If you don’t have room to start a lot of seed indoors, and you definitely can’t supply adequate light after they germinate, then try your hand at wintersown.
If you haven’t winter sown any seed yet this winter, but want to, it’s not too late.
You may even have time to sow seed that needs a brief period of chilling before it can germinate.
Original Intent of Winter Sown
One of the principles of the winter sown method is that seeds come up when they’re ready. And although this was originally intended to apply to hardy seedlings (cold weather plants), you can adapt this method for not only your cole crops for spring but for your warm weather crops as well. It’s perfect for folks like me who just don’t have room inside for seed starting and can’t supply adequate light needed for growth.
I started cole crops of cabbage and broccoli using the winter sown method. I let them germinate inside. It took 3 days. Then I put them outside.
Adapting Winter Sown Method to Warm Weather Crops
I plan to start my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants the same way.
But of course you start warm weather crops much later than cold weather crops. Here in Virginia, zone 7a/7b, you’d start hot weather crops like tomatoes, eggplant and peppers mid March or even April. Cukes and squash in April and/or May.
I’m going to make a couple of slight adjustments to save some time in re-potting to larger containers and to allow me to hold my seedlings longer if need be:
- With my grow mix in each jug I am mixing a tablespoon or so of compost as organic matter. Since my grow mix contains nothing for the seedlings to feed on, the compost will give the seedlings food and allow them to grow larger than if they were in grow mix alone.
(I had considered spraying the small seedlings with some kelp or seaweed spray after a few weeks, but decided this was just something else to do. I want to be finished with them once they’re sown in the jug — until I transplant in the garden.)
Then I’ll plant one or two tomato, pepper or eggplant seeds per jug to allow plenty of room for growth. I’ll bring inside to germinate. Once they’re up I’ll put them outside.
This year is so mild I think the jug will be sufficient protection from the cold. If below freezing temperatures are forecast after the “hot weather” plants are outside I’ll either use a row cover fabric over the jugs or one of my makeshift coldframes.
What TMG Readers are Saying
A recent subscriber to TMG wrote to me and said,
“I have started seeds under lights in my basement for many years, but this year discovered winter sowing. So far I have been amazed at what is already germinating. I ‘ve even transplanted out kale and baby bok choi under a fleece tunnel.
I may have wished for a colder winter, but given that it didn’t happen, I’m taking advantage of the warmer weather to plant things out earlier. ”
Another TMG reader wrote saying “—– the wintersown method is THE BEST THING EVER!!! It really is amazing how much easier life is this year because of it. I’m starting a few inside but nothing like last year. It is saving me a ton of work and time too! Yahoo!!!!”
If you haven’t yet enjoyed the fun and ease of wintersown — you still have time!
Organic Gardening is easy, efficient, effective and it’s a lot healthier.
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