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Old 10-10-2009, 05:40 AM   #1
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Default Winter Sowing Tips & Techniques

Let's share ideas for winter sowing tips & techniques.

What winter sowing methods have you used? What works well for you? What doesn't work so well for you? What flopped? Any surprises?

I'll start out with ideas for using recycled containers. It's easy and cheap!

I'ved used plastic jugs, plastic food containers with lids, plastic bags (both clear and opaque). Yes, I've actually just dumped dirt in a plastic bag with seeds, tied or stapled it shut, and tossed it out in the abundant snow banks our chilly winters provide. Easy Peasy.

I snip some of my containers in half (i.e. milk jugs, juice jugs) and the result is a pot for the dirt & seeds along with a cover for protection.

Food containers with lids work well too. I snip the center of the lid out, cover with clear plastic wrap or recycled clear plastic, and snap the modified lid back on the container right over the plastic wrap.

Some recycled plastic containers work well for pots, but attaching a "lid" or "cover" doesn't work so well. In this case I use recycled plastic grocery bags and plastic saved from just about anything all purchased items are sold in. I just drop my recycled container pot into the grocery bag and tie it shut. Or I take "sheets" of recyled plastic and wrap it loosely around the container (sort of like wrapping a present), and staple it shut.

Below are photos of various recylced containers I've used for winter sowing.

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Winter Sowing Tips & Techniques-img_0207.jpg   Winter Sowing Tips & Techniques-img_0226.jpg   Winter Sowing Tips & Techniques-img_0227.jpg   Winter Sowing Tips & Techniques-img_0229.jpg   Winter Sowing Tips & Techniques-img_0234.jpg  

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Old 10-10-2009, 06:06 AM   #2
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BooBooBearBecky, I could hug you for including your photos. Learning about propagation through reading is like learning how to cook by reading cookbooks. It is assumed that you know the simple things, like how to boil water or crack an egg.

When it comes to propagation, my level of knowledge is equivalent to the person who doen't even have enough knowledge to be able to follow the directions on the back of a box of cake mix. I am ashamed to admit it, but there you have it: Clueless.

Would you mind terribly including a series of photos of what sort of soil or growing medium should go into the containers?
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Old 10-10-2009, 06:09 AM   #3
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I did a modified form of winter sowing and put small pots in a cold frame outside.
I used organic potting soil and compost and got 6 pots of very healthy weeds in the spring.
I guess my compost pile is not getting hot enough to kill off weed seeds?

What planting medium should I use?
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Old 10-10-2009, 10:46 AM   #4
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Did you know that winter sowing is the same as cold stratification? And cold stratification is being discussed here:

Cold Moist Stratification - an Important Seed Treatment

Im looking forward to seeing more pictures BooBooBearBecky!

Ive found that a critical part of seed starting for any method is to use a sterile planting medium. The easiest thing is to buy a pre-sterilized mix. In the greenhouse I used to use Pro-Mix which you can buy in large quantities at most co-ops or nurseries. Later I started to make my own mix by mixing various quantities of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite - horticultural grade.

Seeds need a fungus free sterile medium or they could rot. They also need a certain amount of air. They don't need fertilizer, and until they germinate they don't need a lot of root space --- unless they are of the "hard to transplant" varieties. In that case you can use peat pots so the pot with the planting medium intact can be planted out once the plant has started to grow.
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Old 10-10-2009, 02:34 PM   #5
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You rock BooBooBearBecky. ANYTHING can be used to wintersow seeds. Niiiiiice drain holes. will-o-wisp > Congrats on the really healthy weeds. That's happened to me tons of times. We can use just about any medium for most seeds. All you have to do is sterilize it. You can nuke your potting soil and compost in a microwave or oven at 180F if you want. I bake my medium when I have to use the oven to reheat food. I've cooked dirt at 200 to 250. It worked out good enough. Watch out for WalMart potting soils. Some of them come bearing gifts we don't want. Nuke it for winter sowing.
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Old 10-11-2009, 06:17 AM   #6
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No Nukes here, but I can purchase sterile mix or bake what I have. The potting soil is Coast Of Maine, approved for organic growers.

I was thinking that using a cold frame with open pots is also allowing weed seeds to blow in?

Do I have to have a lid if I place the pots in a cold frame and open and close the cold frame as needed?
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Old 10-11-2009, 08:12 AM   #7
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That should work if there are no weed seeds in the mix or in the cold frame already. They can be sneaky sometimes.
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Old 10-11-2009, 09:22 AM   #8
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Last year I used bottles/jugs, cut them almost all the way through, leaving a "hinge" so I could flip the top part of the bottle back, add soil and seeds, then flipped it back in place. I had to water them occasionally. Should I have taped around the cut to seal it?

Do you have to water yours occasionally?
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Old 10-11-2009, 06:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
[hazelnut] I've found that a critical part of seed starting for any method is to use a sterile planting medium.
hazelnut, I totally agree with you. I've learned sterility is pretty darn important both through trial & error and from the school of hard knocks. Like will-o-wisp, I once ended up with winter sown containers full of weeds. (So you see will-o-wisp you are not the only one to have this outcome.)

Quote:
[Equilibrium] All you have to do is sterilize it. You can nuke your potting soil and compost in a microwave or oven at 180F if you want.
I agree with Equilibrium....cook the dirt. Oh sure dh complains now and then when he opens the microwave to heat up his din-din and discovers a bowl of cooked dirt, but it really does work well.

Quote:
[Hedgerowe] Would you mind terribly including a series of photos of what sort of soil or growing medium should go into the containers?
Sorry, I don't have any photos of the soil mix I use for winter sowing. I just use potting/starter mix from Walmart. Mix that with a little of my compost. Then ZAP it in the microwave.

Quote:
[will-o-wisp] What planting medium should I use?
There are a lot of winter sowing soil recipes on the web, but the experts here really know their stuff. Watch this thread for their tips. Decide what works well for you and what fits your budget. Don't be afraid to experiment a bit. In my opinion, the sterile requirement is really the most important. I got lazy and didn't cook my dirt last winter. ARGHH!!! I still got lots of great seedlings, but I had to yank weeds out of the containers. I still have 6 containers I can't tell whether I am looking at bad weeds or good plants.

Quote:
[Equilibrium] Niiiiiice drain holes
I use a variety of methods to make drain holes. The easiest on my hands has been the soldiering iron.

Here's a photo of my winter sowing containers from late spring just before I moved them to an area with a little more sun.

Winter Sowing Tips & Techniques-img_0975.jpg

These are some of the handy tools for cutting winter sowing containers and making drain holes.

Winter Sowing Tips & Techniques-img_0210.jpg

Labels are a good idea when you end up with a lot of winter sowing containers. I cut up yogurt cups and make a plant labels from them.

Winter Sowing Tips & Techniques-img_0212.jpg

I use a permanent marker to write on my labels. This Bic Mark-It works well for me.

Winter Sowing Tips & Techniques-img_0213.jpg

Plastic for wrapping things up. I find that using ordinary recycled plastic for protecting my winter sown pots works best for me. I have a garbage bag in the basement and all kinds of plastic wrap gets stuffed in it throughout the year. I loosely wrap my pots, staple them at the top or use a twist tie and cut slits in the plastic. I can water through the slits easily, and there is no need to fiddle with a lid or tape. The stapled portion of the plastic gets tossed in garbage can after I cut it away, because I don't want metal staples in my gardens. I just cut or tear the plastic away bit by bit as the seedlings emerge. Got a big chunk of recycled plastic? Then cut it up or wrap up multiple pots in one package.

Winter Sowing Tips & Techniques-img_0232.jpg

Remember to have FUN and experiemnt with Winter Sowing. There are soooooo many ways to do this. Pick the techniques which work for YOU. Never winter sown anything before? Then try 2 or 3 different methods at once. The technique you use that results in the most seedlings WINS!

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Old 10-11-2009, 06:59 PM   #10
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Really good instructions and photos, BooBooBearBecky. Thanks very much! Do you have any photos of the pots with their plastic hoods on?
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