A Beginners Start at Winter Sowing Part 1: Seed Starting

The year 2019 is bringing a lot of changes to our household – planting included!

I (Jen) had tried in the past to grow produce from seeds via “grow lights” (ok – fluorescent lights in the basement because I couldn’t afford real grow lights) and in seed trays (this part is legit).  But I failed.  Miserably.  I had several germinate, but when it came to keeping those little cells hydrated they would either dry out or get mold from being too moist.  The lights weren’t close enough, so I propped them up on various totes/blocks/anything resembling height so they were close, yet my plants were still spindly.  And when it came to hardening off – I hardened them alright.  Right to death.

This year I wanted those tomato and pepper plants – not just to grow because I was excited for a garden, but because I wanted to provide those options to Colton and I for our yearly food needs (and occasionally wants).

Enter Winter Sowing.

For those of you who don’t know what winter sowing is, it’s basically “mini green houses” that you plant any time after winter solstice, then as they get older, you can transplant to pots to mature more or give away/sell, or direct into your garden bed.  They get light through clear to opaque containers, moisture from snow and rain through open holes in the top, drainage through holes in the bottom.  The beauty of this whole operation – the seeds germinate when they think they need to and by the time they’re ready for the garden they’re mostly hardened off!

Good crops to start this way – your cold vegetables, like broccoli, kale, lettuce, etc, and plants that take longer to mature – tomatoes, peppers, luffa (!!) gourds.

My first attempt was pretty easy – cut up containers, put in moist dirt, drop seeds, cover a bit, label inside, duct-tape shut, label outside, place in a sun-lit location, and voila!  Done!  Well … mostly!

I learned …

… The hard way to make sure you punch your bottom holes before cutting around the outside of your jug.

… Scissors are only as good as the user.  And I am not a good user.  I’m better with a pocket knife, and that will probably be my choice in the future.

… MIGardener (my chosen seed-source) sends a LOT – and I mean a LOT! – of broccoli seeds (like – 300!  Did I mention that it was a LOT!?).  I mean – I wanted broccoli.  And I wanted a good amount – because we go through a good amount – but three hundred??

… Soil sitting outside over winter does not mean that it is moist.  In fact – it’s dryer than a desert.  And it poofs in your face.

… Soil sitting outside over winter does not mean that it’s accessible.  In fact – it’s incredible inaccessible.  Translation:  don’t go to the soil-providing store in 10 degree weather after the winter of the century and expect to get perfectly un-iced bags of soil.  DO expect them to be frozen together and heavier than the 50 pound hay bales you put up in the summer and cart everywhere in the winter because somehow – even though your perfectly preserved bag at home is dry – they managed to get drenched and retain that moisture through their winter storage.  Outside.  In the cold, frozen, tundra.

… It will go without saying that as soon as you do your planting on a nice day after a lot of not-so-good-weathered days, subsequent flooding and winds will follow.

… Bring a towel.  And a bucket of water.  The previously frozen mud puddle is just not a good idea.  It’s not.

… And just when you thought you had plenty of containers – you don’t.  Not near enough.  Not even enough to scratch the surface of the amount of seeds you insisted on purchasing!

Bottom line – I am totally ready for the next round!

Interested in learning more?  Check out our YouTube video on our first winter sowing experience starting seeds!  Consider liking the video and subscribing to the page for more videos!

Have you tried winter sowing?  If so – how did you do it?  What were your results?  Would you do it again?  If you haven’t – will you now?

Check out the Winter Sowing gallery and follow how we did it:



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