Winter sowing flower seeds

Use the Winter Sowing Method to Grow a Rainbow of Annual Flowers

(Editor’s Note: this article was originally published on April 3, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)

The USDA Agricultural Library’s Glossary defines the Winter Sowing Method as “a propagation method used throughout the winter where temperate climate seeds are sown into protective vented containers and placed outdoors to foster a naturally timed, high percentage germination of climate tolerant seedlings.” This same winter sowing (WS) method can be used in early spring to give half-hardy annuals a good start.

My Groundhog’s Day article, “Celebrate by Winter Sowing Your Seeds,” details selecting, preparing, and planting WS containers. The method is just the same at this time of year. You need a covered, vented container that holds several inches of potting mix and provides seedlings with light, water, and drainage. With the stronger spring sunshine, it’s even more important to find a location where your containers will be shaded from hot afternoon sun. A pinch of polymer moisture crystals added to your potting mix can help keep it from drying out, but you may have to do a little watering if you get hot days with no rain.

What annuals do especially well with the WS method? If you drop by the DG Winter Sowing Forum, you’ll pick up all sorts of ideas for annuals that can be successfully winter sown. Some people start on the Winter Solstice in December; I like to wait until Groundhog’s Day in February. Have you had any annuals reseed for you? When I find scattered volunteers of Petunias, Sweet Alyssum, Amaranthus, or other annuals I planted the previous year, I know I’ve got another great candidate for my winter sowing containers!

The timing of using the WS method for annuals depends on how the relative hardiness of the plant. Some of the annuals in our summer gardens are tropical plants that can’t tolerate a hint of frost. Others, like pansies, may even be planted in fall to over-winter and come back the following spring, blooming like crazy. The more hardy the annual, the sooner you can sow it.

You may already have winter sown some hardy annuals. Hardy annuals can handle some frost and may even need cold stratification to germinate. Bachelor Buttons, Poppies, Violas, Snapdragons, Calendula and Cleome are some common hardy annuals that germinate readily with the winter sowing method. If you didn’t sow them in February, go ahead and “winter sow” them now. If it’s cold enough that you grab a jacket when you go out at night, it’s cold enough to give those seeds the chilling that they like.

Half-hardy annuals can tolerate some chilly weather but may be damaged by frost. Marigolds, Love-in-a-Mist, Four O’Clocks, Cosmos, Petunias, and annual Salvias can be started by the WS method in early spring.

Tender annuals often wither at the least touch of frost. They can also be started in WS containers, but it’s prudent to wait until the time for hard freezes is past. You can also direct-sow tender annuals after the soil warms up. Using the WS method gives them several weeks’ head start, as the container serves as a sort of miniature cold frame. Morning Glories, Nasturtiums, Zinnias, Basils, and even Tomatoes can be started this way, especially cherry or other early bearing varieties.

The mini-greenhouse environment under the lids and domes of WS containers gives your seedlings extra protection against cold. Even so, if a hard freeze is forecast, I’d suggest covering containers with sprouted seedlings or moving them to shelter for the night. An unheated garage is a better choice than a warm house, as they’ll have to re-adjust to outside temperatures when you move them back. Seedlings that have grown large enough to touch the sides and tops of their containers seem more likely to be damaged by cold.

Are there annuals that shouldn’t be started with the WS method? Some annuals germinate best in warmer temperatures and may simply take too long to sprout outside, even in their little “greenhouse” containers. Annuals that take 10 or 12 weeks to bloom from seed should probably be started inside on light shelves. Otherwise, you’ll only have a few days to enjoy their flowers before frost. Examples of common, slow-to-mature annuals are annual Geraniums, Wishbone Flower, Impatiens, Begonias, Heliotrope, some Petunia varieties, and Coleus.

This is about the time when I realize I will never have enough room on my light shelves for all the seeds I’d like to start this year. And it’s such fun to have flats of annuals to plant all around the yard for a riot of color! I was delighted to learn I can continue to use the WS method as winter turns into spring.

Now my supply of annual bedding plants is limited only by my ability to scrounge milk jugs and other suitable containers. It’s hard not to go overboard. I try to keep in mind that more plants = more digging and planting in a few weeks. But when it comes to having a rainbow of color in the garden, I’ll just never believe that “less is more.” Sometimes, more is more! Keep using the WS method this spring, and grow a rainbow of your own.

Photos by Jill M. Nicolaus.

Maryland Grows

These June-blooming flowers were started by winter sowing. Photo: C. Carignan

Winter sowing is a technique gardeners can use to start growing seeds outdoors during the winter months. If you have limited space for starting seeds indoors, winter sowing might be an option for you, depending on what you want to grow.

I first tried winter sowing last year with several types of flower seeds. Winter sowing works best for plants that are cold tolerant or even require a period of cold in order to germinate. When you are looking at seed descriptions, look for words like “cold tolerant,” “cool season”, “hardy annual,” “perennial”, “sow in autumn”, “sow in early spring”, or “self-sows”. These words indicate the best candidates for winter sowing.

This is not a good method to use now with heat-loving crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, and basil. Wait until spring for those.

I started seeds in January and February last year with this method and successfully grew several types of cool-season flowers: delphiniums, poppies, snapdragons, bachelor buttons, and Canterbury bells.

Snapdragons are cool-season flowers that can be started by winter sowing. Photo: C. Carignan

Here are the basic steps to winter sowing:

  1. Reclaim from your recycling bin clear or transparent plastic containers such as 1-gallon milk jugs and 2-liter soda bottles.
  2. Cut jugs and bottles three-quarters of the way around to create a hinged opening.
  3. Puncture holes in the bottom of the container to allow for good drainage.
  4. Fill the bottom of the container with a sterile seed starting medium. (Avoid using home compost or garden soil; it might contain weed seeds.) Water thoroughly and let the water drain through.

    Recycled milk jugs and bottles make good containers for winter sowing. Photo: C. Carignan

  5. Plant your seeds according to the package instructions, one type of seed in each container.
  6. Close up the container securely with strong tape, such as packing tape. Label the container with the name of your seeds and the planting date.
  7. Leave the cap off of the bottles and jugs to allow for air circulation and water entry.
  8. Set your container in a sunny location outside. Then wait!

Seeds sprouting using the winter sowing method. Photo: C. Carignan

You’re essentially creating a small cloche that provides a protected environment for the seeds. The natural freezing and thawing process loosens the seed coats to aid in germination. Your seeds will sprout when the temperatures and daylight are ideal for them, and then you can transplant your seedlings into their permanent location in the garden when the soil is workable in early spring. There is no need to harden off the seedlings since they already will be acclimated to the outdoors.

Flower seedlings in a soda bottle outdoors, March 3, 2018. Photo: C. Carignan

A note about watering: You will see condensation form on the inside of your containers on sunny days when the temperature is above freezing. This moisture trickles down to keep the soil medium consistently moist. Water (and even snow!) will enter the small opening(s) at the top of your container. If you do not see condensation forming on warm days, open the container and check the soil. You may need to add more water periodically.

If flower growing isn’t your thing, you can try the winter sowing method with cool-season vegetables such as kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, and leeks. But I would encourage you to add a few flowers too, for your pollinators!

Winter sowing is a fun way to experiment and get a jump start on your garden, even when the last frost is still months away.

Delphiniums Campanula ‘Canterbury Bells’ Poppies

Additional Resources:

  • WinterSown.org | Winter Sown Educational
  • Successful Winter Sowing | Penn State Extension
  • What is Winter Sowing? | University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners
  • Cool Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler
  • Ornamental Plants | University of Maryland Extension, Home & Garden Information Center

By Christa K. Carignan, Maryland Certified Professional Horticulturist, Coordinator, University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center

Winter Sowing Seeds

May 20th, 2010

While most everyone else is at the garden center buying $4 six-packs of annual flowers, Pat King is filling her beds and pots for pennies on the dollar.

Pat King’s winter-sown seeds in plastic jugs.

This avid Swatara Twp. gardener is reaping the rewards of an easy but little-known and even lesser-used frugal-gardening technique called “winter sowing.”

It’s a way to start your own plants from seed without the pitfalls of seed lights, overwatering woes and potential soil spills on the carpet.

King sows her seeds toward the end of winter in recycled plastic milk and tea jugs that she keeps outside on her back patio.

The containers act as mini-greenhouses.

The seeds come up at varying times – depending on their cold-hardiness – and by May, they’re ready to go into the garden.

This is the third year King has winter-sowed in jugs. It’s worked so well that she’s expanded from 11 to 36 jugs – enough to edge most of the patio.

“Years ago I tried to start seeds indoors,” she says. “But my tendency was to overwater. Or I’d forget to water, then end up in trouble again.”

She eventually gave up on the whole idea and came across winter sowing when looking for a gardening project she could do with some neighbor kids.

This was perfect – it’s easy, forgiving, cheap and demonstrates the miracle of how even huge plants like sunflowers originate with seemingly lifeless morsels as small as pinheads.

Cut the jugs except at the handles to make a flip-top container.

King uses both gallon and half-gallon plastic jugs, cut in half except at the handles. This creates flip-top containers.

She also cuts small holes at the base of each corner with an X-Acto knife. Those are for drainage.

Then she adds about 4 inches of potting mix to each container, waters it, and when the mix drains, plants the seeds.

“For bigger seeds, I poke them in 1 by 1,” she says. “The little ones, I just scatter them and tamp.”

For labels, she uses cut-up Venetian-blind slats or strips cut from plastic yogurt containers.

The containers then get duct-taped together and set outside with the caps off.

“That lets the rain in and any excess heat out,” says King.

She’s also found it’s best not to duct-tape the whole way around because cracks also let in rain and help ventilate on warm days like we’ve had this spring.

If it’s warm and dry, the seedlings need an occasional soft watering with a sprinkling can.

“These are like little greenhouses,” she says. “It’s very low-cost. My biggest expense was the $9 I paid for a bag of potting soil.”

Most beginners think there’s no way little plants will survive when cold nights hit.

That might be true of the more tender plants, but most perennials, herbs and hardier annual flowers and vegetables do just fine. Plants that naturally reseed themselves in our climate (larkspur, cleome, sweet alyssum, marigolds, nigella, cosmos, etc.) also do very well with winter sowing in jugs.

“If you think about it, even tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers will come up from seeds in the compost pile,” says King. “When you sow in late February to mid-March, you get at least a few weeks’ jump on the season. Plus a lot of seeds do want some cold to germinate.”

Winter-sown lettuce, ready to be planted.

King has had success starting a variety of edibles this way, including basil, dill, parsley, lettuce, mesclun, Swiss chard, even tomatoes. She says it’s also great for experimenting with oddball flowers not commonly sold in plant form, and seed can be saved, traded or bought at far less cost than finished plants.

Most plants actually grow stronger and stockier in these outdoor mini-greenhouses because they get good light. Indoors, plants tend to get leggy because the combination of warm house temperatures and poor or artificial light makes stems stretch.

King says translucent jugs are perfect. They shield the young seedlings just enough on bright, sunny days but don’t block light like opaque jugs do.

“Most seedlings want some protection from full sunlight,” she says.

One other advantage is that outdoor-sown seedlings don’t need to go through the tricky process of “hardening off.”

As any indoor seed-starter quickly learns, you can’t just take indoor-grown plants and plant them outside in the garden. The light is just too much brighter, and the shock can white out or even kill young leaves.

The solution is gradually introducing the indoor seedlings to increasing light and air over a 7- to 10-day period before planting in the garden.

But since winter-sown plants have been outside from the beginning, they usually adjust from jug to ground immediately.

Not every plant takes to this method, but so many do that it’s easily worth the seed expense.

Tips abound online, but especially check out Trudi Davidoff’s WinterSown.org.

“I’m surprised more people don’t know about this,” says King. “It’s so easy.”

Also easy on the pocketbook.

Good annual flowers for winter sowing: Ageratum, sweet alyssum, snapdragons, calendula, celosia, cosmos, diascia, sunflowers, nicotiana, cosmos, cornflower, browallia, larkspur, nigella, Joseph’s coat, tithonia.

This entry was written on May 20th, 2010 by George and filed under Favorite Past Garden Columns, How-To.
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You asked for it in our post, Winter Seed Sowing Anywhere, and I’m here to deliver. I told you all about how I start my seeds in the dead of winter and you all had a lot of questions for me. How do I know what to sow and when to sow? What kind of containers can I use? What about watering? I’ve got the answers to these questions and more. Discover how to winter sow seeds where you live.

How do I know if my seeds are good candidates for winter sowing?

Look for these key terms on your seed packets.

  • Hardy seeds
  • Seedlings can withstand frost
  • Sow outdoors in late autumn or early winter
  • Sow outdoors in early spring when nights are still cool
  • Needs pre-chilling
  • Requires stratification (cold, moist conditions)

All of these key terms indicate that a seed is a good candidate for winter sowing. Of course, your climate and gardening zone will play an important part in the success of winter sowing.

How deep do I sow my seeds?

The general rule of thumb is to plant twice the depth of the seed’s smallest dimension at the spacing indicated by your seed packet. I’ll be honest, with tiny seeds, I don’t worry too much about proper spacing or depth. I sprinkle them in and cover with a light layer of soil. When they begin germinating and sprouting in the spring, I thin as needed.

What do I use if I don’t have enough milk cartons?

There are a lot of great upcycle container ideas out there. Basically, any container that allows light inside will do. Here is a small list to get you started:

  • Soda Bottles
  • Bakery Containers
  • Clear Storage Totes
  • Deli Chicken Containers
  • Travel Tin Foil Containers
  • Meat & Cheese Platters (for shallow-rooted seedlings)
  • Juice Cartons with the tops cut off and a baggie over the top (more suitable for southern locations)

Just be sure if you are using a container that doesn’t have a lid or cap that you drill in a few ventilation/moisture holes along the top.

What if I don’t have snow?

Winter is just a cooler season, not necessarily bitter cold and snow. Winter Sowing is merely getting a head start for your growing season, allowing nature to take care of everything. It’s like greenhouse gardening on a small-scale.

When is the earliest I can start Winter Sowing?

The Winter Solstice seems to be a good starting point. The days are at their shortest and typically the temperatures are at their coldest. The concern with starting too early is that the seeds will begin to sprout while the temperatures are too low to support the plant. By planting in the “dead of winter”, you can be fairly confident that the seeds won’t start until spring is beginning.

What do I do come spring?

You treat your winter sown seedlings just like you would any other seedling. You’ll want to remove the lid during the daytime to harden them off and transplant them when the soil is warm enough.

What about watering?

Mother Nature does a pretty good job at keeping your winter sown containers at the right moisture level during the dormant period. By keeping the cover off your container or cutting ventilation holes, rain and snow will enter the top and excess water will drain through the drainage holes. If you notice your soil is looking dry and crumbly, just dribble water along the edges of the soil. It won’t take much water and you want to do it slowly so you don’t dislodge the seeds. Be sure to use cold water so you don’t shock your seeds.

Once spring arrives, keep an eye on your sprouting seeds. Again, the containers should create a mini-ecosystem. If you notice your containers seem soggy, try moving them to a sunnier location. If they seem to be drying out frequently, move them to an area that gets sunlight, but not direct sunlight. If they need to be watered manually, use water the same temperature as the outdoor temperature and gently water around the edges.

The following guides are just that, GUIDES. Trial and error is the best way to figure out when to grow what in your zone. Click these links below to find out what zone you’re gardening in.

US Garden Zones | CAN Garden Zones | EUR Garden Zones | Other Zones

Zone 3 Growing Guide

February

Perennial flowers and hardy annuals.

  • Bellflower
  • Blanket Flower
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Canterbury Bells
  • Coral Bells
  • Coneflower
  • Delphinium
  • False Indigo
  • Helleborus
  • Hollyhock
  • Hosta
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Mountain Bluet
  • Ox-Eye Daisy
  • Pincushion Flower
  • Pyrethrum
  • Rudbeckia
  • Veronica
  • Yarrow

March

Most herbs and plants that require stratification.

  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Hops
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Marsh Mallow
  • Monkshood
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Swiss Chard
  • Tarragon
  • Wormwood

April

Frost-tolerant vegetables.

  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Lettuce

May

Tender plants.

  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweet Potato Slips
  • Tomatoes

Zone 4 Growing Guide

January

Perennial flowers and hardy annuals.

  • Aster
  • Astilbe
  • Balloon Flower
  • Bee Balm
  • Blazing Star
  • Carnation
  • Coreopsis
  • Daylily
  • English Daisy
  • Helenium
  • Iris
  • Lamb’s Ear
  • Lupine
  • Phlox
  • Poppy
  • Viola

Most herbs and plants that require stratification.

  • Basil
  • Bergamot
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Chives
  • Chamomile
  • Clary
  • Comfrey
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Mint
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • Swiss Chard
  • Thyme
  • Walking Onions

Frost-tolerant vegetables.

  • Bok Choy
  • Beets
  • Beans
  • Lettuce

Tender plants.

  • Corn (may be hard to transplant)
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweet Potato Slips
  • Tomatoes

Zone 5 Growing Guide

December/January

Perennial flowers and hardy annuals.

  • Blackberry Lily
  • Catmint
  • Chinese Lanterns
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Clematis
  • Cupid’s Dart
  • Evening Primrose
  • Flax
  • Heather
  • Jack-in-the-Pulpit
  • Primrose
  • Shasta Daisy

January/February

Most herbs and plants that require stratification.

  • Agrimony
  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Lavender
  • Onions
  • Oregano
  • Peas
  • Sage
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Valerian

February/March

Frost-tolerant vegetables.

  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Lettuce

March/April

Tender plants.

  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Melons (a gamble)
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweet Potato Slips
  • Tomatoes

Zone 6 Growing Guide

December

Perennial flowers and hardy annuals.

  • Broom Flower
  • Fleabane
  • Fountain Grass
  • Lily-of-the-Nile
  • Red Hot Poker
  • Sea Pink
  • Verbena

Most herbs and plants that require stratification.

  • Agrimony
  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Garlic
  • Hyssop
  • Kale
  • Madder
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Sage
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard

Frost-tolerant vegetables.

  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Lettuce

Tender plants.

  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Melons
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweet Potato Slips
  • Tomatoes

Zone 7 Growing Guide

Perennial flowers, hardy annuals, and plants that require stratification.

  • Blue Beard
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Leadwort
  • Onions
  • Pampas Grass
  • Peas
  • Persian Buttercup
  • Peruvian Lily
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard

Most herbs and frost-tolerant vegetables.

  • Arnica
  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Carrots (hard to transplant)
  • Lettuce

Tender plants.

  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Melons
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweet Potato Slips
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant

Get more gardening advice by signing up for The Homestead Helper, a weekly-ish newsletter that shows you how to homestead where you live.

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I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I’d like to think we are the people who don’t fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader’s life.

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Time to Winter Sow Your Seeds

Two years ago I learned about winter sowing. I was amazed at how easy it was to grow new plants from seed and save a lot of money in the process. When I was told it was a carefree method, I was really skeptical; with the encouragement of several people I decided to give it a try. I still find it hard to believe just how easy it is.

This will work for anyone who lives in an area that has weather cold enough to cause dormancy in plants. This also works for those who live in very cold growing zones, such as zones 3 or 4. They will freeze, but nature will wake/thaw them up slowly as winter ends. No need to worry.

I started gathering gallon plastic milk jugs from friends and family. I even found some at our local recycling center. When I got them home I washed them thoroughly and left them upside down to drain completely. Just throw the caps away, or maybe you have another use for them? I knew I wouldn’t be planting them until sometime in January (that is when our real winter begins in zone 8b), but I did all the prep work in December so they would be ready when planting time arrived. Here’s what I do:

  1. After the jugs are dry I cut slits on the shoulders of the jugs, a box cutter knife works well for this.
  2. At the bottom end of the handle, start cutting around the jug, leaving the handle attached to the bottom of jug.
  3. Next I punched/drilled four or five holes in the bottom for drainage. I do this from the inside pushing out. It makes the soft plastic point outward instead of into the jug. This lets more of the excess water drain out.
  4. Make plant markers to place inside the jugs. I use pencil because it won’t fade. I started using pencil when I noticed that even the marking pens that claimed not to fade, were fading away with the harsh winter cold, rain and then sun. I always put plant markers inside the jugs, this gives me double insurance of knowing what is growing.
  5. You can label the outside of your jugs at this time, if you know which seeds you will be planting.

Tools and areas marked for cutting/punching.

First cut around jug, leaving handle attached. Drain holes.

Soil, tag and seeds added. Taped closed. Don’t worry about the cut seam.

You need to think about where you will place your jugs outside, once they have been planted. I have a small cement slab that sits in full sun; I find that site works very well for me.

Have you prepared a list of seeds you want to winter sow, maybe your favorite heirloom tomato seeds; or maybe a new perennial seed you want to try?

Here are a few of the seeds I have grown using the winter sow method: snapdragon, columbine, Hostas, Roscoea purpurea, hardy geranium, nasturtiums, tomatoes, hardy and tender succulents, collards and many more.

You can plant the more tender type plant seeds in early spring (when signs of warming weather appear), like peppers, zinnias, etc. You will still have some cold weather and frost, but the jugs act like miniature greenhouses and provide warmth for the little seedlings.

Time to plant those seeds:

  1. Gather your favorite potting mix (I use Miracle Grow Potting Mix).
  2. Place about 3 inches of potting mix into your milk jug and water it. I like to add the water now, so I don’t disturb the seeds once they are planted.
  3. Plant seeds according to directions for that type of seed. Some need to be covered, some need light to germinate.
  4. Place a plant maker (with name of seed and date planted) inside the jug.
  5. Close jug and tape closed using a piece of Duct Tape.
  6. On the outside of the jug write the name of seeds planted and the date you planted them.

Now comes the hard part. Place them outdoors in an exposed area, making sure wind and animals can’t knock them over. There are many ways to accomplish this. Some of mine are placed in heavy cardboard boxes, or you can make a wooden frame around them. Once you have set them outside, walk away. Yes, walk away; leave them there until warm weather arrives. You can occasionally peek through the open spout hole to see if anything is germinating, but don’t open them. When the plants germinate and start growing, you can open the top half of the jug on warm days so the plants don’t get too hot. At this time you might have to give them some added water if the soil is drying out. Once the seedlings have grown large enough to transplant, you can either move them to larger containers or plant them in their permanent location. If you were careful about planting only a few seeds per jug, you can cut the top portion of the jug off and finish growing the seedlings until they are ready to be transplanted. At this time, depending on the growing conditions needed by the plants, you can move the jug to shade or partial shade as needed. Once the top half of the jug is removed you will have to make sure the seedlings are watered when they need it.

You can also use the top half of the jug as a miniature greenhouse to protect the new seedlings from late frosts, once you have placed them in their permanent home. Just remember to remove the covers once the sun comes out or it will get too hot for the plants. This can also protect them from damage from pests, both insects and animals, until they become mature enough to survive on their own.

The real bonus I found in winter sowing is that the plants started with this method outgrew all of the larger/more mature looking nursery plants, all planted at the same time. The WS plants also did not go through any transplant shock and handled changes in weather with no adverse affects.

Out of curiosity, I wonder how using the jugs would work for those of you who don’t have a cold/winter dormant season? Maybe it would be a great way to start new seeds even in tropical areas?

I would love to hear if any of you have tried it and what your results were in warm, tropical winters.

SOURCE for milk jugs:

Family

Friends

Local recycling center

Your favorite place for coffee

Restaurants

You can use all kinds of opaque or clear plastic containers for winter sowing. Just be sure they have a lid of some kind and holes for drainage.

How to Sow Flower Seeds

The most exciting thing a gardener can achieve is to grow flowers from seed.

It seems so amazing that a beautiful flower can grow from what appears to be a small, brown (usually), dried up granule.

Whatever flowers you are into, check out Unwins Seeds, which sell hundreds of different varieties of flower seeds that are available nationwide from garden centres.

Growing from seed is easy. Every packet has detailed instructions to guide you through the stages.

Most seeds require warmth and moisture to germinate, some require light and cold stimulation. It is a good idea to invest about £20 or so in a heated propagator to get them started early enough so that they flower in the same season.

Step 1

Fill a pot with Gro-Sure Seed and Cutting Compost.

Firm down gently.

Step 2

Shake the seed packet gently to loosen the seed and then open the seed packet and tip a few seeds into your hand.

Tiny seeds can be scattered over the surface of the compost.

For larger seeds, make a hole using a dibber in the compost. Individually place a seed into the hole.

Cover with a thin layer of fresh compost and water with slightly tepid water.

Step 3

Label the pot carefully with the date and seed variety and place in a suitable place for germination.

Seeds that require heat can be placed in a heated propagator. Seeds that need a frost-free environment can be placed in a cool greenhouse or on a windowsill.

Once seeds are sown, get ready to prick them out by reading our how-to guide.

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