Winter Sowing

At the beginning of last year I came across a lot of articles about winter sowing, both on the internet and in magazines. The idea is that you can plant them as early as you want to and the seeds will sprout when the conditions are right. You need soil, seeds, water and a container. I was skeptical, after all we were in a Polar Vortex at the time, but it sounded like a fun experiment to try. I used some seeds that were leftover from the previous season and sowed them a little on the heavy side. Some friends saved milk and water jugs for me. I would recommend using water jugs. No matter how well you rinsed them, the milk jugs smelled pretty bad.

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Step 1: Pick out the seeds. I tried to pick out varieties that were recommended for containers. I had the best luck with cool season vegetables and perennials.

Step 2: Poke holes in the bottom of your container for drainage.  If you are using a water jug, cut around the perimeter leaving a ‘hinge’ at the handle.

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Step 3: Plant and water your seeds. Since I was doing this in the shop, I wet the soil in a bucket before I put it in the containers. I didn’t want to clog any drains or make much of a mess. I sowed the seeds and sprinkled dry soil over them and pressed down lightly to get the correct planting depths.

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Step 4: If you used milk or water jugs, go ahead and throw the lid away. It will need to have some ventilation. Close your container securely (I used duct tape). Label so that you know what they are in a few months.

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Step 5: Put them outside. I put mine into trays so they wouldn’t get blown around by the wind or tipped over by animals.

Iphone Pics1 597The first signs of life!

I did two plantings in February and one planting in April. The articles I read recommended venting them when it was sunny and keeping an eye on the moisture. Other than the initial planting I didn’t take care of them until sometime in May. I gave away most of the April planting so I’m not sure if they produced anything harvest-able, but they did sprout and grow! By the end of August I had homegrown carrots and beets from the February 20th planting.


While this may not be a replacement for starting seeds indoors, it is pretty neat that it works and I will probably do it again.

Written by

Cathy Maxson is Sargent's Gardens Perennial Growing manager. In addition to making sure Sargent's grown plants thrive, she enjoys growing in her own garden, canning fruits and vegetables, traveling, and walking her dogs.