When the chaos dies down and you're sick of canned food, what will your long term plan be?

Winter Sowing Tips

Posted on February 20th, by Kathy in Veggie Notes. Comments Off on Winter Sowing Tips

Winter Sowing Tips
milk jugs for winter sowing

Here’s my pile of milk jugs and my soil ready for planting.

Winter sowing is a method of starting seeds outdoors in winter. The method takes advantage of natural temperatures and letting mother nature bring up seeds as early as possible with a little extra protection from frost from us (in this case milk jug mini-greenhouses).


January just didn’t feel like gardening time for me.  I know, I know, we told you January was a good time to start your winter sowing, but if you’re not feeling it, you’re not feeling it.  But don’t worry, there’s still time.  You can start now and into early March.  The point is that you’re creating little greenhouses to let the seeds start as Mother Nature warms the soil.

I also needed Mother Nature to warm me before I could get started.  So last weekend, with temperatures in the high 50s (February?!  I know!) I gathered all my supplies and got to work.  I’m in the process of moving some of my raised beds from the front yard garden to the “downstairs” garden/part of the goats’ pasture, so I’ve got a nice pile of good soil and a bare spot where I can put my mini-greenhouses where they’ll get some good sun.

Just a couple of tips from my experience….

ChoppingFrozenSoilYou might need an axe for this job.  If you see a zombie, you can use the axe on it, and you can also use it for chopping up semi-frozen soil like what I was collecting from my raised beds.

What does saturated mean?  Think mud pies like you made when you were a kid.  I found that it was easiest to dampen everything with a hose and then use a pitcher to add water as needed and mix it in.  Then I poked holes in the mud to the depth recommended on the seed packet, dropped in my seeds and covered them up.

Here's "saturated" soil.

Here’s “saturated” soil.

How many plants can you have in each jug?  I drew on my Square Foot Gardening experience and planned for an average of 4 plants per jug.  So I poked four holes and popped in a couple seeds per hole.  For tomatoes, I planted two per jug.  I figure I might need to keep them in their green houses a little longer than some of the other things I planted, so I wanted them to have some extra room.

Taping the jugs back together is easier if you stabilize the top half to the bottom by pressing down gently with your chest and then using both hands to wrap the duct tape around.  I sometimes had to use little chunks of tape to seal holes because it doesn’t always work the first time.

GardenMarkerMost permanent markers aren’t permanent in the outdoors.  So I used this marker made just for gardening.  If you don’t have one like this, you can use a regular garden marker, but it wouldn’t hurt to draw up a little map with graph paper to remind you what was in each jug.


Molly guards the milk jugs

Molly the cat and I had a great time outdoors all day.  It took a couple hours all together, and now, since the temperatures have dropped back to normal for winter in February, we can focus on staying warm indoors without any guilt.

If you’ve been worrying that it was too late to get started, you can stop.  There’s still time to set up your mini-greenhouses.  So as long as the seed has time to germinate and grow a bit before it’s time to be planted in the garden, you’ll be just fine.

And don’t forget that we put all our winter sowing instructions in the latest issue of Quick! Plant Something! (Check our facebook page for the free download code, good for a few more weeks.)

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