Patience for a Newbie?

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

Hi all. I've been pouring over this sight as well as many others and I'm chomping at the bit to give WSing a try. I have a few pretty basic questions that you've probably seen a hundred times before, but if someone has a minute I'd love to have them answered first hand.

First of all I'm wondering about soil type. When I started my seeds indoor last year I used that special seed-starter mix. Should that be used here as well? Or just regular potting soil? Or does it matter? I'd also like to know if when planting in milk jugs I need additional air venting holes in the top, or is the opening to the jug suffice? And am I correct that the container needs to be deep enough to hold at least 4" of soil?

And lastly I'm wondering which seeds can be planted when. I found a matrix guiding me in this area, but I've also seen people post contrasting info. Can just about anything be started now? (I'm in zone 5). I know I've asked a lot of questions. LOL. I guess I'm looking for mentor here.

Thanks everyone. This is a great sight with a lot of friendly, helpful people and I'm delighted to have found it!

(Zone 6a)

LaLa_Jane - This is my first year sowing as well and heres what I found out,
First your seed starter mix will work best, just be sure you water it before you plant your seeds into it as it compacts after watering. Second, the opening in the top of the milk jug will work good for now, but as the weather warms you'll need to cut more slots in the jug for ventilation. And from everything I've heard your container needs atleast 4" of soil for proper root development. For more information check out this link
And here you can find a list of seeds that will be good for your zone

Hope this helps,

Edited to add that I noticed your new here so Welcome to Daves Garden! I've been a member for almost a year now, and its a great source of gardening information. Theres always someone to answer your questions!

This message was edited Jan 21, 2007 10:06 PM

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

Thank you Steven!

I am so excited! Last year I started so many seedlings inside (and started way too early) that I swore I would show better restraint this year. But I've got the itch bad, and this sounds like the perfect solution. I'm going to do a couple of jugs tonight just to get a little dirt under my nails. ;-)


This message was edited Jan 21, 2007 10:10 PM

Lansing, KS(Zone 5b)

BOUQUETS and a big welcome Lala _Jane! This is my first year W/Sing also, you have found the best home for any and every gardening question and so many friendly folks to encourage you along the way. I've certainly been encouraged here at DG and I'm sure you will too! Have fun playing in the dirt tonight. ;0)

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Lala_jane:Welcome to wintersowing.

You can use any potting soil. ProMix and Miracle Grow seem to be the favored choices. It doesn't have to be seed starting mix, any good potting soil will do. Everyone has their favorites.

I like around 3 to 4 inches of potting mix in containers so that they don't dry out quickly as the weather warms up. Some people use things like deli rotisserie chicken containers, salad bar clamshells and the like, but I prefer milk jugs and 2 liter pop bottles. My friend found a store brand of pop called "Big Chill" at bigg's grocery here in Cincinnati which comes in 3 liter bottles. These puppies are big! I'm gonna be drinking lots of this pop!

Yes, start with no lids on the jugs, and as the weather warms add more openings around the top to keep the heat from being trapped inside the container and frying the seedlings. Lastly, Trudi says that you can plant any seed at any time. However, if the weather warms early and seeds germinate, there is a possibility of losing some babies to frost. So for that reason some people wait until later to plant tender stuff, like around March or even April.

Keep checking Trudi's site as she updates it frequently and it does contain everything you need to know. For specific questions people here will be happy to help.

Have fun and enjoy wintersowing.


North West, OH(Zone 5b)

Thanks for the warm welcome garden6. I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot more of me....I'll be sure to let you know how my garden grows. :D

Emory, TX(Zone 8a)

However, if the weather warms early and seeds germinate, there is a possibility of losing some babies to frost. So for that reason some people wait until later to plant tender stuff, like around March or even April.

How do I determine what is "tender?"

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

Hi Lala_Jane,

All newbies are welcomed & encouraged to try wintersowing! It's the best cure 'for the wintertime blues'.

I have been wintersowing for several years and from my experience (yes, failures too), I have found that Miracle Grow or Pro-Mix potting soil works the best. You want a soil that will retain some moisture, without getting soggy, so drainage holes are very important. Seed starting mix is too light in my opinion. It is fine for germinating seeds indoors, but you want a soil that can also tolerate temperature fluctuations, without drying out to quickly.

Last year I only had the top off on my milk jugs and I had LOTS of germination. I've added a couple of top holes along the 'shoulder' of the jug to see if there is any difference this year. Widen the vent holes as your seedlings grow up. Makes planting out easier too.

Four inches of a quality potting soil is a must! Don't try to save a couple of pennies by buying the cheap stuff. I killed the majority of my wintersown seedlings my 1st year because I just couldn't water them fast enough and the soil kept drying out. I learned the hard way.

It's best to start wsing your hardiest plants first. When in doubt, read the seed packet (if you have it available). Plus, Tom Clothier's website has the most comprehensive seed germination information that I've come across. Trees, shrubs, hardy ornamental grasses & perennials that need many weeks/months of cold temps should be started first. Don't forget about wsing cold loving veggies that you like. Since I'm in a warmer growing zone, I wait until early Spring to ws my tender annuals and late Spring for tropicals. Do what works best in your growing area

Keep asking questions. Please post your questions. It's the best way to learn!

Good Luck!

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

yardqueen1948: When I think of tender, I think of plants that don't like temps below 50 degrees, such as Brugmansia. Lots of other examples, but that's the first one that popped into my head.

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

Wow thanks Karen. You've given me a lot of info there and I really appreciate it. I will try to show some restraint and start with the hardier plants for now. As many seeds as I think I want to sow I can probably stagger them from now until April and still keep myself busy. LOL!

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

"Keep asking questions. Please post your questions. It's the best way to learn!" You may rue the day you uttered those words Shirley. Haha. I have a voracious thirst for all things green and will most likely be pestering you all for all kinds of help and advice. Thank you so much for giving it so freely!

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I often use the T&M website as a guide. Nothing is absolute, but they usually list everything as hardy perennial, hardy annual, tender annual, etc, and I find that a pretty good starting point. You should be safe to start any hardy perennials now as well as hardy annuals like poppies and bachelor buttons. But for things that have no tolerance for frost, waiting till closer to spring seems prudent to me.

Like Shirley, I add a few slits and/or holes around the shoulders of the jugs when sowing; this makes it easier to enlarge in spring when they are actually a necessity.


(Zone 6a)

LaLa_Jane, I'm glad I could help, this is my first year too so I'm also really excited to see my results. Keep us posted!


Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

Do you use the M. Grow potting soil with Moisture Control or the regular?

Also I noticed postings that say some seedling do not like to be transplanted. I also read somewhere about using egg cartons. They seem small to me. What do you think?

Lima, OH(Zone 5b)

I may have missed this; but is it OK to us the potting mixes with fertilizer? It seems to be everywhere I look.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Egg cartons are way too small. You want at least 3" of soil depth.

Potting mixes with fertilizer or without will be OK. With or without moisture control is also OK. If you read the threads in this forum, current and old, you will find lots of answers. Also keep checking Trudi's forum, everything you need is there and she updates it all the time.


Painesville, OH(Zone 5b)

Hi La! I'm from the Cleveland area and this is my first year ws as well! I know what you mean about patience...I am just itching to get started! I put out containers as we finish our milk and/or pop. So far, I have put out 8 containers (only 5 seeds each because I hate thinning out)--2 kinds of columbine, 2 kinds of pansies, dianthus barbatus, 2 kinds of sweet peas and poppies. I did start some lettuce and basil indoors because I just HAD to see something growing. I'm glad you asked the questions you did, because I was also wondering some of the same things. What do you plan on WS? Tamara

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

Hi Tamara!

"I did start some lettuce and basil indoors because I just HAD to see something growing."
LOL! We are certainly of like minds girl. I have a container of petunia seeds and one of bell pepper seeds at my feet becuase I too couldn't stand to not see something grow. I'm sure there will be more to follow, but I'm hoping WSing (my new obsession) will help hold me back awhile longer. (I got ...ahem...a little carried away last year. Most people are concerned about baby sitters or even pet sitters. Well I couldn't leave town for more than a day last year because nobody wanted to deal with plant sitting my house.)

So far I have WS'd a container each of foxglove, canterbury bells, hibiscus, poppies, guillardia, and petunias. Tonight I'm going to do some colombine and marigolds. I may be too early for some of these, but I have seeds coming out my ears so I'm open to experimenting. I'm also like you that I'm planting as containers become available (sure sign of a newbie, eh?) LOL!

Good luck and be sure to let us know how everything is going!

Lima, OH(Zone 5b)

I planted a few more things today; and used two large plastic pots about 10" in diameter. They are opaque, but I put clear plastic plates (with punched holes) on top and duct-taped the outer edge. Now I am wondering, if the seeds/seedlings are down inside about four inches from the top, will they get enough light. Should the whole container--or at least above the soil line--be clear?

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Tammy: Your containers should work just fine, as long as the lid is clear. Just watch that the seedlings have enough head room as they grow.


Emory, TX(Zone 8a)

Head room is something that I am worried about in some of my containers. Some that were so perfect with lids that fir and everthing. After I put the soil in some of them seem to be less than roomy! I am wondering...After they spout and start to grow could I replace the lid with a tent of plastic?

Jersey Shore, NJ(Zone 7a)

I am hoping so, because that's what I have also. I check them every other day or so and expect or hope at some point I will have to "lift their lid" so to speak ;>)

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