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Warms temps and wintersowing - should we wait?

Northwest, OH(Zone 5b)

This will be my second year of wintersowing and I enjoyed about a 50% success last winter. I wasn't sure if I would do it again, but of course, I am! LOL. Last year, I think I planted right around New Year's, but I'm holding off this year, due to the warm temps we've had. With weather in the 50s consistently, I was afraid to start things, for fear they'd germinate and then be lost when the really cold weather came. This is not normal weather for us, but there it is, just the same.

Am I right in waiting until it gets really cold before planting and setting them out?

York, PA

This is my first year for winter sowing but I plan to plant out the things that need cold stratification or warm/cold/warm to germinate. There wouldn't be any fear of early germination due to the warmer temps and the seeds will still benefit from the fluctuating temps they need. Just my 2 cents.


Georgetown, SC(Zone 8a)

kbaumle: I went ahead and sowed on New Year's. And it's been 70* here! I'd echo what Netwiz said. Couldn't hurt. Even if it's warm, the days are still short, nights are cool, and as long as the containers stay moist enough, you'll still have a head start on outside sowing. So, why not? Of course, I'm not anything near expert on this, since I'm totally new to this myself. So...for what it's worth? :)

Northwest, OH(Zone 5b)

All righty then! I got my milk jugs ready to go several weeks ago, so now I just need to decide what I'm planting. :-)

Madison, WI

I delayed sowing, but it sounds like you guys are going ahead and have good reason. I'll start setting up my containers.
The temperatures drop below at night, but are warm during the day. However, I have not see any plant break dormancy
yet. Day length must be more important then then the temperatures.

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

I am waiting till the end of Jan or beginning of Feb. That is when I planted last year and I had fantastic results. At least here we have our coldest weather in February and it is too warm to be winter now. So that is my 2 cents worth.

Have you noticed the thread about the seeds sprouting already? That scared me off for sure.

This message was edited Jan 2, 2007 11:43 AM

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

I'm in zone 5b like you, kbaumle, and I'm waiting. Last year I had a 90% success rate in totally different weather of course LOL. The main reason I'm waiting is because we are excessively warm right now and can get some really nasty cold and dry weather in February. I don't know if 3 weeks of 50s and then temps near 0 for a while are going to do it for my seeds. What I'm waiting for is the night time temps to get below freezing (amazing I am saying that in January here!) and then I'll start sowing. I'm not a scientist or even a very experienced winter sower so I don't know that you should take what I say very seriously LOL.

In going thru my notes for last year, I saw that I didn't even start until January 19th and it all worked out fine. I did sow 4 containers last weekend just to see what happens but I only did partial seed packets so I could sow the same seeds later for comparison.

Since I seem to be the only one waiting, I might go ahead and do some sowing today. :)

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

arachide, Note I was typing when you posted so you didn't see my post. I am waiting.

Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

I'm in south ga and I'm waiting abit longer, only because I'm not soil and container ready..

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

zenpotter: Yea! Two of us waiting. Don't feel quite as alone with my possibly crazy logic.

York, PA

Most of my perennial seeds will wait until Feb. The only things I have sown so far are things such as hellebores, checkered lily, trillium and cimiciguga to name a few that need warm/cold/warm. The jugs are in my laundry room for the warm period and will be put outside in late Jan. In mid Jan. I will sow the perennials that need cold stratification and are known for long germination times such as clematis and columbine. Everything else will wait until Feb. to make sure winter has truly arrived.

It really helps to see what others are planning and takes some of the guessing out of it. Thanks!


Madison, WI

This winter is truly remarkably warm even though the water outside freezes each morning.

Now that I see a camp of more experienced waiters :), I am inclined to wait on some seeds.
I have a large bag of seeds to handle so it'll probably going to take me until Feb to do them
all at 5 a weekend. I'll sort them out and start with hellebores then. ... and keep checking
what others do. I love DG for that!

Northwest, OH(Zone 5b)

Okay, now I'm hearing what I was thinking in the first place. I know I sowed in January last year, but I can't remember exactly when. I have it written down somewhere.

I think I will go with my first instinct and wait until we are having typically winter weather. This sure isn't it!

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I haven't started yet. I was just outside playing in the dirt and it must be 50 degrees out there. Warm and sunny. Ten day forecast is for 40s to 50s daytime, 30s and 40s at night. No below freezing temps, even at night.

Now that the holidays are over I can give some thought to WS. First I guess I need to get organized and decide what to plant this year. I still need to look up germination requirements for a lot of them. I might start some HPs soon.


Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

This is a very interesting discussion & I would like to add a few things to consider.

What type of seeds are you sowing now? Trees, hardy shrubs, perennials, cold loving vegetables

Location for wintersown containers:
(East): Morning sun is preferrable
(North): Least amount of sun : Your seeds will not get cooked, but they will take longer to germinate
(West) Afternoon sun : Protect your containers by placing them under a bush or chair to help protect them
(South) Sun: Hot, Hot, Hot!

What type of seeds need stratification and must have fluctuation of temperatures for this to occur. This is NOT a complete list. There are a lot more that I haven't thought of, so please feel free to add to it. By the way, I have not sown all these seeds.
Clematis (multiple seasons)
Cyclamen (warm, cold, warm)
Helleborus (multiple seasons)

This message was edited Jan 2, 2007 9:05 PM

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Shirley: You seem to know a lot so I hope you can help me out with a question about stratification and temperature fluctuation. Is there a difference between wild and prolonged temperature changes and the more ordinary several day type changes that we usually get here in my area? I probably would have done more containers by now if it was only several days of warm followed by more normal temps. My thinking (and I could be way wrong) was that we have been in the 50s for so long when we are usually in the 20s and 30s that it kind of cancels out normal temperature fluctuation. Also, if we didn't usually get some really nasty February weather I probably wouldn't care so much about the temps now. Does this make sense?

I like your list of seeds and think that those seeds requiring long and multiple temperature fluctuations would probably be OK in my area right now, but of course I am not sowing any of those this year LOL.

Thanks for the info.

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)


Is there a difference between wild and prolonged temperature changes

When you mention wild and prolonged temperature changes are you referring to global warming and the affects it is having on our climate, oceans, vegetation, etc.?

the more ordinary several day type changes that we usually get here in my area?

Yes, dramatic swings in temperature happen all the time. It's the change in daytime & nightime temps, plus the days are getting longer & there is more available sunlight.

those seeds requiring long and multiple temperature fluctuations would probably be OK in my area right now, but of course I am not sowing any of those this year

That's fine if you are only growing seeds that don't need stratification.

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Shirley: No, I wasn't referring to global warming, I just meant that we have been 20 to 30 degrees above normal for several weeks now, not just for a day or two. That's a good point about the length of day and the change in nightime temps. Probably why I initially said that I was waiting for nightime temps to get below freezing without realizing why I thought that. 50s in the day and 40 at night doesn't seem like much of a temperature change to me but as you also pointed out, day length is also a factor. Now I see why 50 degrees during a 14 hour sunlight day in April is different than the same temp for several hours in a 10 hour day in January.

The 4 containers I did plant are close to the house on an eastern exposure. Since the sun is at a very different angle now than it will be several months from now, they do not get much direct sun. That is in my favor right now, too.

This is very interesting, thanks.

Crozet, VA

I agree with you arachide about this being an interesting topic. I read about wintersowing after it was too late to sow last year. I like it because it does stretch out the growing season. I repotted some indoor plants last week and loved having my hands in the dirt again. My husband and I inherited a large growing table recently from his home place. It is already sitting on front deck, but needs to be moved to the other end which will get more sun. That is where I plan to set the containers. I will probably need some sort of rock or something heave to sit in containers so they won't blow away. Can any of you think of what else I might use to make the containers heavier and less likely to blow over? Thanks.

Any ways, take care and have a wonderful day everyone.


Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

Hi Ruby, good to see you in the Wintersowing Forum!

I've seen pictures of wintersown soda bottles that are put into plastic crates that would help keep them together.

Here's another way of corraling all your containers. Are you or your DH handy with hammers & nails?

How about a germination tunnel?

Or a gardening hoop house?

Lots of different possibilities!

Northern Michigan, MI(Zone 5a)

It's been much warmer here then the norm. It's more like April weather. One of my lilacs has buds on it for crying out loud. Don't get me wrong personally I am enjoying the milder winter but I am afraid for my plants. I am assuming it will eventually hit and we will go down in temps. Normal for this time of the year is single digits or below zero especially at night. Yesterday it was nearly 50* but the last several nights we've had heavy frosts so maybe the warm front will end soon.

Last weekend I wintersowed some of my seeds and put them out. I did some poppies and some hollyhocks some foxglove, lupine, a few clematis seeds and a few other things. I have a lot more but am waiting to see what the extended forecast says this weekend.

~Julie =0)

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

The wintersown site has hollyhocks not germinating with winter sowing in zone 4. Has anyone in zone 4 had luck with them? I was assuming that it would work.

York, PA

The downloadable database has the following results for hollyhock

Hollyhock Alcea 9 Y
Hollyhock 3 Y
Hollyhock * 7 Y
Hollyhock All Alcea Rosea 5 Y
Hollyhock Red 6 N
Hollyhock All Alcea 8 N
Hollyhock All Alcea 8 Y
Hollyhock All Alcea 8 Y
Hollyhock All Alcea rosea 4 N
Hollyhock All Alcea rosea 6 Y
Hollyhock All Alcea rosea 6 Y
Hollyhock All Alcea Rosea 5 N
Hollyhock All 4 Y
Hollyhock Striped Malva sylvestris var. zebrina 6 Y
Hollyhocks Miniature sidealcea? 5 Y

It looks you should be able to do them in zone 4. Good luck!


Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Joanne, Thank you I am going to go for it.


Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

I had pretty much decided to wait until I was convinced it was winter and not spring already! Also, I'm waiting until I'm done with my containers and I track down my seeds (again) LOL. I know some of you people have had your containers ready since frost, but tonight is I think the first time it will be below freezing, at least in a long time (I'm thinking November?). I can't remember what seeds I have - I know someone gave me a lot of zinnia seeds, and I bought 2K kinds of sweet pea seeds, but other than that I can't remember!

xxx. Carrie

West Central, WI(Zone 4a)

We're no longer whinning about a warm winter here anymore. It's cold. I'm not sure if it got above freezing or not yesterday, but it was windy and I heard that the windchill was 7 degrees. Looks like plenty of cold through the weekend. Now if we could just get some snow. All of this brown, dead stuff is depressing. White is so much better than brown.

Northwest, OH(Zone 5b)

Marie, you might find my latest entry in my blog interesting............I feel your pain.


West Central, WI(Zone 4a)

Kylee thanks. I just keep telling myself that Spring gets a day closer every day.

Northwest, OH(Zone 5b)

It was just a few weeks ago when my DH and I were outside walking through the gardens and I said, "So, it's what...four months until things really start growing again?" and he laughed at me and said, "You're already counting down the days aren't you?"

Yes, I am.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

I've got seeds that need cold stratification in the fridge, so they're ready to go... but I'm with those who are waiting for colder weather. If I sowed seeds and had them sprout in this oddly warm weather we've been having, I'm pretty sure that the seedlings would perish when cold weather descended on their tender little heads. A few truly tough ones might survive, but I want better odds than that! I know, I baby my seedlings too much... but it's what works for me. :-)

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

I'm too new to really know when to do it. This is my first year, and I just went with winter soltice. I haven't seen any sprouts yet so I hope I'm ok.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Critter, I thought the whole point of WS was to let Mother Earth do the cold-stratifying for us, no? You baby your seedlings too much...

xxx, Carrie

Northwest, OH(Zone 5b)

I just sow and go. LOL. If I have to do too much, it's not worth the effort.

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

I just noticed a few little sprouts in three or four containers, we'll see how they survive when the weather gets freezing again. I just put out 6 more containers. With all this rain, at least I know they're moist enough.

Braselton, GA(Zone 7b)

Haven't started mine yet either...that tunnel is really cool! I think I may try to get some things out tomorrow before it gets too cold to get outside and play...I have a lot to sow, just no idea when to start or where to place them...Deb, do you think the sun on my Deck would be okay? It gets mostly afternoon sun....that way if we don't get enough rain they will be where I can water them too...hmmm....I just have no clue about this...LOL I think I am thinking too much and not DOING enough...

This message was edited Jan 14, 2007 12:09 AM

Northwest, OH(Zone 5b)

I put out ten jugs this afternoon. I might do some more in a couple of weeks. Depends on how ambitious I'm feeling by then. LOL.

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

I am still trying to absord this new info. When you use gallon milk jugs do you cut them in half? Pot with Promix? Don't laugh LOL. I want to try some annuals and my tomatoes in containers this year for an earlier start.

La Salle, MI(Zone 5b)

Hi Bluegrassmom, I cut my jugs all the way around to the handle on both sides, but leave the handle connected. Then tape it closed,


Northwest, OH(Zone 5b)

I do the same as Connie.

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

nikki: What's sprouting?

bluegrassmom: If you leave a "hinge" where the handle is attached on the milk jug, it will be a lot easier to tape together after sowing your seeds. If you are planning to grow only annuals & tomatoes, you've got a while before you need to get started.

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