Monday, March 12, 2012

Winter Sowing

I am attending the Chicago Flower and Garden Show this weekend and next week will be sharing gardening ideas I picked up or improved learning there.  To get you in the mood, I thought I would share an idea I have been toying with and finally decided to accomplish.  If there are no pictures with this post, please bear with me, I am having some trouble with the computer recognizing the .jpgs  I will post photos as soone as it allows me too!

Winter sowing is an easy germination method that allows you to start hardy seedlings for pennies.  Winter sowing is done outdoors during winter using mini-greenhouses made out of recyclables.  There is no heating devices, no energy using grow lights and nothing very expensive at all to start your seeds.

The best source on the internet for winter sowing tips and guidelines is by Trudi Davidoff.  On that site you can identify what can be winter sown or if you should just save the seed and direct sow it in the garden.

This is a great green project for recycling old milk jugs and toilet paper rolls, yet you can get a bit of dirt under your finger nails when it is hard to do that outside in Illinois just yet.

What you need:

Sharp scissors or a knife
Milk cartons, gallon size or paper towel tubes and a card board box
Seed packets
Waterproof marker
A roll of duct tape
Potting soil
Outdoor location to place your planted seeds


Place the tubes in a small cardboard box spaced so they touch each other and do not fall over.

Or poke holes in the bottom of a one gallon milk carton.  Then using sharp scissors cut the carton all the way around by the handle, leaving the handle intact.  This will leave a hinge for opening the milk jug.

Add the potting soil to the milk jugs or paper towel rolls.  It does not need to be very deep about 1 ½ to 2 inches at most.  Label the milk jug or writ on the inside edge of the towel rolls the name of the seed you will be planting.  You can put a label on the bottom of your milk jug too in case the other falls off.

Give the soil a good watering before placing your seeds.  This will keep them from floating away when watered after.  I watered the milk jug before I planted and the towel rolls after I planted them. 

Remember to plant the seeds at the depth specified on the seed packet.  Pat the soil down or add a layer of soil on top of the seed instead of pressing them in.

You need to have 2 inches above the soil to allow space for seedlings to grow.

Secure the sides of your cut milk jug with duct tape and place it in the snow outside or on a picnic table, sidewalk ledge or balcony.

I put plastic wrap, double thickness over the top of the cardboard box.  To give the greenhouse effect I need to get the seeds to start.

Herb seeds I recommend for winter sowing:

UPDATE: we actually planted a variety of herbs in winter sowing containers in 2014.  Here is a step by step

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