Maybe it’s a little early, but I couldn’t resist setting out some of my winter sowing containers this weekend. Winter sowing is a method of starting perennials and some hardy annuals from seed in the winter. Michelle Mero Riedel, a Twin Cities-based photographer and proponent of winter sowing, has been teaching classes on this method for the past two years. I tried it last year with some success…but I would I have done better if I had chosen my seeds more carefully.
In an article in the January/February issue of Northern Gardener, which should be on newsstands this week, Michelle describes the method and gives step-by-step instructions as well as a list of the best plants to use for winter sowing. The photos of Michelle’s garden, created using winter-sown plants, are stunning. To winter sow plants, you create mini-greenhouses using plastic milk jugs or other containers, set the plants outside, and let them grow on their own. Come spring, the seeds will germinate and you can gradually open up the greenhouses and then plant the plants as you would normally.
Perennials seem to work best with this method, so I ordered several kinds of seed from Swallowtail Gardens Seeds. Yesterday, I set up my first mini-greenhouses with seeds of White Swan Echinacea, Alpine Blue Clematis, and Chandelier Lupine. Over the next several months, I’ll be setting out additonal seed as time, inclination, and the availability of milk jugs allows. One thing I did learn from my experience last year: Be sure to put a marker with the name of the plant in permanent ink on the inside of the mini-greenhouse. If you do not, you may not remember what you planted!