Seed Starting, Inside and Out

It’s still a bit early for starting seeds indoors in the North, but I’ve been getting ready for it and setting out several winter-sowing containers. You’ll find a new how-to page on indoor seed starting on the header above, which gives the basics and a few tips based on good experiences (and bad ones) that I’ve had.

Winter sowing containers

A couple of years ago, Northern Gardener ran an article by Michelle Mero Riedel on a seed starting technique called “winter sowing.” It was probably the most popular article we have run in the past five years. Basically, winter sowing is a way to start seeds outdoors.

Don't forget to mark the containers!

Here’s how you do it: Collect a bunch of clear plastic containers. Michelle often uses clear 1 gallon milk jugs, but they don’t carry those in my stores, so I like the larger plastic containers that salad greens come in. You clean the containers, poke holes in the bottom and top, and fill them with 2-4 inches of very moist seed-starting mixture. Then plant your seeds and put the containers outdoors. Tip: Be sure to write what you have planted in the container in a permanent marker inside the container. That’s all you do until spring.

Come spring, you’ll start to see little seedlings in the containers. At that point, you’ll want to poke more holes or open the containers up a bit during the day to keep the plants from over-heating.  When the temperatures are warm enough, you just plant the seedlings in your garden or containers as you would any other plant starts.

Winter sowing works best for hardy perennials, I think, but some people use this method to start tomatoes and other plants. Since I have a meadow area that I plant out, I use winter sowing for additional plants for the meadow. This year, I started two kinds of lupines, a native coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) and tall rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta). These all do really well in winter sowing containers.

For a demonstration on how to set up your winter sowing containers, check out Terry Yockey’s video. There’s an organization for winter sowers, as well, at this web site.

This entry was posted in Cool Stuff to Try, See it in Northern Gardener, Seed starting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Seed Starting, Inside and Out

  1. meemsnyc says:

    I’m going to try winter sowing for the first time this winter. Looking forward to seeing the results.

  2. commonweeder says:

    This year I can start any seeds until April 1 when we return from a trip to our daughter in Texas. I am hoping that won’t be too late. I also think my new Front Garden can be planted with hardy greens in mid April.

  3. I have been winter sowing for the past several years and write about it quiet a bit on my blog. I live in MN too! Glad to find a fellow Minnesota garden blogger!!

    Amy (Get Busy Gardening!)

  4. Mary Schier says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Amy. I’ll add your blog to my sidebar.

  5. Pingback: Winter Sowing Seeds for Your Vegetable Garden

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