Our gardening group's Winter Sowing class was held last Saturday, and was really interesting. Some of you asked that I post step by step instructions of the process. Here is our class on my patio, with 5 more pics to follow:
First thing, and the reason we are talking about this in May, is get your seeds ready! Now is the time to buy seeds on the clearance rack, and even to look in the gardening centers for what perennials you may be able to winter sow sucessfully, and order seeds from an online seed catalog.
Next, you also need to start collecting milk jugs now. Even 2 liter soda bottles will work. My friend, Cynthia who taught the class, prepares her milk jugs as she collects them, and hangs them on a line in her basement. That way, in January when she is ready to actually assemble the jugs, they are all ready to go.
First step, starting at the handle, cut all the way around the jug, leaving a "hinge" at the handle. Poke fairly large holes in the top and the bottom. You can't get too many holes, but you can get too few. You want to make sure enough rain and snow get into the top of your jug and enough moisture drains out.This message has been edited. Last edited by: 88hazel,
This is what the jugs look like when they are ready to plant:
In January/February, when you are shivering in your wool socks, you'll want to assemble your planters. Fill each container with potting soil and sprinkle seeds over the top. Cynthia plants over 100 of these every year, so she is very organized with numbers on the jugs corresponding to the seed packet, as well as an excel spread sheet. If you don't want to do that, just make sure you label each jug WITH A PAINT PEN. DO NOT USE A MARKER, OR IT WILL FADE IN THE WEATHER and you will have no idea what it is you have planted in there. Also, it is a good idea to take a plastic spoon and write the name of the seed on it to stick inside the pot just in case your outer label does fade.
Other things she does which I find helpful, on her spreadsheet, she includes color of the flower, height, sun/shade requirements, etc. so when it is time to plant she will have an idea where things will need to go.
She just sprinkles the seed on top of the potting soil and waters in. She doesn't even cover them with more soil. She has a 95% or better germination rate this way.This message has been edited. Last edited by: 88hazel,
Next, push the top part down into the jug a little so it is overlapping, and duct tape together at several intervals around the jug. Also put a piece of tape on the hinge to reinforce it. You are going to carry the container outside by the handle and you don't want it to break off.
Take your jugs outside to be exposed to all the winter elements. Let them get all the rain and snow they can handle; at some point, your jugs may be completely covered with snow. Remember that whereever you place the jugs will probably kill the grass, so you might want an area that can account for that.
One thing I forgot to mention is, don't put the cap on the milk jug so that plenty of moisture can get in.
Once spring starts coming in, you can periodically check your jugs to see how they are coming along, and hopefully you will start to see some green in all of them! When the weather is warmer but before time to plant, you can remove the top portion of the jug and let your plants be exposed to more sunlight and fresh air.
When the ground gets warm enough, you can remove your sprouts from the jug and divide into numerous plants. She dumps the whole seed packet into a milk jug-sized container, but you would not need to do that, as she has some waste there. You can easily get 4 plants per container, and maybe many more, depending upon how lush your plants look.
These can go right into the ground since they are already hardened off. She even plants hers before frost danger is over, and has great success with that. These plants pictured are just what was left over after she has filled her gardens, so they are quite large. We were able to divide among the ladies and they all took home several plants each. If I've left anything out or been confusing, please let me know. Otherwise, I'm excited about saving my milk jugs, and definitely plan to start collecting seeds!This message has been edited. Last edited by: 88hazel,
Other tips I forgot:
Use good quality potting soil--cheap soil is too dense and may clump together.
If your potting soil is very dry, it may help to water it thoroughly before putting seed on top. That way your seed won't settle too far down in later on.
You can lightly tamp the seeds down on the top of the soil with your fingers. Use a sprinkling watering can or mist on your hose. Do not use a full force water stream from a can or a hose.
Your jugs should have enough moisture in them that there is condensation inside the jug. Normal winters will create enough moisture for this, but in early spring, you might want to periodically check to make sure your jug has condensation inside. If it is very dry, a light sprinkling of water might be needed.
It helps to put your jugs in a box, if desired. This keeps them from being blown around by the wind, and also helps keep moisture in the bottom. This is not mandatory, and she doesn't always do this step.
I think that's all for now. Hope you are motivated to try it, or if you already do it, maybe you can add your hints here too!
WoW, very interesting...and that is exactly how I do my winter sowing with the exeption of the label inside the jug, the spreadsheet and reinforcing the handle. I'm already saving milk jugs.
I am sure that your attendees enjoy that lesson very much. The time I did this as my program at garden club, several of the ladies have tried it with great success.
Good Job - and Thanks!
What a great idea to post this.
It sounds like a better success rate than me tossing seed into an extra windowbox full of dirt in early spring and hoping for the best!
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