Virgin Wintersower

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

I have been wanting to winter sow for years. In the past my only winter gardening has been pulling my dormant Geraniums out of the crawl space in the end of February, potting them up, and leaving them in front of a sunny south window. But, finally I am in a position to start winter sowing seeds. I'm nervous! I just bought my first batch of seeds (normally my illness doesn't kick in until January but I started early this year!) I wasn't planning on starting the seeds until January, after the craziness of the holidays is over. I am sure I will have lots of questions. But my main question is if the directions say to soak the seeds do I ignore that for winter sowing? The lure of winter sowing for me is not to have to mess with any special instructions (soaking, scoring, wet papertowels in the fridge, etc), and of course not having seed trays and lights take up space in my house.

Here is what I was hoping to winter sow
Agastache Astello Indigo
Agastache Raspberry Daiquiri
Agastache Apache Sunset
Agastache Sangria
Agastache bolero
Armeria Formosa Hybrids
Hakone Double White
Monarda Bergamo
Delphinium Magic fountains
Dianthus Chabaud Orange
Dianthus Arctic Fire
English Daisy
Helenium Helena Red
Hollyhock Fruity Mix
Penstemon Sunburst Ruby
Penstemon Tubular Bells
Jupiter's Beard

If anyone has any specific advice on any of these or general caution against winter sowing any of these information is greatly appreciated! I am only going to plant some of the seeds so I have backup.


Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Good morning Jennifer! =) The simple answer to your question is: YES. Any seed packet instructions including "stratification" of any kind can be ignored when you winter sow, because nature does the stratification for you.
This stratifying most often occurrs when there are semi-big fluctuations in temperature, including and involving freezing. That back-and-forth freeze/thaw/freeze/thaw works on that seed's outter shell, expanding and contracting it, thus "stratifying" it, so that it will germinate come Spring.

Of your list, I have had successes winter sowing: Various varieties of Dianthus, various Hollyhocks, Penstemon (don't remember the variety), and Agastache (but mine was Tutti Frutti). I have also done brillions of Alaska Shasta daisies, Blue Boy Bachellor Buttons, Echinacea Purpura, and Green Eyed Susans (since my name is Susan, I don't like the thought of Susan's having Black Eyes, heehee).

The only thing I can "caution" you about is; DON'T FORGET YOUR DRAINAGE HOLES!! LOL!! One year, I'd forgotten to punch drainage holes in several of my winter sowing containers... eewww, what a squooshy mess, but the moss sure loved it! < =/

While I won't be doing winter sowing this year, I've done LOTS of it and I'll be really happy to help you out in ANY way I can! =)

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

Thank you so much for the reply!

I've started collecting containers, plus people at work are saving jugs for me, and I'm poaching what I can from the neighborhood recycle bins on trash day! I will be sure to poke holes!

I was planning on buying some seed starting mix, and "cooking" some of my soil in small batches. Hope to have plenty buy the time I start in January.

I am sure I will be back later in the month with lots more questions.


Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

When you come back; what sort of soil are you using? Don't use any directly from your garden, that compacts too much for container use, even the temporary use of winter sowing. You'll want to use something that's suitable for containers, more light-weight, and that offers good drainage. If you're making your own, be sure to add lots of Perlite and organic material like compost. A good combo for good drainage and moisture retention.

Are you familiar with the site Check it out, that's where it all started, and you can probably find any answer to any question you'll ever have, but should you ever need clarification on anything you find there, just ask away here, we've got oodles of winter sowers here who'll love to help you! =)

Oh yeah, and, you're very welcome! < =D

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

I haven't checked today but the site had been down for the summer.

I generally make a light soil mix because here my soil is quite heavy. I really like this loamy topsoil mixed with sand I can buy and add compost, shredded uncomposed leaves, vermiculite (I am not a fan of perlite), planttone, and sometimes peat moss. But depending on finances I may be able to just buy all seed starting mix.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

I've not used a lot of vermiculite, I tend more towards perlite, but I do know that, for little babies, vermiculite mixed with some composted pine bark and some peat makes a wonderful starter mix.
What is it about perlite that makes you not a fan of it? Could it be all the dust that flies around when you use it? ;) I HATE that, have to wear a mask when I mix my soil mixes, ugh! I haven't found any water retention or drainage problems with perlite... but as compared to vermiculite? Well, honestly, I'm not proficient enough with vermiculite to know the difference myself, I've heard really good things about both. Does vermiculite drain better, or retain moisture better? I'd really like to hear your opinions, please.

When I make my mix, I don't actually 'measure' anything, I just go by feel and look; I guess it end up being roughly around a 1-1-1 ratio (compost/peat/perlite). Ish. ;)

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

You know, I really don't know why one is better than the other. I find I should use a mask to to work with either. I have found that perlite blows away when the soil dries out. But I must admit mostly it is because I was raised biased to perlite :-) and now I am just more comfortable working with vermiculite.

I went around looking to buy seed starting mix today. All the places told me to come back later in January. I guess in the meantime I will just cook batches of compost LOL.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

I was thinking about you at work yesterday.. had a customer come in needing "soil" for her containers, along with a few outdoor bed areas; she was about to buy just bags of plain ol' topsoil when thankfully I asked her what she was using them for. After learning that some of it was to be for her containers, we talked a bit and she ended up buying some bags of compost and our last remaining bag of VERMICULITE as well. < =D I thought to myself, "Ya know, Jennifer really likes this stuff, let's go with this one instead of the last bag of Perlite". ;) She said she's very new to gardening, so I steered her here to Dave's Garden as well, and she said she'd keep coming back to the store to keep me updated on all her learning fun. Yippeee! =)
Thank you, Jennifer, for helping me at work yesterday, what a blessing you are! =)

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

Glad I could be of help :-)

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

I have done a little reading on the perlite vs vermiculite debate. Disclaimer, I read this off the internet so I do not know if it is hard fact.

BUT seems vermiculite is better at retaining water and perlite is better for aeration and drainage. Also read that vermiculite breaks down faster and will compact. I also read that vermiculite is quite a bit more expensive but I wouldn't know since I do not buy perlite.

I do know that when I buy hanging baskets the soil is at least half perlite and I have to water those planters constantly. Drives me crazy!!

So, at least for me, vermiculite is still the way to go!

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

I'm thinking, when I finish off my current bag of perlite I'll move onto vermiculite and see how I like that. The biggest thing I've heard about vermiculite (gosh that's a pesky word to type!) is that it is much better for water retention, and that's a BIGGIE for me. Gonna have to try it.

Grantville, GA

I have found that a mix of perlite (for areation) and vermiculite (for moisture retention) works best for me. Perlite feels so much like styrafoam, it's hard to get used to the big chunks, especially when seed starting those tiny seeds, therefore, vermiculite is finer and can be used on the top layer for seeding. I purchase both in 4 cubic foot bags and I believe the price is comparable. I am lucky enough to have a farm/garden center that carries both in the large bags. Oh, I am talking about the fine vermiculite, not the coarse.

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