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After Germination

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Okay, I usually do really well getting my seeds to germinate. Right now, all of my jugs that I seeded in the past month have boocoo germination. The soil is covered in tiny green plants. But here's is where I seem to panic and not know what to do with all of these plants. They are too small to plant out. I lost one entire jug recently and I think it was too hot and they all perished.
What do you do with all of these baby plants that are too small to pot up? I am afraid I will loose more. It's been 35 degrees warmer than our average high temp. Please advise.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Keep them in the shade for sure and I assume the tops are all off of the containers. That part is obvious. You might give them a spritz with a 9:1 water -hydrogeon peroxide although it wouldn't seem like fungus would be a problem. Don't know what else to say. Lots of WSing people here. I grow both inside under lights and this is only my second year WS. I also have stuff popping but only inside. I checked last year and my Maltese Cross was starting to grow by the 25th of March. It is now under 2' of snow. Guess that won't be happening. I am guessing that I will be a month behind normal. I will have plants crawling out of their pots and containers by the end of May, my usual planting time.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Mary, thanks for replying. No! I don't have the tops off of the jugs!! :( I was afraid to take them off. It is suppose to rain here tonight/tomorrow and the next couple of days. I "thought" the rain would flood the jugs, and the roots to these tiny flowers would drown???
I appreciate your reply. I was hoping someone would respond. Here's a couple pics of one of the jugs. It is Oriental Popppy 'Beauty of Livermore'. It's the way all of my jugs look.

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Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

They're on a south deck that gets some shade mostly in the morning and evening.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

What a wonderful crop. I would think you should maybe to the (shoot can't remember the acronym) -- at any rate you take a little clump and plant it in a pot. I used a spoon to scoop out maybe a quarter size scoot and then gently press it into the new pot. Don't know how many you want, but as they grow bigger I use a small pair of scissors (very small) and nip some out to give the others more room to grow larger. Could be that you could even use a knife to cut two sections out of your bigger pot to go into the garden. If you wait til they are too big they will be difficult to get out. I am facing that with some Cardinal Climber Vines that I planted in a quart nut container (kind you get from costco) never thinking that with the neck smaller I would have trouble getting them out. They are just sprouting so I have time to figure out the problem.

Good luck. You have a really nice stand of poppies. Oh, and the back deck sounds like just the ticket. They obviously like it.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Thanks Oberon for your advice. I am going to put some in pots. I always want to save every plant and then, I get into to trouble with too many plants!

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi all,
I never put the lids on!! In fact, when I save the jug, I throw the lids away. Before you put soil in the jugs, you should drill or cut
drain holes in the bottom. If you have more drain holes than the size of the opening in the top you won't get too much water.
I think the idea is to try to mimic conditions if the seeds were sown in the wild in the open.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Some of my jugs have way too many germinated plants.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

I am planting my dahlias in big pots now and find that the gallon jugs I used to use to fill the bottom a little to save on soil are all out in the yard WS'n. :( Ah well, a good use of them. I am hoping another four weeks will see some germination in them.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I go to the local re-cycle center for jugs.
I took some lids off of some of my seedlings today. We had a nice cool today--72*.
When I think of all the baby seedlings that have sprouted, I feel over whelmed--kind of like I don't know where to start. I'll jump in there and just do it ....soon.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

The acronym is HOS- means hunk of seedlings. You have what they call a chia pet of plants, impossible to separate. The spoon method mentioned above sounds good, and either let nature do the selection of the fittest or cut off some of the extras. Some people try to sow more thinly so that the seedlings can grow without the roots being all tangled up together, others plant HOS. I guess after a while you find what's most comfortable for you.

My problem is that I can't even start to WS until next week because the house has been closed for the winter. Last year we had snow April 1, so it worked out just fine. This year it's been so warm so early I'm out of luck. I've been doing the soak-and-Deno method in the frig in the city, but was really hoping to WS a few things too. I guess I can still try Sweet Peas, Lettuce and a few other cool season lovers, not so sure about the perennials.

Good luck!


Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Birder, I totally agree with Mary, using a spoon to scoop out a bunch of 'em at a time should work wonderfully. I've done that myself (though I didn't have such a dense HOS like you've got), and it worked great.
Another option, if you want a large "mass planting", would be: First, lightly water the container, then wait a couple hours to let it drain well. Then, cut the bottom out of the jug, and plant the whole darned mass, soil and all, all at once into one big pre-dug hole. Like Pam said, 'survival of the fittest' will take over from there to give you a nice full grouping of the best, healthiest plants.

Another option (yes, there's more!) is to wait just a week or so longer until they've grown up just a bit more, so you'll feel more comfortable working with them.

Meanwhile, keep the tops of the jugs flipped back (open) so they don't cook in there, and if it rains, let it rain on 'em. If they were sown out in the wild, by nature, then they'd get rained on, right? Then they'll be A-OK to get rained on in your Winter Sown jugs, too. As long as you've got drainage holes in the bottoms of your jugs it's all good. =)

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Pfg: You know, you can mimic Mother Nature by stratifying in the Refrigerator. I did that last year with some of my plants, and it turned out really well. I put them in individual pots under a timed sprinkler, and they did quite well. The biggest problem was not noticing the pots had been turned on their sides from animals knocking them over. (coons). Then, they would not get the water and would die. The ones that made it, were a very nice size to plant in your garden and receive the fall rains and get roots established before it turned cold. You didn't have to go from one garden to another watering them all summer long.

I have almost all of my lids cut off of my milk jugs. It's in the low 80's here and has been for a few days. I think it's too hot for the little guys to be in an enclosed milk jug. A few (tiny plants), I have taken the tape off and leaving the lids on loosely. Forecast says isolated showers on Fri. After that, no rain for a week.
I have sooo many plants. I certainly could re-pot them all as they would all live--but man, what do you do with 40 of each cultivar??
Pam, you are right -- it's a HOS!! I try to sow thinly but, man, I missed the boat on some of them!

Do most of you go from the milk jugs into the ground or transition from the milk jug to cell packs then the ground? We're having such warm weather already. I am anxious to get those babies in the ground!

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Mine go straight from winter sown jugs to in the ground. So far so good. :)

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

I have about two months to wait, but then mine haven't germinated so I am hoping to HOS right into the ground.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

This is my fear:
The temps are 80 degrees right now. My seedlings are about 1 inch tall or shorter. I would think, if I put those tiny plants in the ground, the sun would absolutely scorch them???
Some of the groups of seeds have three to four leaves.
Others have two leaves and are tiney--1/2 inch to less than 1/2 inch. The seedlings are sooo close together, I wouldn't think they would be able to grow much due to space competition.
I did put some Calendulas straight into the ground yesterday. They were about 3 inches high. I watered them well. I checked today, and they are still doing fine. I will need to water them again tomorrow.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Well, to be honest, you just *may* lose some of the little seedlings when you put 'em out in the ground, but that's just nature taking care of business. To hedge your bets, I would suggest letting them get a wee bit bigger, and the ones that are 1/2 inch or less, I would DEFINITELY wait for those to grow up some more.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Okay, thanks. I did plant some Aethionema Schistosum (Fragrant Persian Stonecress) this evening. They were about 2 1/2". We put a light sprinkler on them. It's suppose to get in the mid 80's in the next couple of days.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

I am so excited. One of my milk jugs sitting in a snow bank inside a cold frame has germinated. Nicotiana. I need to spritz some of the other containers as they are dry even with tops on them.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

I don't have anything new going on in my jugs, nothing to get all excited about... except that, it seems like every time I go peek at the WS'n tomato jugs, it seems like there's more and more seedlings. One time there was only 3, then 5, then 7, and now there's ELEVEN seedlings in there! Ooooh BOY we're gonna be in tomato Heaven this year! < =D

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I like to put the jugs in a pan of water and let the water come up through the bottom.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

That's a good idea. Spritzing just doesn't get it. Wears my wrist out and is dry again very shortly.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

I keep full watering cans on the deck near the plants. Since ours is city water it comes with all the "amendments", like chlorine. Yeuch! Letting it sit a day or two lets the chlorine dissipate ... (or is it 'evaporate'?)

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Both work

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I use the city water also. I use it straight from the faucet. I couldn't keep up with keeping the water for a day first. I use too much of it. I do let the water evaporate for my house plants. Using it straight from the faucet on my seedlings hasn't seemed to affect them although, it would probably be better to let the water evaporate first.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

When they grow up and get put into the beds, then I use water straight from the hose, but while they are still infants, I try to be a good Mamma and let the water sit for a bit first. :)

East Kingston, NY(Zone 5b)

I am going to winter sow for the first time and I just wanted to check that I have it right. You sow in your milk jug and tape it up. Then when they germinate, you remove the jug top. When they look too crowded or have true leaves, you pot them and just leave the pots outside. Won't the squirrels, chipmunks, deer, woodchucks, voles, bunnies, whatever (I have them all) disturb these little potted seedlings?Then you transplant, when? May ?

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Hi there Margap. Let's see... yes Ma'am, you hinge the jugs closed after the seeds are sown, making sure you've left the caps off to allow rain and snow to get in. Don't forget your drainage holes in the bottom! You can use tape to hold the jug closed, or what I do is, I punch a hole above and below the cut line, then use a twisty-tie to hold it closed. Whatever you prefer.
(If I've not explained this well enough, check out, that site explains it perfectly, with pictures and everything). :)

When they've germinated, if it's warm, then open them up (at the "hinge") and give them some air on nice days, but be sure to close them up again in the evenings. Check the soil from time to time if it's been dry and water accordingly.

You don't actually have to pot them up before planting them out, I never do. If they are not sown too thickly, you can just leave them in their jugs until you are ready to plant them out. Sometimes critters may get to them when you do plant them out (that's nature for ya, grrr!), so if you think that may happen, you can take further steps. I've read about a method that some swear by. If you have 1-gallon sized growers' pots, cut the bottoms off and sink them down around the seedling after you've planted it, only about 1/4 of the way down or less, leaving more than 3/4 of the pot above-ground and surrounding the new seedling. This should give good protection to the new babies from critters while still allowing plenty of sunshine to get to them. Again, I've just read about this, I've not tried it.... yet. ;)

Decatur, GA(Zone 7b)

I had a lot of trouble last year with squirrels digging in containers after I'd opened them following sprouting. I'm making covers with hardware cloth this year to keep them out. I also put plants from the containers straight into the ground but I lost a good many so I plan to pot up at least a fair share of plants to keep until they have a better chance of making it on their own. I have lots of squirrels and they drive me crazy, chipmunks too, though they aren't as much of a problem.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I ended up potting most of my winter sown seedlings into bigger pots. I kept them watered all summer with a sprinkler on my deck. I had waaayyyy too many plants. I begged people to take some home with them.
In the fall, I planted these seedlings out--all perennials. I know I planted at least 150 plants. I had close to a 100 digitalis alone. The winter sown seedlings were healthy and a good size when I planted them into my gardens. The fall climate was cool, and the plants did not require a lot of care when planted into the gardens. We had such a hot, dry summer. I am glad I didn't plant them until fall.

I don't WS very many annuals. If I can buy a six pack for under two bucks, I don't mess with those annuals. I do plant Heliotrope, Black Eyed Susan Vine, Hyacinth Bean Vine, Nasturtium Vine, Snapdragons, Lobelia and probably some others I can't think of right now. It's mostly annuals I can't buy as plants or are expensive ($3-5 ea.). I am not going to pay that for an annual.

This Year, I am really trying to keep my W Sowing under control!! I am being very selective. I am focusing on shade plants this year.

margap: Be sure to use seed starting soil. It makes all of the difference in success vs. failure. Wet the soil to a damp sponge feel. I can hear the water squish in my hand if I hold it up fairly close to my ear--but there's no water that comes from the soil.

The other thing: I put the jugs in alum. foil roaster pans to water the seedlings. You can get them cheap at the Dollar Store etc. Just be sure to remember to take the jugs back out of the pans or the little seedlings could drown.

One more thing: (sorry, I'll quit after this!) It's really important to do LOTS of research on each particular seed's requirements for germination. There's several really good websites that give excellent information. Tom Clothier's is one: And this one: : scroll all the way down.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Back40, I remember someone in here... darnit, now I don't remember who... anyway, they shared their method of how they prep their jugs for winter sowing so that they don't have to be hinged open when the weather warms up. What they do is cut "windows" into the sides of the upper half of the jugs... I'd say the "windows" are probably about 2"x3" or so. Those allow for PLENTY of air circulation, moisture, evaporation etc, but they're not big enough to let in any critters... except for chipmunks... but by the time the seeds germinate, chippies aren't interested in little seedlings anyway. :)
... Let me see if I can find that thread for you and I'll link it here.... Here it is!

The first pic is the third post, (showing a jug with a "window"), and I'd asked about it, so a couple posts later he (DEMinPA) goes on to describe his method of jug prep, including photos.

Margap, one thing I'd forgotten to address/answer is: when to plant them out. May? Well, that depends. When you are well past any threat of frost, and when the ground is no longer snow-covered or frozen, and warm enough to work (the soil should be around 70 degrees F or so), then it's safe to plant them out. That could be in May (and probably will be, ... like, around the middle of May or so), or it could end up being the beginning of June, depending on how your Winter goes this year. That's rather a judgement call, just gotta keep an eye on things.

The key to your growing medium is good drainage. No matter what you use, be it a commercially sold mix or a homemade mix, it's gotta have good drainage. It doesn't HAVE to be "sterile", but it DOES have to drain well. Tapla here has a lot of brilliant things to say about soils, check out some of his posts, he is a genius. (when it comes to soil, that man is my hero!) =)

Birder, do you ever grow your Black Eyed Susan vines in a hanging pot? Those things are gorgeous as a hanging planter!!

East Kingston, NY(Zone 5b)

Perfect! Now I feel like I have all the info I need to do it. Thank you for your responses, everybody.

Decatur, GA(Zone 7b)

Thanks, speedie, now that you mention it, I think I saw that before too. It looks like a good setup.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

You're welcome. :) It's easier to water the jugs that way, too.. with the little windows in 'em. I'd tried 2 of my milk jugs that way last year (they were late additions). Sadly, I had a very low % of success last year, but I think it's because we had no winter to speak of.

Margap, please keep us posted on how your babies do!! < =D

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

No, I don't put the BES vine in a hanging basket. I did see one at a garden center for sale: I believe they wanted $11.00--outrageous-for an annual!!

I let my Black Eyed Susan Vine meander. The last pic is on a pole. This was late fall and I already had my fall pansies planted. This vine blooms mid summer until a hard frost.

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Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Whoops wrong pic. Let me try again.

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Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

LOL, they all look like the "right" pic to me, so pretty. I love the happy comination in the second pic, and your BES vine looks so lush up that pole!! (that sounded funny). ;) Is that a lamp post? And, what's that cool looking tomato-with-a-door? Is that Lupine the vine is intertwined with in the last pic? Man, that looks fabulous, what a great combo!

We sell the BES hanging baskets at work, among many others... I think the BES ones are the 12" ones. Every time we get them in it makes me want a few... maybe I'll just get some seeds this year to accompany the Verbena... it could crawl up my water pump/bucket-planter, that would look nice. :)

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

I never thought to let BES vine meander. What a great idea! I will have to try that some time.

Yes, what is that cool hanging tomato thing?!

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

The tomato is a bird house!! It's ornamental-although, I watched a Carolina Wren try to use it. Carolina Wrens are so funny. The "pole" is a shepherd's hook. Hubby wrapped green coated fence/wire that we purchased at Lowe's around the pole. It works very well, and looks nice in the winter as well.

BES vine is a wonderful meanderer (sp?). It is never aggressive or tangles up other plants.

The blue flowered plant is Salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue'. It's one of my favorite plants. The color goes with everything and ties colors together that may clash if right beside ea. other. It re-seeds which I am quite happy about. It doesn't grow crazy with re-seeding and pulls out easily. The leaves are a pretty bright green. Vicky Blue is a perennial here even though descriptions say its an annual. Try it--you will really like it. It's easy to start from seed also.

Here's some pics that shows this plant from spring to early fall.
1. Peony: Sarah Bernhardt
2. Rose: Carefree Beauty
3. Daylily: Beth Bliese
4. Rudbeckia: Seedling from Cherry Brandy

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Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

You're right, it really **does** go with everything, anywhere! OK, I think I know just where to put them... where I believe one of my patches of verbena are unhappy; I'll just rip that section out and put the Salvia there, to share the spotlight with my coreopsis. DH really likes Salvias, he sees them growing at work and takes pics for me, "Can we have THIS growing in your garden?", LOL!

Your pic #3... that's a contest entry for sure, WOW, look how happy she is!!

Your Hubby did a GREAT job with the wire around the shepherd's hook pole, it's invisible! (or, do I need new glasses?)

Yes, (Note to self): Verbena to be ripped out, replaced with that Salvia and some BES vine. Oh boy oh boy oh boy! =)

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