Has anyone started their Winter Sowing?

Muscoda, WI(Zone 4b)

Since I couldn't find a new thread for this years 'winter sowing' projects, I figured I'd start one.

My questions are:
Have you done this before?
Was the technique successful for you?
What kinds of containers did you use and how did you prep them? (Where did you cut and how?)
What kind of soil mix did you use...and would you use the same kind again?
How many different kinds of seeds did you use?
Did you experiment with something you didn't expect to work and have it surprise you by growing?
If so, what was it?

I'm really excited about winter sowing this year. It's the first time I've tried it and since I have limited seed starting space, I thought this might just be the answer to getting (hopefully) an over abundance of plants I wouldn't otherwise be able to afford.

Tell me what you're doing and what you want to grow.


Brooklyn, NY(Zone 7b)

Hi, Julie! Found your post in the coleus thread .....

This will be my fourth year of wintersowing - and yes, it has been tremendously successful for me! To say that the whole process has become an obsession might be putting it lightly (that's another thread. LOL!).

I've used all kinds of containers through the years: reusable plastic food containers, yogurt cups, cell packs, aluminum pans, plastic cups, etc., etc., etc. - anything that could hold at least 2"-3" of soil, and handle a cover or be slipped into a plastic bag. Everything gets drainage slits on the bottoms, air holes in the tops (plastic bags, too); sow the flats/containers, cover them, sit them outside and basically forget them.

Lots of folks like the milk jugs and they work fine. I just don't use them; mainly because I don't buy them, but also because I'm gardening on a much smaller scale than most. My garden is a 20'x6' urban aerie - an 11th floor balcony. ALL my gardening is done in containers.

Doesn't stop me from trying to grow every seed I can get my mitts on!

I use packaged soil mixes - like Miracle-Gro, Schultz, Scott's, etc. But some people do mix their own. I think the important thing is that the soil mix be well-draining; you'd want to stay away from any kind of soil that becomes concrete as it dries.

Julie - if I told you how many different seeds I have used, you would think I was absolutely out of my mind! I will try to grow anything - anything at all. Most of the stuff I cannot possibly keep, but I have a network of friends who are more than happy to take the excess. They've now taken to giving me their "orders", since they know I start sowing in January. No problem by me - that way I get to sow seeds to my heart's content, knowing that the plants will have homes. This is what I've sown so far this year:

Coneflower - "White Swan", "Hula Skirts", purple
Clematis - "Duchess of Edinburgh", unknown burgundy
Columbine - "Nora Barlow", purple "Double Pleat"
Lupines - Russell Mix
Jacob's Ladder
Helleborus Niger

I'm not really sure what I want to sow this year - I got serious about perennials for myself the last couple of years, and I'm hoping to overwinter them more successfully this year. So I'm looking forward to some repeat performers and I won't *need* that much (yeah, right). It's all still a learning process for me.

Everything I sow is an experiment. I've been a houseplant grower forever, but I only started gardening on the balcony in 2001. Found the Winter Sowing forum over at GardenWeb that fall, and I've been a seed-growing freak since then. If it strikes my eye, I want to grow it - and a LOT of plants strike my eye! There are sooooo many different plants!

You should check out the WS forum at GW - very busy now and lots of good info: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/wtrsow/

There is also a thread started here at Dave's about winter sowing of annuals: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/475946/

And (to crow a bit) take a look at this "retrospective" of my pre- and post-WS gardens: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/wtrsow/gal0111253012246.html?12

Below is a small sampling of what I've used for containers; nowadays, I use mostly 4" transplant pots and 12-16 oz. plastic drink cups.

I'd say you are going to love this winter sowing thing - and believe me, you will have an over-over-abundance of plants come spring!!

Looking forward to see what you are going to sow ....


Thumbnail by PVick
Brooklyn, NY(Zone 7b)

Oops, I forgot. Add "Japanese Maple" to my list of already-started seeds.


Muscoda, WI(Zone 4b)

PV...your balcony is WONDERFUL! The plants you grew turned out gorgeous. Now, after reading a bit on the wintersown.org site (...I have read it before, just didn't remember everything I read the first time. LOL) Several of my nagging questions have been answered.

Today as I was prepping more milk jugs and filling the first batch with soil, I thought to myself..."WAIT a minute...what do I do when they germinate? and AM I supposed to transplant the babies into pots to grow on?" Whew! I was about to get overwhelmed with all the work I was making for myself. :-D

It sounds like you have very good germination rates with your WS seeds. With everything I plan to sow, if very many of them actually make it, I'll have to open a nursery...OR turn into a landscaper and do up my kids yards.

Thanks so much for your reply and for the very interesting links as well. I'll let you know how things progress.


Coopersburg, PA(Zone 6b)

here's my winter sowing info

Kannapolis, NC(Zone 7b)

Well Julie I am going to do this but the weather here is so darn warm right now!!! It's been in the 70's!! It's supposed to cool the end of this week and then I'm getting to work! Never done it before either so I am doubly excited!!!


Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

Nicole, first, They real short handled shovels are offered this year at Big-Lots for $3.99. (Pardon, Julie)
I'm in a 2-litter jug cuttin mood today and have been studying these threads for days. I have been plant/seed shopping crazy this week-end and am going to start all I can today.
Thanks so much for all the info. Sidney

Memphis, TN(Zone 7b)

I'm planning on trying too - but have the same warm weather problem. Hopefully this coming weekend it will begin to be winter again.....

Muscoda, WI(Zone 4b)

SUPER!!! I'm glad I've got some company here! Nicole and mbock...the weather here has been so messed up the last few years that I'm not even sure which zone I'm actually living in. Sometimes it feels like I'm back in Oklahoma where the winter temps hardly ever went below 32 deg...and then there's the reality check when we hit 15 below at night.~shakes head~ unbelievable.

Sidney, I cut most of my milk jugs and pop bottles with scissors...but when I got to the V-8 and Juicey-juice bottles, I ended up using a saw! :-D One thing I found out after using the saw is an electric knife with serrated blade worked wonders! It really made short work of putting all the vent slits in the tops of the containers. (As soon as my DH leaves the basement, and I can find his soldering iron, I intend to make it VERY easy...hehehehe)

I got 15 (6 gallons and 9 1/2 gals) planted and put outside yesterday. I probably would have gotten more done but I wasn't sure what to use to keep them from getting dumped over. I figured cardboard boxes weren't going to hold up long enough...but ended up using one anyway. :-) Around here I have dogs, rabbits, wind and curious grandkids I have try to protect my project from.

I sure appreciate y'all stopping by my thread. Hope you'll keep in touch and let me know what you're doing and especially how your winter sowing turn out.


Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

Julie, so you're an old neighbor from Ok? I grew up all over the panhandle of Texas as Daddy taught and coached BB.
Does anybody really know what zone they live in any more?
Thanks for those extra tips, I have all those good tool toys. (;>)

Muscoda, WI(Zone 4b)

Yep! I grew up on the north side of Tulsa...back then we even had our own high school. :-D Amazing how things have changed in the 40 some odd years since I lived there. (btw...it's nice to see someone refer to parents as "mama and daddy"...I really miss hearing that.)


Kannapolis, NC(Zone 7b)

Hi Julie! THANKS Sidney!!!! Running out the next opportunity!! Maybe a late Santa gift! :)

I am with you Julie. I want to winter sow directly and in containers and I'm wondering if it won't end up being - 'early Spring sowing' the way this crazy weather is.. Very annoying!! Everyone's so happy it's warm and I'm mad!!! Not to mention this could be setting us up for a nice summer drought..

I have SO many seeds from last season's trading here I can't possibly start them all in the house. I am thinking maybe I will stop parking in the garage and use that space! HA! Hey, if I leave the door open I can call it winter sowing!

Got to run.. I should probably do some actual work I suppose..



Muscoda, WI(Zone 4b)

Nic, I just trudged out through the snow (in my shoes which weren't tall enough to keep it off my feet LOL) to the garden shed to see what I'd squirreled away that could possibly be used as a container for wintersowing. I found a deli roasted CHICKEN container! WAHOOO! It'll hold six or seven large jiffy pellets, *and* it has a handle. (Hey! I'm getting desperate here. LOL) There was also a bag of milk jugs and some 16oz soda bottles! I've got all kinds of 6 flats saved from plants I've bought in previous years, but I think I'll be needing them to start stuff indoors. (Anyone think I *might* be overdoing this thing? :-D Can you say "Mow *what* lawn? ;-))

Hey LOOK! Out on the bird feeder! It's a Rose breasted Grosbeak! I haven't seen them since spring when they were feeding their young 'uns. Cool!

Oops sorry...got carried away there.

Nicole...the only way your idea about leaving that garage door open is going to work is if the garage is connected to the house, and the AC is turned on.


Kannapolis, NC(Zone 7b)

HAHAHA!! You are right Julie... Scary though if you think about it...

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