Lessons learned for next year #2

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

This is a continuation from Lessons learned for next year.

I just realized that #1 was a (sticky) I don't know how to do that or what it is.

This message was edited Jan 8, 2007 6:57 AM

La Salle, MI(Zone 5b)

Zen, I put a message on the contact link and asked if they would make this a sticky :o) Hope that works,


Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Connie, Thanks.

La Salle, MI(Zone 5b)

WC Zen

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

I've never done wintersowing before. I did look through the original thread but didn't see the answer to my question, which is, can I put pots in a old plexi covered cold frame that has a large hole in the top? Should I cover the hole with tape and maybe just keep the top open?

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

I think the notion is to allow the rain to fall onto your plants. But are you planning to use regular pots? Many of us are using milk jugs (or the like) as pots, so that the sides and top of the jugs protect the plants, and the opening is small so not too much rain falls in to drown the plants.

If your cold frame has a hole, that still wouldn't allow all the plants to be watered (I would think), so you would need to provide supplemental water. If you keep the top open but don't protect the pots, that might result in a washout in the event of a rainstorm, plus your plants aren't protected from critters, slugs, etc. But might be worth a try.

La Salle, MI(Zone 5b)


This is a great website to read up on winter sowing http://www.wintersown.org/wseo1/How_to_Winter_Sow.html


(Zone 6a)

I just planted my first 4 containers today and already learned a lesson :) Write on something white like a plant marker and stick it in the container. I wrote directly on the outside and once it was filled with soil I can't read it anymore!


Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

Last time I did ws I wrote with permanent ink on the outside of the containers but found it wasn't so permanent. This year I am going to try little plastic bags with the plant written down on paper inside. Hopefully the plastic won't disintegrate.

Northwest, OH(Zone 5b)

Last year, I used a permanent Sharpie brand marker on my milk jugs and I simply numbered them, then lined them up in order. I kept my list of numbered jugs with the corresponding seeds planted in them in the house, and the numbers didn't even fade a whole lot. I'll be doing it the same way this year.

Thumbnail by kbaumle
York, PA

This is my first year WSing as well but found out the hard way to dry my hands in between seeding each jug. The seeds were sticking to my wet fingers and were very hard to sprinkle properly. Tamping down the seeds would get them wet again so I had to make sure I dried my hands each time.


Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I did the same kb...I also put garden markers in the containers which survived well.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I used a Sharpie which did not fade but my containers got only morning sun. The Sharpies did fade, though, on the in-ground markers during the summer. I'm trying a paint pen for that this year.

I'm making labels from my yogurt containers, which I haven't tried before. Not sure where i read that tip, maybe from someone here? They're too expensive to buy in the quantities I'll need, and the strips cut from yogurt containers seem like they will work.


Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

I used mini blinds with a paint marker and then used it as the plant marker when I put them in the ground. Thus using it twice. The markers still have the paint on them.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

If I ever find discarded mini blinds I will try that, but I don't want to buy it. Too cheap!


Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Try a second hand shop, or lete friends know you are looking for some. They make great garden markers.

Chapel Hill, NC(Zone 7b)

I started two milk jugs on the 8th (close to 4" of Scott's potting soil). I put first a coffee stirrer down the middle, then sowed two rows on each side of it, each half of the jug having one kind of seed. So - two (future) flowers per jug. To mark them I used wide rubber bands around the pouring hole, like they come with broccoli, for instance. Then I made a Word Table like this (sorry, can't make a table here):

Container# 1 (pink rubber band)
Date Jan. 8
Description By handle of jug: Larkspur, To right of red straw: White Mallow

I will admit that I won't find enough colors of rubber bands, abut maybe as additional identification (e.g. #1, #2) I can use the position in the crate (bulb crates from Home Depot, found by DH some time ago).

I don't intend to sow as much as many of you brave souls, because of some unrelated gardening problems. I may do maybe ten jugs.

Mableton, GA(Zone 7b)

Keep an eye on those rubber bands! Their colors can fade too.

Sterling, VA(Zone 6b)

I also used a method similar to kbaumle and I did not have a problem with my marker fading (I do not know what brand). I did learn a lesson though....I thought that I was smart. I wrote the number on the jug in marker and pencil and I also wrote the plant name on a plastic knife stuck in the container. No way that I could end up with unlabeled containers that way!

Well that is what I thought. In the spring when I cut off the tops the numbers on the containers went with them. Now I was just down to the plastic knifes to mark my containers. Wouldn't you know that little kids have a knack for removing items like plastic utensils from containers of soil! I ended up with 4 containers of "mystery" plants.

This year I will: Mark the bottom of my containers as well!

Another thing I learned was how tricky it can be to identify plants by foliage alone. At one point I had "positively" identified one of the containers as Heliposis so I planted it accordingly. When it bloomed it looked just like Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium).

- Brent

East Meadow, NY

Rubberbands do worse than fade, they rot! They break down in the UV rays. Keep a bag of them in your coat pocket to take outside. When one breaks just slip a new one over the old one--they last about a month.

Even better, go through your gift wrap supplies and cut strips of curling ribbon to tie onto the jugs--that NEVER fades. Or go to the thrift store and buy a bag of leftover yarn balls--you'll have a lifetime supply of all the colors you'll need. I use curling ribbon and yarn often in the garden, especially early in the season when I'm getting plant stakes in place to use later on. When I put in stakes I tie some ribbon or yarn to them, enough to do a good job encircling a plant, later on, when the plants are bigger and need staking, those stakes are already there with the stings attached. It's a bit extra work early on but you'll be grateful for it later in the season.


Beachwood, OH

Trudi's ideas probably work best of all. I've tried even indelible and permanent markers and they all faded. I cut up milk jugs last year for markers and I like them but - again - they faded. Perhaps the paint pens work - dunno.
I have to say - prefer cardboard ice cream cartons to the plastic milk jugs. A Breyers type container works well - easier to punch holes in the bottom. I cut the center out of the lid and use a piece of plastic wrap with holes in it to water the seedlings. The container is deep enough and you can easily see in, and lets sunlight in. And you can easily open and close them. I had a heck of a time with too few holes in the plastic jugs making the soil soggy. And making the holes was difficult and I didn't want to go out and buy a hot tool to do it.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

alyrics: Just want to be sure what you meant when you wrote: "I had a heck of a time with too few holes in the plastic jugs making the soil soggy." I think you mean that you didn't have enough holes in your milk jugs, so your soil was too dry, and adding extra holes to fix the situation was a pain. Is that right?

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

My guess would be not enough drain holes so it was soggy.
What will the answer be?

Beachwood, OH

HI Happy
I punched maybe 8 holes in the bottom of my plastic milk jugs and I used new Pro-Mix potting soil. I found that the soil didn't drain well in those jugs and the seedlings seemed overly wet so didn't develop good root systems.
Maybe it was the Pro-Mix, maybe it was poor drainage from the jugs. Not sure. Overly dry was not the problem - overly wet was the issue.

I think I liked being able to see my seedlings through the plastic wrap over the ice cream cartons. Its easy to replace also if you need to - but I did not.

Beachwood, OH

I thought maybe the ice cream cartons would collapse by the spring but that didn't happen. Gee I sure sound pro- ice cream - but that can't be all bad.

I have a big question for y'all. I would like to start some trays of impatiens. I was told last yr by a garden center that they should be started in Jan or Feb because they take so long to germinate. Then I looked up growing instructions and they need high heat to germinate. And I know from having them self seed in my garden that I don't get volunteer impatiens till the end of summer. Has anyone ever tried wintersowing impatiens and which variety would be the hardiest to try it with? I do not want to set up lights and all that in the house

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Re holes on the bottom of the milk carton -- thanks for reminding me about that -- I bet I would not have made enough holes without that advice!

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Go to the following site and it tells what has been satisfactory sown by growing zone.


Northwest, OH(Zone 5b)

I used soil from my garden and poked eight holes in the bottom of my milk jugs with an ice pick and the drainage was perfect in relation to the rain/snow we got.

This message was edited Jan 12, 2007 10:08 AM

East Meadow, NY

I can't imagine anyone having a hard time with milk jugs because the plastic is so soft. I use plain old cheapo scissors from the dollar store. If you need more drainage take a steak knife and stab a slit into the side.

Here's some info:

Thumbnail by Poojer
Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

I just got my hot pink duck tape and am going to try the paint markers I got from the Eon plant marker co-op and spray them with some clear spray paint before I start filling them. It's worth a shot anyhow=) I also have some leftover screen from replacing the front door screen so if I get carried away making the drainage holes too large I can just pop a piece of screen in the bottom to keep the soil in.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Or you can stick a little piece of duct tape over the holes.


Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

I used soda bottles and used a drill to make drainage holes.

DFW area, TX(Zone 7b)

Every window blind you buy will have excess slats at the bottom.
Being careful to not cut the strings, simply remove them. Voila -
free markers.

Also, it will be spring before you know it. Lots of blinds in the trash.
Grab one and put it away for when you will need it.

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

I just want to say as a for warning. If anyone decides that it would be a good idea to use a wood burning tool or other form of heat to melt holes into the plastic. DON'T. When the plastic burns it give off toxic fumes, your lungs will not like that at all, they may even be damaged.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

I use a dremel to make holes..

As far as WSing, I have been using a few methods.
One is making flats of peat pots inside of foil roasting pans with slits on bottom and top. These flats are numered and documented on a tablet, each flat is also marked with little bamboo picks written on in pencil.

Here are about half of the flats on temporary tables under a tree between the out-shed, and the South side of the house..>

Thumbnail by debnes_dfw_tx
Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Then I am also using the baggie method...About 15 bags here, marked with name of plant, and dated. These are in my little pop-up GH for stratification. The flats outside on the tables that begin to sprout get to go in the GH too.

Thank you all, I am learning a lot from the 'lessons'!!

Thumbnail by debnes_dfw_tx
Beachwood, OH

Must be the different brands of milk - our milk jugs are hard plastic and I couldn't even get a sharpened knife to hardly poke thru. I was concerned about slits not draining well enough. anyway - to each his own on the containers. My friend grew gorgeous dahlias in disposable foil containers slid into a re-closable baggie.

I also found that a great cover are the ziplock plastic bags that grapes come in, as they provide light and a covering, but also have plenty of holes in them.

La Salle, MI(Zone 5b)

Well, I started my WSing on Monday and have been doing a little each day.

I was wondering, I have a few different colors of Rose of Sharon, would it be okay to put these all in the same container? but seperated!

I used the wide craft sticks with each seed name and put them in side the containers and then wrote on the out side of each jug (w/paint marker) I also have a list of everything I am WSing on Word Doc. I highlight each one I have sown already.


Wheatfield, NY(Zone 6a)

Connie, that's what I was planning on doing. If I have something I only want a few of, but I have different varieties, or different colors, I'll put them in the same container, but divide it in half or quarters.

What was really nice was T's Flowers 'n Things sends plastic markers along when you buy seeds from them. All you have to do is write on them and you're good to go. I already had the paint pens.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I tried only one container with peat pots last year and didn't like them at all. They dried out too quickly.


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