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Seed Starting — The easy Wintersown way

If you’re not already planting using the wintersown method — its not too late to give it some thought and get started.

It’s such an easy and relaxed way to start seed. You don’t need any expensive fancy equipment or lights. You don’t even need to make room in your house. Everything stays outside. And you can work along at your leisure.

If you’ve ever had to worry about seedlings damping-off —- you won’t have to worry using this method. Mother Nature’s fresh air and cold temperatures take care of it for you.

I have 42 jugs already wintersown. (I plant one or two each day.)

Already germinated are onions, numerous varieties of lettuce, mizuna,  bok choy, arugula.  Planted but not yet germinated are parsley, mache, verbascum olympicum, echinacea, chard, beets, kale, more lettuces, and more onions.

Freezing and Thawing?

Even before this arctic blast of air was upon us — we experienced below freezing temperature many nights. Jugs of the grow mix housing the young seedlings froze solid.  They were frozen and thawed numerous times and still looked wonderful.  The same thing happened last year.  And even when temperatures dipped into the teens all was well in the jugs in spite of freezing and thawing.

Do they all Germinate?

Each year I’ve had a few jugs that the seed didn’t germinate.  My guess is that the seed was not viable.  In any event — 8 or 10 jugs that don’t germinate out of 125 jugs  —- I’d call that pretty good odds.

Nothing Fancy Needed for this Miracle

All you need to accomplish this miracle is some grow mix, plastic containers you can punch holes in the bottom for drainage, and a lid you can secure. (Each container acts as little greenhouse.) Fill with moist mix, plant the seed, and secure the top making sure it has a vent. For more detail see my post You Can Plant in December.

What about Watering?

Most of the time you don’t need to worry about watering.  Last year — out of more than 100 jugs of wintersown seed, I had to open, water, and reclose about 10.  I think that was because I didn’t have the grow mix wet enough to begin with.  (If you decide to water any of your wintersown — make sure you water only if dry.  Too much moisture is just as bad as not enough.)

Cold Weather Crops and Hot Weather Crops

Although the method is called Wintersown — you can start all kinds of flowers and vegetables using this method.  The only thing that changes with starting warm weather crops is the time you start them.  Everything else is the same as with cool weather crops.

  • From the winter solstice at the end of December through February and part of March — sow any vegetable or flower seed that needs pre-chilling, seed from plants that self sow, or that can be directly sown in early spring.  In other words sow seed that will germinate well in spring temperatures if they are grown under normal conditions.
  • About mid-March to mid-April start thinking about sowing your warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc.  Also any flowers that are warm weather lovers like zinnias.  (This time frame is not written in stone.  You might find you want to adjust these guesstimates as you have more experience.)

Warm weather seedlings usually need about 6 to 8 weeks before transplanting.  If you start them too early you might have to be prepared to protect them a bit longer if the weather doesn’t warm up enough to put them in the garden.

Final Thoughts

Starting seeds is not hard or complicated in spite of what “marketing” makes one think. And you don’t need a lot of fancy-dancy equipment, lights, etc.  Nature will perform the miracle for you.  All you have to do is get things together and plant —via the wintersown method.

All this great success with little effort is a big confidence booster.  Give it a try.  I know you’ll do well and I’ll look forward to your report.

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Related Posts:

You Can Plant in December

Looking at Winter Sown Seedling and the Garden

Warm Weather Crops and the Winter Sown Method

Seed Starting – Another Variation of Winter Sown

Winter Sown – Another Plus

Transplanting Root Crop Seedling

Wintersown and Garden Report – Radishes – Lettuce – Spinach

Seed Starting – It’s Easy Even with Less than Perfect Conditions

Winter Sowing – It Begins and Vegetable Tidbits

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Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient —- and its a lot healthier.

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All content including photos is copyright by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.

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14 comments to Seed Starting — The easy Wintersown way

  • Frank Sherman

    Hi Theresa

    My seeds just arrived and I’m ready to try Wintersown.
    Two questions. We don’t drink milk and do not have 1 gallon Jugs. Would 2 liter soda bottles work? I didn’t know if the clear plastic would be a problem . . . like a giant magnifying glass!!!!

    Do you make your own grow mix or buy it? Everything I see is full of wood chips. It looks and feels more like mulch than starter mix. I remember years ago my dad used to get a bag of dark ( almost black) soil with a little vermiculite mixed in. I can’t find anything like that.

    Frank

  • Theresa

    Yes, Frank the 2 liter soda bottles will work fine. I don’t use them but many, many folks do. And reportedly they work just as well as what I have. So evidently the clear plastic is not a problem at all.

    I use a grow mix. Anything that’s full of wood chips is not a starter mix. The “bag of dark – almost black – soil with a little vermiculite mixed in ” sounds like potting soil. That is not what you want for a starter mix.

    Here’s the post that addresses this: http://tendingmygarden.com/starting-seed-seed-starting-mix/

    Let me know if you have more questions.
    Theresa

  • Ann

    Hi, could you show a picture of
    some of your’s.
    Thank you, Ann

  • Sandra

    It IS amazing Theresa, I had to water a jug of beet seeds today, and with this cold snap (high of 24 here)about 30 minutes later, the water had frozen solid!! How those little seeds can survive and thrive with all that is just awe inspiring to me. Still they do.

  • Theresa

    Thanks for this affirmation about the freezing Sandra.

    One thing — my gut feeling (which I always trust) tells me it’s better to water the grow mix well so you won’t have to EVER water again until you transplant to the garden. That’s another nice thing about wintersown. You should not have to water at all. The containers will (or should) keep everything nice and moist with sun, condensation, etc.

  • Aparna

    Theresa,
    I started my first jug of winter sown seeds (yippee!) after reading your post ‘You Can Plant in December’. I am so excited- it seems hassle free.
    I had a couple of questions on sowing and transplanting.
    – How thickly/thinly do you sow? How many seeds would be too much while sowing?
    – How does one prevent damaging the roots during transplant given that there would be quite a few plants that need to be separated?

    Thanks.

  • Theresa

    I was just thinking about you yesterday, Aparna. I was going to send you an email and ask if your grow mix (ingredients) had come and if you had planted so I was delighted to get your update via your comment.

    Wintersown is indeed hassle free. And it’s so easy it’s enough to make anyone exclaim YIPPEE! 🙂

    How thickly or thinly you sow will depend on what you are sowing. Beets, radishes, and most other seeds of that size, I plant about an inch apart in the jug. Lettuce seed I tend to sow too thickly but am working on having less seeds than usual. Even then 25 seeds or more to a jug would be ok. I don’t count all the small seeds — I just try to sprinkle a few over the soil. This is something that you will be able to adjust to your liking as you gain experience. There is really no right or wrong. You’ll definitely get a feel for what you can and can’t do and it won’t take long.

    When your seedlings are ready for transplanting — whether its to the garden for your cool weather crops — or to a bigger pot for your warm weather crops —- you will handle them gently when you separate them and plant. Every once in while you’ll mess up one — but for the most part — the seedlings will make it just fine and will recover quickly and keep growing just fine.

    Let me know how you do.
    Theresa

  • Aparna

    Thanks for the response Theresa. Now I have a fairly good idea on how to proceed.
    I will certainly keep you posted.

  • Theresa

    Thanks Aparna!

  • Aparna

    Theresa, I am happy to report that my first jug of winter sown bunching onion seeds have just come up! They are still very tiny. I had to mist it once as I felt that it was really dry and also there was no condensation on the sides of the jug.

  • Theresa

    So glad your bunching onions have germinated, Aparan!
    When you wintersow — make sure the growing medium is nice and moist to begin with.
    If you do have a jug dry out for some reason (as you did) — open it — carefully pour in water to wet thoroughly the growing medium (excess will drain out the holes in the bottom) — and then retape the jug.
    If the growing medium is dry – misting is not enough to moisten it totally.
    Keep me informed about how you are doing. Have you sown anything besides the bunching onions?
    Theresa

  • Aparna

    I will water as you suggest, Theresa. I have started carrots, beets some lettuce and California wild flower mix.

    Since I have a small garden, I am trying to restrict to plants that would be harvested by the time my summer veggies are ready to go in.

  • Theresa

    Good plan Aparna. Glad you’re thinking ahead.

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