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Winter Sowing

I LOVE Michigan. I love that we are blessed with 4 uniquely beautiful seasons. I enjoy the excitement of season changes. Summer is great but I often find myself becoming tired of the heat and longing for the cool beauty of autumn. When autumn hits and the leaves change, I find my heart anxiously awaiting the first snowflakes of winter. Winter is one of my favorite times but like the other seasons; it gets long and I find myself with excitement anticipating the newness of spring.

Scratch that "I need to plant something" itch with winter sowing and let nature do the rest of the work! Each year I find myself saying: “do not start seeds too early…again!” This is our second year winter sowing. Last year we found great success with the ones that survived the move to our new house. Unfortunately, my camera taking skills were not a priority last year. I will update the blog later this season to share the success of this years winter sown batch.

Winter is a time of rest and recovering. Seeds need that time too. For many native varieties and cold weather plants, the freezing and thawing cycles of winter help break down the hard seed coats and allow for higher germination rates and healthy growth.

Why Winter Sow?

  • Winter sowing creates mini greenhouses that protect the seed from being washed away and from becoming a snack to hungry critters.

  • Transplant thriving plants into your garden rows/landscapes eliminating potential germination gaps.

  • The plants we've grown appear to be very strong and healthy plants

  • Do not need to be hardened off like indoor plants, they are already acclimated to being outdoors - this to me is the MOST exciting part. Hardening off plants is a lot of work and I tend to "sun burn" so many seedlings!

  • Saves room under grow lights

What seeds can I sow?

When selecting seeds to winter sow look for terms the following terms on the package:

  • hardy annual

  • plant as soon as soil is workable

  • hardy perennials

  • frost tolerant

  • benefits from cold stratification

  • native seeds

This year I am trying: lavender, kale, spinach, broccoli, Echinacea, sea holly, sage, lettuce, feverfew, scabiosa, snapdragons, Shasta daisy, rhudbeckia, dianthus (sweet williams), and bells of Ireland.

Material List:

  • Drill

  • Seeds

  • Containers (milk jugs, salad mix containers, 2-liters, and juice containers)

  • Tape (duct tape or packing tape)

  • Pencil or Garden Marker

  • Scissors

  • Soil (we use dairy doo seed starting mix)

  • Water

  • Tote or large bowl

What we did:

  1. Drill holes on the top and bottom for ventilation and draining excess water

  2. If using a milk jug or juice type container grab your scissors and with caution cut in half. I left a about a half inch of it intact so the the top half acted as lid instead of completely separating and made it easier to tape back together

  3. Keep the lid to the container OFF

  4. Add moist soil – I used seed starting soil and added a lot of water to it.

  5. Plant seeds according to package instructions

  6. Using tape secure the lid

  7. Label – Permanent markers DO NOT hold up…oops! Pencil actually works a lot better! I used pencil on popsicle stick this year.

  8. Place outside and let nature do the rest of the work

  9. Check on seeds as weather warms to ensure the soil stays moist - on warmer spring days you may want to remove the tops so they do not cook.

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