How to Winter Sow Seeds Outdoors

trudi_dJanuary 1, 2013


Image by: Trudi Davidoff
Mini-greenhouses from recyclables! "How to Winter Sow Seeds Outdoors"

It really is very easy to do.

First, let me give you a little background as to why I sowed the seeds during the Winter. I live in a very small house, a cottage actually, and I simply do not have room for a light set up, also any window space I have must be fought from the cat and "Prinny" likes to look out on the street and watch the world go by, so I have to give her a windowsill. She's a good cat and deserves her place in the sun.

I got hooked on seed trading, and as you all know seed trading is like Pokeman......you gotta have 'em all. I had tons of seeds, I had them all. Though I am not a novice at gardening I am a novice at growing seeds, this was my second season doing so. Because of my lack of experience with growing seeds, and not having a light set up, I always traded for "easy to grow" seeds: I had to start them in the windowsill or out on the patio in flats during Spring and Summer which I did the previous year with good success too.

I was thinking a lot last Winter about how I was going to start all these seeds, I needed an easy way out. I knew that many seeds needed to be pre-chilled, and I knew that many plants reseed and germinate outdoors without our intervention. I thought about this for a few days and put 2+2 together. I would sow them into flats, and take them outside for the Winter, if all went well then they would germinate in Spring.

I am a true believer in "recycle and reuse". I had been saving my take-out containers from the Chinese restaurant (not those typical white boxes that have a metal handle and white rice inside), I was saving the foil pans that have a separate clear plastic lid, they're usually round or rectangular. These containers were just perfect.....plus I didn't have to go to a store and open up my wallet (hmm, look at all the moths fly out), if I can get away without having to lay down a buck I will. I did need soil though and so I went to Walmart and got their brand which was the cheapest I could find.

Seed selection:

Take a look at a seed catalogue, most will have some sort of notation about a seed's germination requirements, or you'll pick up a few clue-in phrases. Look for these terms:

Needs Pre-chilling (freeze seeds, refrigerate seeds, stratify for x amount of day or weeks)

Needs Stratification

Will Colonize

Self Sows

Sow outdoors in early Autumn

Sow outdoors in early Spring while nights are still cool

Sow outdoors in early Spring while frosts may still occur

Hardy Seeds

Seedlings can withstand frost

Can be direct sown early

Wildflower

Weed (such as butterfly weed, joe pye weed, jewel weed)

Look for Common Names indicating a natural environment:

Plains

Prairie

Desert

Mountain

Swamp

Field

River

etc.

Look for names that might indicate an origin in a temperate climate:...

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