I’ve described my modifications of the wintersown method (that I use to get an early start on warm weather crops) in many posts, especially in my recent post and the one at the end of February. But, I’ve received questions from readers that would indicate a misunderstanding of my particular adaptation of wintersown.
The wintersown method of planting in jugs, taping them up, and setting them outside until the weather is suitable for germination, was originally intended for cold weather plants. In other words, seedlings that would be hardy and could take the cold after they germinated and then experienced a change to severe cold.
Altering the Concept of Wintersown
If one wants to get an early start on tender warm weather seedlings like tomatoes, certain adjustments have to be made in the wintersown method if you want to assure the seedlings get off to a good start and don’t die from the cold. Thus, I’ve taken the concept of wintersown and adapted it (altered it or changed it a bit using the knowledge of what the plants like) to grow not only my cold weather plants, but to grow my warm weather plants.
A Reason for the Alteration
As I’ve explained previously, the reason for my doing this is because I have neither sufficient room or light for plants indoors. The other reason is to get an earlier start with plants than what I would have if I started the seed outside and had to wait until the weather warmed. (And by the way, I did just that for many years when I first started gardening.)
Short Growing Seasons and Cold into June
Many parts of the country have cold weather until June. Their growing season is very short. Since my method is not totally, but somewhat dependent on the weather, it may not give folks in these colder/short season areas enough time to get the larger seedlings they want for transplanting to the garden to give them a jump on the weather. Anyone in those areas who has the time, space, and lighting may want to start and grow inside and then harden off the larger seedlings when the weather allows.
Starting Warm Weather Crops with My Adaptation of Wintersown
I start the seeds of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant (warm weather plants) inside where temperatures are 60 to 70 degrees F. The optimum soil temperature for germination of these plants is about 77 degrees F although they do well at 68 degrees F.
The minute they germinate, I put the tops back on and place them outdoors under another cold frame IF temperatures are below 50 degrees.
By being outside they get the light they need. Another benefit from this is: they’re hardened off almost from day one!
Different Situations, Conditions, and Reasons
Everyone has slightly different situations, conditions and reasons for doing things. For me, there would be no reason to plant tomatoes in a jug, tape it closed, and place them outdoors in the dead of winter.
They’re not going to germinate until temperatures rise. These plants love warm weather. They germinate in the warmth and they grow in the warmth.
Warm weather plants like tomatoes don’t really like it below 50 degrees, but they can live until it drops to 32. If they do germinate and temperatures in the jug fall to 32 degrees or less, they’re finished. You don’t have to guess about giving these plants protection from freezing weather. You either protect them, or they die.
Judging When to Start Seed
In warmer winters, I’ve started tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant as early as March 1st. This year, because of the cold, I waited until April 1st to plant in the jugs. The seedlings are still tiny but everything looks healthy. My guess, based on what has happened in prior years, is that when temperatures get warmer these tiny little seedlings will take off and begin to grow.
If you have a green house or if you have the proper light set up inside your home for seedlings to grow, you can grow earlier with much success. And of course, you have to have the space to care for them when you pot up as they grow. And it’s possible that for all this effort that you may get “fruit” a week or so earlier than I will.
How About Cucumbers and Squash?
Plants like cucumbers and squash grow very quickly. Most of the time they are direct seeded into the garden. If you want to start the seed in a flat or container you can, but they will be ready (with the right temperatures) to transplant much more quickly than tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.
Be aware of thoughts caused by the subtle brainwashing in our society. We, as a society, are so use to seeing warm weather plants for sale in April (even if it’s 40 degrees outside), that it’s easy to think warm weather plants are suppose to be lush and green and grow in April even if conditions are not favorable.
A good part of being successful with any kind of seed starting program is to know under what conditions those seeds and the seedlings they turn into would thrive.
Best of luck, keep planting, and let me know if you still have questions.
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