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Getting ready to start for first time

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

Ok, so I have a bunch of jugs ready to go. Bleached them, punched holes in the bottom (lots! I wasn't sure ), and cut back the tops. I have a few protected areas all ready to put the planted jugs and some crates to keep the jugs in. Didn't plan ahead on soil so I didn't have much choice. I got some Scotts Moisture Plus. I do have some commercial compost/manure mix I can add to it. Should I do that?

I have gallon and half gallon jugs. How many seeds should I plant per jug? I was thinking of less because it kills me to thin! LOL

Also, I was going to get started tonight or tomorrow. But the temps around here are going unseasonable warm in a few days for a few days. Should I wait until it goes truly cold again?


Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Hi there Jennifer! Ooooh boy, I hope you are prepared for your new addiction!! =)

Let's see, to answer your questions:

1: To add the compost? I'd say yes, but just a little bit. Maybe just a small handful of it per container. (I'm being conservative here 'cause I'm thinking the "manure" part of it might be too strong and ya don't want to burn the seeds. Manure can burn, compost can not). Just make sure the soil you have is made for "containers", there IS a difference, and that difference mostly is in drainage.

2: Before I suggest whether or not you should wait before sowing, may I ask what seeds you plan to sow? Some might be affected more than others and might germinate prematurely, Eeeek!

By the way, you really don't need to bleach out the jugs prior to use, just a good strong agitation with warm soapy water followed by a thorough rinse should be fine.
And, don't forget to leave the caps off the jugs once they are filled and set out! =)

Oh yeah, one last thing... after they are sown and set out, ya don't want 'em too protected, you're going to want "Nature" to have access to the jugs; rain/snow/sun etc. (Just like in "real nature"... all you're really doing is protecting the seeds from critters and wash-away).

You can sow them as thickly or as thinly as you like, that is tooooootally a personal preference. I've done it both ways with great successes.


Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

Ok good, it is potting mix.

By protected I just mean not in blaring south sun (which is mostly what I have, I had to negotiate with DH for some other space). They will still get snow and rain. They will still get some sun.

OK I am quite crazy. I have about 60 things I am going to try and winter sow. I never do anything half way. I do know to start different annuals much later. But for the deep winter stuff I was going to do lots of different columbines, hollyhock, astrantia, Jupiter's Beard, Dianthus, primula, verbascum, Eryngium, penstemon, heliopsis, helenium, several agastaches, armeria, astilbe, balloon flower, monarda, delphinium, english daisy, painted daisy.

The hardest part will be patience! LOL

Olathe, KS(Zone 5a)

On facebook, there is a group called Winter Sowers. You must ask to join. I did and got on in one day. They have good advice. This is my second time doing WS. The first time I tried only perennials and got good results. This time I am also trying annuals, tomatoes, peppers, etc. I have 120 cups planted so far and am not even close to being done. I am still waiting for more seeds - this time alpine strawberries.

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

Sounds like a good group. But I am not on FB. I don't grow vegetables or fruit because my husband works for a produce company. While I do like fresh from the garden produce I have limited space and I like my flowers even better :-)

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Hi there Carol! :) When I used to "do" facebook, I was in that group, and they are a GREAT group of people there! There's also a ton to be learned from as well, that's where I started a handful of years ago.

Jvw, I started out with a combination of annuals and perennials, using milk jugs (both gallon and 1/2 gallon), 20-oz sized water bottles, yogurt cups, plastic coffee jugs... you name it. I had successes with every container I grew in. The Green-Eyed Susans, Echinacea, and Alaska Shasta Daisies still keep coming back for more and more every year. I did Hollyhocks as well, ... well, just one, and it was HUGE. There were numerous annuals as well who have self-sown and new ones come back year after year too... Bachelor buttons, blue flax.. I don't remember what all else.

Sounds like everything you've got will benefit from waiting just a little bit longer for your weather to properly cool down for your zone. Some zones have gotten 'proper' Winter weather already, and some of us are still waiting. < =/

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

No winter weather to speak of here either--61 today. I love it for my heating/elec. bill but it's frustrating trying to gauge when to start my WS. I am using 2L soda bottle because I managed to get my hands on the vendor trays they sit in so that they won't be unstable and I can pick the whole tray up and move them (8 bottles per tray) if I need to. I'm starting with the hardier type of annuals maybe by the end of Jan. This is my first attempt at WS too.

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

By Sunday night we should be back to 30s or lower at night and only highs of at most 35. So I will be busy sowing on Sunday. I sat here for a half hour organizing my envelopes making piles of what to start when of the perennials. Then I decided since I have a ridiculous amount of varieties and lots of almost all the seeds I will sow some of almost all perennial varities on Sunday. I'll do a second sowing end of Feb when I do my hardiest annuals. At least that is the plan for now. I'll just see what works and what doesn't. No biggie.

DH is being so supportive, LOL. But I haven't even set out my milk jugs in crates and he is already talking about buying "nice clear containers so they all look alike, and you can sow in nice rows and a big metro shelving unit to put all the containers on" LOL!!! I don't have the heart to tell him yet that containers are the LAST thing I'm going to use my limited money to buy.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Dmac, I'm with you... both on loving the temps for the elec. bill and hating it 'cause I want REAL Winter! I'm not doing winter sowing this year, but I still want some real winter anyway. ;) Those soda bottles in the crates sound PERFECT, how convenient!! Will you be able to handle the weight (moving them) after the bottles are full, and the crates are full of filled bottles? BRAVO to you, what an excellent find! :)

Aaaaaaw, JVW, your DH sounds like a Sweetheart! But, **do** be sure to tell him to save those limited $$ funds for what really counts. Heeheeheee, he rather sounds like my own DH; if you're gonna do it, do it to where it looks nice and neat and organized! "Couldn't you at least use ALL the same sort of jugs... like, ALL milk jugs, instead of such a hodge-podge of containers that look a disorderly mess!?!?" Haahahahaaa!! My own DH has also built me shelves, for both inside storing/organizing, and for outside in my shady "container garden" area. (and also bought me a bunch of different sized MATCHING containers for all the plants to sit on those shelves, too). ;) heehee.
But, again, be sure to tell him to save that $$... and, BEFORE he spends it! =) (Surely there must be something else he could buy for you!?) ;)

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

That is funny--I suppose the chaos of WS in random containers would be tough on the people who like visual organization:lol: I get using different sized containers based on how many of one type of plant you want to end up with. Sure, I could do a gallon jug of cosmos but will I need that many in the long run--plus smaller batches lets you experiment with more varieties of plants to see how they respond to ws in your area.

speedie--I'm thinking the trays will be OK to move as they'll only be about 1/2 full of soil. I can always pull a couple out if it does seem heavy and put them back in place once moved.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Oh gosh, yeah, DH is a VERY organized person! I'd bet a blind person could find their way around inside his head with no trouble whatsoever. ;P Hahahahaaa! Me? I've had the nickname "Scatterbrain" since I was 5 years old. (after an additional 43 years, I don't think I'm gonna change that now, huh?) =)

OK, bottles only 1/2 full of soil, good good... then keep in mind water/moisture of some sort. Water weighs a LOT. Is there some elevated place on which the trays could be kept, to save your back? Just tryin' to think here... less strain on your back, and over-all work for you in the long run.

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 6a)

I was looking at and it showed taping the cut all around the jug after sowing. Is that necessary?? I was hoping just to tie it down in one place.

So excited to get started this weekend! Will post pictures.


Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

I have never taped mine all the way round, I just punch holes, one above and one below the cut line (being sure to line them up evenly), then use a twisty-tie to hold it closed. Works like a charm, AND I save my FREE twisty ties that I get from the grocery store. =) (not to mention, they're easy to thread through the holes since they have wire in them).

It's really exciting, huh!? < =D I will be thinking about you this weekend, and do a Happy-Dance in your honor. =)

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

I bought a couple of those 3 tier greenhouse shelf units last year but haven't put them together yet. They are 40"W x 36"H X 20"D and have those plastic covers--thought those would be OK for the bottles on top shelf. Yeah, gotta take the back and knees into consideration--I'm hoping for a few more good years with them functioning as intended:lol:

Good idea with the twist ties--I think I have a strip of two laying around--glad I saved them now:) We've got 60 degree temps again for a few days. Sad to say I hope it doesn't last--I need my cold weather when cold weather is supposed to happen:lol:

Grantville, GA

The greenhouse shelves will get too hot with the plastic cover on. Okay without cover though.

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

Thanks for thinking of that! That's what I was thinking too, plus I go to work before light and don't get home till late afternoon and wouldn't be home to take them off at the appropriate times. Have to put thought into where to put things because I'm not home to move stuff if we get sudden downpours or crazy winds.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

I use mine in the spring at the house in CT, but I'm only there weekends. It faces south, but high trees and shrubs filter the sun part of the time during the day. Before I leave, I take a piece of Reemay (floating row cover) and hang it inside the door from top to bottom and leave the door unzipped so it doesn't become a sauna when the sun hits it. I use clothespins to make sure the wind doesn't blow it open. I also have two 1/2 gallon jugs on the bottom shelf - The water heats up during the day and keeps it a little warmer at night. Early in the season I have perennials, half-hardy annuals and herb seedlings in there, later as it warms up the tomatoes go in. So far I haven't lost anything to heat or cold.

In the pic you can see the Reemay behind the door even though it's zipped.

Thumbnail by Pfg
Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

That's a great idea and the water jugs too! I think I bought some light weight frost cloth on clearance last spring too. I wasn't sure I would really need the two shelving units but glad I got them now since I'd like to try some of the bjillion types of tomato seeds I compulsively buy:)

We were talking at work today and several of us came close or actually did turn their AC back on yesterday:lol: Mild and rainy here again:) I'm thinking the daffodils may be making an untimely early appearance and get their heinys kicked by late cold snaps.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Dmac, when you first talked about your shelves with the plastic cover, I didn't know what you meant, so I'm really glad Pfg came along (Thank you Pfg!!). So THAT's what it looks like!! Looks like a mini-greenhouse, really neato!

So Dmac, how do you plan to incorporate that into winter sowing? Cover on? Cover off? Enquiring minds want to know! ;P

These mild temps are making me very sad, I want reeaallll Winter!! Yesterday, I found the reason for these mild temps and lack of snow, met him at the book store at the local community college yesterday. I didn't catch his name, but... you remember the MASSIVE snowfalls we had around the mid-atlantic area about 4 years ago, December into January? Well, **right** after that, he bought a snow blower, and there's been NO more snow ever since. It's ALL his fault! < =P

This message was edited Jan 15, 2013 5:22 AM

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

Covers off so the weather can do it's thing. I'm still hoping for some real cold weather too. It's a bit cold today but rainy. We've not had really any freezing temps or snowfall at all. That guy and his it all becomes clear to me:lol:

Grantville, GA

Not sure if this applies to everywhere, but when I lived in MD I could go to Lowe's and if they had shelving units (metal and wooden ones) from plant displays, they usually just throw them out when they are empty. I asked for them and they gave them to me. I got some really nice shelves that way. But of course, it may depend on each store manager and whether or not they would call you when one comes available or if you have to just be lucky to be there when they are getting ready to pitch, but it might be worth a try! Wrapping in Remay works really well, better than plastic. Especially if you aren't around to monitor.

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

I would suggest too that if you do score any of the wood display shelves that you reinforce them with a few more nails and maybe wood or gorilla glue. They are great but not meant to last for longer term use in most cases--some are better made than others.

I picked up a half sized wooden pallet that I'm going to make a vertical planter with--the 4' x 4' regular sized one was too big for my space but the smaller sized one is perfect. Hoping it turns out as nice as the ones I've seen photos of online.

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