Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Winter Sowing Project

Starting seeds for your gardens is a lot cheaper than buying seedlings or more mature plants. However, starting seeds indoors is a pain in the patootie. You have to provide consistent water, light, heat, and hope that the gnats and spider mites don't take up residence in your soil and on your seedlings. Mold starts growing on the soil, which kills the seeds. Last fall, at the plant swap I attended, a couple of the ladies were talking about winter sowing. It sounded simple enough, so I decided to give it a go.

In winter sowing, you start your seeds after the winter solstice in the dead of winter. You leave your seeds in milk jugs (or whatever type of container you choose) outside, so that the natural life cycle of sowing seeds in your climate is mimicked. You can fill your entire landscape with plants you've winter sown. Winter sowing allows your seeds to start growing earlier, thus producing flowers earlier. For some perennials that normally don't bloom until their second growing season, you'll often get them the first season if you winter sow.

I chose to use milk jugs, rinsed of course. I asked my husband to drill some drain holes in the bottom and some air holes in the top of the jugs. Then we cut the jug on three of the four sides so that I could fill with dirt and seeds. I used old metal blinds, cut, to label the plants. If you use a plain #2 pencil to write on the blinds, it won't fade and you'll know what seeds you have in the spring.

Here's how I did it.

Step One: Drill drain holes in the bottom of your milk jug.

Mark used his drill and drilled 7 or 8 small holes in the bottoms.

Step Two: Drill vent holes in the top of the jug to allow in air and water. Discard the lids.

Steps Three & Four: Draw a cutting line about 1/4" below the bottom of the jug's handle. Cut it three-fourths of the way around the jug. Fill with about 3" of potting soil.

Step Five: Water the soil and sow your seeds. Cover with about 1/4" of soil and tamp down. Insert label on the INSIDE of the jug. If you label on the outside, use a paint pen as everything else will fade and you'll be stuck with a bunch of unknown seedlings.

Step Six: Tape the sides closed. I used duct tape and cut it into small strips. I placed one strip on each corner and one or two pieces on each side.

Step Seven: Water and place on the east side of your home or yard. This allows the jugs to get morning sun and afternoon shade. When things start heating up, you don't want the seeds to fry. Make sure you place them in the open so they can get any rain that falls. If you put them under the eaves of your house, they'll not get any rain. If you're in a drought like we are, you'll have to water them about once a week.

Step Eight: Wait and watch!!

I started these a week ago, and I noticed some seeds sprouting when I checked on them today!! Oh joy!

No comments: