Sowing seeds in winter is a practice believed to make seeds come up earlier and hardier. The idea comes from the basis that seeds inherently knows when is the right time to germinate and sowing the seeds in a container, making a mock greenhouse, the germinating process is speeded up. It is commonly known winter sowers make the best growers! I would love to share with you how to winter sow the best garden ever!
Benefits of winter sowing
Winter sowing these seeds is amazing as they do not get the weather wrong.
Seeds inherently keep record of the amount of daylight and general temperatures, and knows exactly the right time to begin germinating.
Begin winter sowing
This year, we did our winter sowing in milk jugs that were collected over several weeks.
Directions on how to winter sow are simple 🙂
Cut the milk jugs in half and fill the base with potting soil.
Next, plant one, two or three kinds of seeds in one jug and water them lightly.
Mark the jugs with numbers or indicators of what was planted in the jugs. Be mindful that a permanent marker may wash off in the rain and snow that may continue for some time. Consider double labeling to be safe. Lastly put the lid back onto the base and duct tape the top to the bottom.
Any variations of these directions are worth experimenting with.
Watch how to winter sow on Youtube
How to choose seeds for winter sowing
When choosing seeds to winter sow, select seeds that would normally sprout in the spring or early summer. This includes early flowers like poppies, or cold loving crops like cabbage and broccoli, and any salad greens like kale and lettuce.
Don’t fret about what seeds to choose for winter sowing. Any seeds can be sown.
Consider asking the Facebook Group of winter sowers about specific seeds or varieties if you have questions. This is the best place I have found to check with other winter sowers if they have had success with a specific kind of seed.
Likewise seeds that will do really well when sowed in winter is seeds that:
- require a period of cold stratification (like marshmallow and tansy);
- seeds that usually germinate in the spring and early summer (like flowers and salad greens); and
- don’t require long maturity in warm temperatures
Best seeds for winter sowing
Vegetables that will do particularly well for winter sowing:
- swiss chard
Flowers that can be sown in the winter:
- tong ho
Best soil for winter sowing
The Sunshine Mix 4 – the professional growing mix, is what we found to be the best for winter sowing. Actually any potting soil from your local garden centre or sold at most grocery stores can be used.
The only soil I would recommend you NOT use is soil from a forest.
Containers for winter sowing
Plastic milk jugs are best for winter sowing
Winter sowing in plastic containers is the easiest and most practical. Many gardeners use milk jugs as they are transparent and allow lots of light in. It is the best size for seedlings to germinate and to become a decent size seedling. Collect them from neighbours, friends and family to support this winter sowing endeavour.
Alternative containers to use for winter sowing
Instead of the milk jugs other containers could also work as long as it is somewhat transparent to allow as much light in as possible, for example:
- sushi trays with clear lids
- containers with a clear base and lid
- storage totes that are see through
- tin foil take out containers with a clear lid
- plant pots with zip lock bags large enough to cover the pot and close at the top
Seeds to sow in winter
Winter sowing is how seasoned gardeners prepare their gardens in the winter time. To sow seeds in the winter is literally to satisfy that age old delight we used to experience as a child to see a seed germinating from the first little leaf peeking its green little head out of the soil and wait with excitement for it to come alive.
You too can start gardening in the wintertime.
If the idea of winter sowing has sparked an interest with you, consider which plants would benefit your lifestyle. Be it vegetables or flowers, put some seeds in the dirt on a cold wintery day and place the mini-greenhouse outside. Soon, you too will experience the joy of new life in your midst, and the hardy plants to delight you in the seasons ahead.
More gardening tid-bits
For other resources on winter sowing, consider joining other seasoned gardeners in the Facebook group called Winter Sowers.
For more of my gardening journey, see the archives:
- Growing salad greens indoors
- Knowing when and how to re-pot your seedlings
- Learn how to make a salad from the garden
- Plan a garden part 1: lists
- Plan a garden part 2: calendar
- Plan a garden part 3: the map (coming soon!)