Winter sowing seeds is not every gardeners first thought.
It’s cold, dark and nothings growing….
But winter sowing can be fun and super easy if you know how!
So keep reading and learn everything you need to know about winter sowing in this quick start guide.
Each winter we love to spend time dreaming about what we are going to grow.
Going through seed catalogues and gardening magazines for tips and inspiration, and we like to start sowing seeds, yes its the height of winter and we are sowing seeds!!
Winter sowing is a fun way to get your kids excited about seeds and learning all about them while being cosy indoors.
Winter sowing also helps to make sure your plants stay healthy and strong.
How? Well an indoor propagator provides heat and moist air, encouraging tall, fast growth, but without natural day light to sustain your seedlings, they become tall and leggy and get sick quickly.
Winter sowing using this technique, encourages seeds to sprout and grow at the right conditions to grow strong healthy seedlings that can stand on their own two feet.
Taking up no space indoors and without spending a loy of money on expensive heating systems.
SO, WHAT IS WINTER SOWING?
Winter sowing is a simple way to get a jump on spring and get some of your seeds sown earlier than usual while saving space indoors.
There is no real trick to it. It’s simply a matter of choosing the right seeds, sowing them in mini protective containers (just like a mini greenhouse) outside in the chill of winter.
Then sit back and let spring do its thing. The seeds will germinate in the protective environment in their own time.
BENEFITS OF WINTER SOWING
There are so many benefits to winter sowing .
Space– I don’t have a greenhouse, so every spring I have so many trays of seeds, pots of cuttings and various other containers all over my windowsills, radiators and airing cupboards.
(Which equals kids knocking into them, having to re-sow trays of seeds and 1 not happy husband! )
Trying to find space, heat and warmth for long enough to bring a fleet of seedlings into existance isnt easy in our short growing season.
Winter sowing let’s me take some of this army of seeds and grow them on outdoors, which frees up space indoors for more tender varieties.
This helps the outdoor sown seedlings still get a head start too without taking up valuable space indoors.
(It also reduces the risk of my husband knocking seedlings over or having a melt down)
Equiptment– To winter sow, you only need a few recylced containers, not masses of heat pads and protective equiptment.
Healthy Seedlings- Your seeds grow stronger, healthier and they are less likely to get sick or rot away. They also don’t need weeks of getting used to cooler conditions before they can eventually go outdoors.
Support– The seedlings are less likely to need support once outdoors too as they’ve grown at the right time and pace for them to be strong and ready for planting out.
There are limitations too.
For example you can’t just throw some pumpkin seeds in a container and expect them to grow in snowy weather when they need a temperate of 25°C to germinate.
But if you follow the golden rules there are a few benefits that make it so worth it
Winter sowing seedlings can be done wherever you are or however cold it is.
However, it’s best to wait until your conditions are as cold as they’re likely to get.
This way the cold prevents germination until the conditions are right for each seedlings as the temp slowly warms up.
Simply collect a few things to get started.
- Good quality compost. A multi-purpose garden compost is perfect.
- The right seeds – see more below about this.
- Recycled containers – any type of container so long as it is transparent, deep enough to hold 15cm of soil and the same space for the seedling to grow into. I love milk jugs and soda bottles.
Good seeds for winter sowing.
Winter sowing is a valuable technique for starting seeds early, but it is not suitable for some seeds. Seeds that need high temperatures to germinate aren’t suitable for this technique.
So how do you know which ones are??
Well, the best ones to use for this winter sowing technique are seeds that are usually sown at cooler temperatures.
Seeds such as winter salad leaves are usually sown in cool autumn temps and don’t require heat.
There are lots of annuals, herbs and cold weather vegetables to try.
The seed packets tell you exactly what you need;
- Self sowing
- Direct sow outdoors
- Spring sowing
- Autumn sowing
STEP-BY-STEP Guide to winter sowing
Ok, so you have your containers, seeds and a good quality compost, now what?
Now, Prepare your containers –
If you’re using a tall, container like a 2 litre soda bottle or milk jug, give it a good rinse then,
- Cut it almost in half using a pair of sharp scissors.
- Then poke some holes in the bottom for drainage, and also in the top for ventilation (or leave the tops off)
- You can use a drill to make the holes, or a hot knife to make a few holes. You don’t want water to pool in the bottom.
Add the soil – Fill the bottom of your mini greenhouse with 10 to 15cm of compost. Make sure the compost is damp all the way through before sowing.
Plant the seeds – There’s no set number of seeds to use but try not to overload your container.
Leave space around the seeds for each plant to grow outwards and upwards.
They will be in the container for a while.
Today, we sowed, leek, corn salad, broad beans and Broccoli.
Try lots of different seeds and see what works in your climate. You can even try growing for micro greens. Take seeds from larger plants suck as brussel sprouts, cabbage, or even beetroot.
Sow them thickly in the containers for a super quick micro green leaves to pep up soups, sandwiches and salads.
Now, the most important step- Label your containers!
Just make sure however, you label your containers that it can’t rub off. You will need to know which is which.
I use wooden lolly sticks or recycled plastic plant markers or make my own from a cut up plastic container lid and a good graphite pencil as the lead doesn’t wash off.
Now just water the soil and put the lids back on-We cut our milk jugs almost in 2, leaving a ‘hinged’ part.
We simply put this back together using a thick gaffa tape. You don’t need to put the cap back on though as the seedlings will need air flow.
Be careful not to cover the drainage or air holes.
A good tip is when putting your containers outside. Place 4 little pebbles underneath to hold it just off the ground to held drainage.
Move your winter sown containers outside to a spot where they are protected from heavy wind, but will get moisture and full sun.
Step 9: Now what? – Once they’re moved outside, you can pretty much forget about them until they start to grow in spring.
Once the weather warms and you see some growth, simply start ventilation the containers by cutting through the tape allowing the hinge to open a bit during warmer days and close again at night.
When your plants are big enough, you can either eat them or move them out into a larger pot or into the ground.
Experiment with this technique in your growing area to see what seeds work best.