LESSONS LEARNED for next year?!

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi, Everybody,

I want to thank all the experienced wintersowers on DG who shared their advice and gave encouragement to everyone's Wintersowing Project this year. It made it a lot of fun to share together our trials and tribulations about getting our seedlings going.

I thought it might be a good idea to make a list of all the 'Lessons Learned' this year while Wintersowing in Zone 6A. This is the third year for WSing for me, and with every year's experience, I am getting a little better at it. (I'm a slow learner.)

So here's my list of mistakes/changes, lessons learned, and please add your own list of Winter Sowing "Lessons Learned"

1. Make permanent labels. Use a truly indelible pen and keep a container ID list in my files. Plastic labels don't work. with Sharpies.

2. Try to find a sunnier location--maybe dappled sun/shade would be the best.

3. Don't overplant the containers with too many seeds.

4. If I use aluminum roasting pans, for containers I should make a tent of the plastic Zip Loc covering. Not let it lay on the soil

5. Must make plenty of drainage slits to accommodate spring downpours. Drainage. Drainage. Drainage.

6. Don't fret so much over the seeds and seedlings. "Take the Wintersowing Leap of Faith"!!!

That's it for me (right now). What about everybody else? I know there are lots of good tips to pass along!

Some of my NO ID seedlings!

Thumbnail by tabasco
Marietta, GA(Zone 7b)

Silly mistake... For some pots, I used spent soil that had been thrown out and available by the truckload. It was full of it's own seeds!!

If you start wintersowing in Feb, the sunny location of all your pots may well be in shade by April...so think ahead.

I will start earlier next year... Jan, maybe for some things.


Midland, TX(Zone 7b)

Use sharpies only!!!!

Marietta, GA(Zone 7b)

I hear pencil never fades and thats what I use.


Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

Having faith that the seeds that have not yet germinated will do so when they are ready. Whether that is in one week, one month or one year from now.

Only use grease pencils or water proof, sun proof and weather proof markers. Otherwise, you will have "mystery" plants!

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Half of my WS was done with bad potting soil. It made a huge difference.

Annandale, NJ(Zone 6b)

tabasco...thanks for the lessons learned...I just started wintersowing this year. The milk jugs worked great for me and I am looking forward to a back porch full of jugs next winter. I plan to sow in January. HM

So. Puget Sound, WA(Zone 8b)

I will NOT plant as deeply as the package instructs. Those I did have (mostly) not germinated.

I WILL save my milk jugs for next winter.

I WILL find a sunnier location for containers.

Richmond, TX(Zone 9a)

T., I was wondering where you were. Lesson: Just plant a few things, that way I can commit to taking good care of them. planting flats and flats and flats of stuff, not working for me.

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

I WSed 180 containers this year. I'll never have time to plant them all out before the weather turns really hot. I plan to sow LESS next year!! Please keep reminding me in case I forget!!! :~)

Marietta, GA(Zone 7b)

I sowed so many containers that I never got around to the veggies!! soo, I broke down and bought them!! I'm still not happy about it and may still start some real soon that will be late producers, but oh well, we do the best we can. If was a great thing to learn to do this year and next year I will have a 'tighter" list of what to sow as well.


Auburn, MA(Zone 5b)

I think I've finally got the actual wintersowing down (finally). But I need to make myself clean out my beds in the fall and not wait for spring. It seems to be race to see if I can get my beds ready before my seedlings start crawling out of their containers. Also, I need to mark each of my planted perennials when I plant them (not just one tag for the whole planting)....so I don't weed them next spring. I bought three packages of shishkebob sticks just for that reason.

Possibly, I may want to cut down on how many containers I do? Hmmm.....that's a hard one......especially if Valueseeds is still around next winter.

Marietta, GA(Zone 7b)

Yes, valueseeds was great for me this year.


Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

What is value seeds?

So. Puget Sound, WA(Zone 8b)

Oh oh Dave, you're in troble now! LOL You'll get hooked just like the rest of us.


Huntington, WV(Zone 6a)

Double check to make sure I marked each container before taking it out. I could've sworn I did...

Beachwood, OH

OK- Lesson # 99 will come first. Do not put Dahlia seedlings that you slaved over since February into the garage on a frosty night without covering them. Mice, chipmunks, something has eaten them entirely up. They are gone, kaput, vanished. I learned this lesson 2 nights ago.

Lesson # 98. Do not water seedlings with too strong a H2O2 solution no matter how tempting it is to follow the - If a Little is Good, More is Better philosophy. The seedlings will turn brown and die.

Lesson # 97. When the roots are a visible tangled mass at the bottom of the container, it might be time to pot them up, or plant them out.

Lesson # 96. Do not plant out little seedlings in the sun without giving them a tent of some kind to protect them for a few days. No matter how hardened off they are, they weren't ready for that.

Lesson # 95. Whatever happens, smile. It was all a lot of fun.

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Thank you KatyMac!!

Billerica, MA(Zone 6a)

Oh, man!!! WHY did you have to post that link, Katy!???!!!!???! :-)

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

Lessons learned in year 1.

- keep containers covered until second set of leaves.
-make a list of favorites from this year so I can sow more of them next year.
-mark the bottom of containers and even put a plastic marker in the container. When I moved containers around - I separated the lids from the bottoms - duh!!!
-use mostly milk/water gallon jugs for large sowings and large poland spring bottles for sowing a few seeds. Quart milk containers worked well too especially for tempermental plants like dill.
-plant more seeds!!!

Homer, NY(Zone 5a)

Tie twine around my jugs! I had about 40 1/2-gal milk jugs and 2-liter soda bottles on my patio table...a strong winter wind came and knocked several of them off, disturbing the soil...I am having seeds sprout in the strangest locations in the containers!!!! After a couple of those "wind" episodes, I tied twine around the entire circumference of the group of jugs, and that stabilized them for the remainder of the winter.

Second lesson learned: Winter sowing works and is well-worth the effort :-) !

Beachwood, OH

I've finished mourning the dahlia seedlings. I don't know if I can go at it again this year its probably too late. Drat. But on a brighter note I wanted to add a few good things I learned this year.

1. You really need the 4" of soil in a container especially if you WS early. The root systems are much more developed than I thought and shallow soil ends up stunting the growth of the top of the plant.

2. That said, for something that can be planted out early, the take out containers that a rotisserie chicken comes in were hands down the best containers I used. The high dome accomplished all the good stuff - air circulation, retaining moisture, letting in the right amount of light, and are easy to pop on and off. The other really good containers were clear deli containers, and paper ice cream cartons. I liked the ice cream cartons more than the milk jugs but we didn't have a heavy snow year so the hard protection of the milk jug would be good in snow conditions. The lid of the paper ice cream container - like a Healthy Choice carton, can be cut out, then you lay plastic wrap over it and put the lid back on and poke a few holes. It holds the plastic wrap very tightly and is easier to get on and off than the milk jug tops.

3. I will put my containers in more sun faster next year.

4. I will WS earlier and repeat more often. Although I had 100% germination and all containers eventually caught up with each other, I lost some due to various causes - tipping, guest waterers, rodents! etc.

5. Get a little Perlite or fine sand to sprinkle over the top of really fine seeds. Even though I have a seedling waterer, I ended up washing the seeds off to one side of the container and they clumped up.

6. A tomato grower gave a good bit of advice to avoid the seeds washing to one side, and that is to thoroughly wet your medium the day before you sow, and then let the containers stand a day. If they are good and wet there will be no need to water right away.

7. I would like to continue experimenting with watering with H2O2 when the seedlings are up. I reported before that several seedlings really responded well like delphinium, dahlia, nepeta, shasta daisy, violas. Others, like perennial poppies were nearly killed by it. I was not careful about my measurement of the H2O2.

8.I used new Pro-Mix that had fertilizer in the mix and was satisfied with the results. I think the constant dampness probably caused compaction in the peat component so if I use Pro-Mix again I will fill the containers more so there is still good soil depth by spring.

9. I found big plastic serving trays at the Dollar Store and put my containers on them. It made it a lot easier to move them around when I needed to. Which I did because I laid this all out on my deck.

10. A friend told me that the only containers she lost or didn't get good germination were those she didn't bleach to sterilize. So I soaked all my containers in dilute bleach water before using. I know others just wash with soapy water but I didn't have any trouble with germination or damping off.

11. I sowed 19 kinds of seeds and I felt like I didn't do much compared to others. But now that its planting time I'm glad I started kind of small this year. Starting small is ok which has never ever been my motto in the past but this year I was glad.

For next year I am definitely going to WS my annuals. I look at flats of annuals in a whole new light this spring. I need to find out how to store the leftover seeds from last year and would like to hear from others about how they do that.

I really had a great time with this project. It passed the winter months very wonderfully. I kept the laundry room dirty with bags of soil and trays of containers.

Huntington, WV(Zone 6a)

One more lesson I'm discovering -- don't plant in containers that are narrower at the top than the bottom -- even a little bit. I had some large plastic dog treat jars -- they're very wide, so I thought they would work , but the openings are a bit smaller than the width of the jars -- makes transplanting difficult, to say the least!

Cullowhee, NC(Zone 6b)

This has been my first year wintersowing. I learned that:

-I should not use containers with any ridges or indentations on the sides

-I like Fuji water bottles the best

-I should sow fewer seeds per container

-I should find out why the lobelia cardinalis died within days after transplantation (??!!??!)

-I should plant more alyssum and snapdragons and NO bachelor's buttons

-I should plant more than 20 containers. It was fun.

(Zone 6a)

I don't have any lessons yet to add as I haven't WS'd yet, but someone should talk to one of the admin's and see if this thread can be made sticky :)


Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

Good idea, Steve. I'll send a link to the Admin's for their consideration.

Westerville, OH(Zone 6a)

My lesson learned: covering the seeds is not necessary. This is my first year WS'g so maybe I just had beginner's luck but I put all of my seeds in Pro-Mix potting mix in large 2" deep cheap aluminum cooking pans with some small drain holes punched in the pans' bottoms. I put the pans, without any covering on top, on our patio table. I had at least an 80% germination rate. Next year, to make transplanting easier, I probably will put the seeds in peat pots and bury the pots in potting mix in the aluminum pans. But I do not plan on covering the pans.

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

This thread's great! I didn't get around to winter sowing this year (could NOT find my box of seeds!!).

I can tell you that Sharpie markers fade in the sun, big time. You need to use something truly indelible, such as a Zig paint marker or another paint marker. There are various brands, but they're the kind you have to shake to mix and pump the nib a few times to prime - they'll say on them that they're non-fading and waterproof.

Columbia Heights, MN(Zone 4a)

Yardman, didn't your soil dry out? Were you watering alot? I agree about the peat pots. Sure would make separation easier.

What I did to mark mine, I used those coffee stir sticks from Starbucks and then I wrapped that new Glad Seal and Store around the top of the stick. You know, the stuff that sticks to itself but is easy to handle? I think that's what it is called. Anyway, lasted through the season.

Cullowhee, NC(Zone 6b)

Gosh, with only two inches of soil I would have been transplanting in late January!

By the way, I still have lobelia cardinalis seedlings in wintersowing containers. They look fine, but I'm afraid to do anything to them. The first batch I planted out died almost instantly! And I put them right next to a living lobelia cardinalis, so I know the site is appropriate. Where did I go wrong?

Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

Two years ago I did 100 containers and had 80% germination. I used Miracle gro moisture control that I got on sale the end of summer before ( you can't find big bags of potting soil over the winter). The miracle gro worked great. This winter I plan on doing veggies. And am limiting it to 50 containers!

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I learned another lesson - keep the seedlings in their containers as long as possible or they become slug bait!

Westerville, OH(Zone 6a)

beaker_ch: No, I did not water the seeds. I ignored them (except for occasionally peeking at the trays through our kitchen windows) until the daytime temps started to go up into the 60s. Then I started to monitor the potting mix's moisture level and misted as necessary to maintain the proper moisture level.

This message was edited May 30, 2006 7:00 PM

Westerville, OH(Zone 6a)

Suggestion for seed labelling: buy a box or two of the cheap, plastic, multi-colored toothpicks. Stick toothpicks of one color around one type of seed. Then simply write yourself some notes about which toothpick color corresponds to which type of seed. The toothpicks should not fade that much, if at all, over winter and your notes are safe in the house. If there are not enough toothpick colors for all of your seeds, then draw a rough sketch the positions of the seed contains in your yard and then define the color/seed correlation by container.

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

Missgarney, do you think the ones in the containers were used to more moisture? Were they in the same amount of sun as they one growing in your garden? Maybe they need to be acclimated to the sun before putting them in the ground?

Good idea with the toothpicks, Yardman. I bet one could fold pieces of duct tape over the ends of the toothpicks and write on them with a paint marker, too.

Cullowhee, NC(Zone 6b)

Lobelia cardinalis is a shade-lover. I would have to say that the seedlings should have been much happier where I planted them. The container was subject to all kinds of abuse! It had been in blazing sun, had gone without water, and yet the seedlings looked great. Then, I planted them where conditions were just right for them, and they died. I'm starting to wonder if they weren't misidentified at some stage. The second container of seedlings is now on the counter next to the kitchen sink. I'm stymied. I'm afraid to transplant and watch them die.

Westerville, OH(Zone 6a)

gardenwife --- you must have much better penmanship than I do, ha. By the time you make the duct tape strip small enough to go around the toothpick and still have enough toothpick to securely stick it into place, that duct tape strip would have to be awfully narrow - much too narrow for me to legibly write on. I would need a BIG piece of tape to make my writing legible, ha.

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

Just a piece as wide as the roll and about as square. I do have good penmanship, though. ;) For some of my plants just temporarily potted, I put duct tape on my pots and wrote the names on it.

Arlington, TX(Zone 7b)

Please help me!!!

I sowed so many flower seeds for the last 3 months and I still don't have one healthy plant. They still look like the first week they geminated (only one set of leaves). I tried plant lights to fertilizer but nothing would work for me. My kitchen is full of peat pots, plant pots, plant lights, heating lights, and baby plants. It has been months now and I'm getting so discouraged. I tried to move my babies to different places in the house but no luck either. They are still standing still and looking just like two weeks old. What did I do wrong?? I'm in zone 7B but my baby plants are sowed indoor so that shouldn't make any difference right? I read gardening magazines, searched the internet , and followed every steps in sowing seeds but I just could not get it right. I'm so obsessed with my babies that I literally sit next to them and watch them grow. They're not growing; as matter of fact, they're not doing anything. Please help me!!

Elaine Dinehart

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Elaine, Not sure I can help but let me get the info correct.
Your seeds germinated then stopped growing? Are they still alive? Very sick looking or just just small. The most common problem with seedlings is damping off but then you would notice your plants collapsing. Are you growing something very slow growing (some perennials)? Are they sown in seed starting mix, potting mix, soil from outside?


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