sturdy.


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