Winter-Sowing 101

November 14, 2012

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I start my summer garden in December and January, using a neat trick called “Winter-Sowing.” Winter-sowing is an outdoor method of seed germination (invented by Trudi Davidoff) which requires just two things: miniature greenhouses (made from recycled water and milk jugs) and Mother Nature. You can winter-sow your way to a beautiful garden, too…for pennies. Here’s how:

Make a Greenhouse. You can make a greenhouse from any container you like, so long as light can penetrate its walls. Like other winter-sowers, I use recyclables, including gallon-size milk- or water- jugs, and 2-Litre soda-pop bottles. With jugs and bottles, use a pen-knife to cut around the middle, almost all the way through. The uncut half-inch or so will serve as a hinge.

Next, punch out drainage holes in the bottom. A Phillips screwdriver, heated over a flame at the stove, will facilitate the hole-punching job. Punch out also a few holes along the top portion of the container. These extra holes increase air-ventilation. Ventilation, of course, is the key to preventing excess heat from building up in the greenhouse, and baking the seeds to death. If there is a cap on your jug or bottle, remove it. Watch me make and plant a miniature greenhouse.

Select the Right Soil. It is essential to use a light, fluffy, well-draining soil mixture. A commercial peat-moss and perlite mix is fine. Pour the soil, preferably to a depth of 2 to 3 inches, into the bottom half of your container.

 Water the Soil. Moisten the mix thoroughly, and then let it drain.

Sow the Seeds . Sow your seeds on the soil surface, and then cover them with more soil, when necessary, to achieve the proper planting depth. Gently pat the mix down, so that seeds and soil make good contact. Then replace the lid, and secure it with a strip of duct tape, as illustrated.

If you live in a cold climate, as I do, plant your perennial and hardy annual seeds first. Should these sprout during a weird warm-spell in winter, they will not be harmed. Wait until March to plant your tender annuals.  More details here: What to Winter-Sow…& When.

Remember to Label! For each sowing, indicate with a permanent marker (or a paint-pen) the seed variety and date sown. Do not omit this step, for there is nothing worse than finding, in spring, dozens of miniature greenhouses brimming with seedlings, and not knowing what they are!

Bring the Greenhouse Outdoors. Your greenhouse, once planted and labeled, is ready to brave the outdoor elements. Select a location that is safe from strong wind, but where sun, rain and snow will be freely admitted. My assorted greenhouses go on a wire-mesh patio table, out of the reach of Lily the Beagle who would otherwise knock them over. For further protection from tipping, I place them in a large plastic box, with drainage holes melted in the bottom.

Relax! Now sit back and let Mother Nature do her thing. As the weather chills and warms, your seeds will freeze and thaw. These natural actions loosen the seed-coatings. This is why advance soaking or nicking of hard-shelled seeds, such as Morning Glories and Sweet Peas, is not necessary when you winter-sow.

At the first kiss of spring, but while nights are still freezing, seedlings will begin to emerge. Now is the time to check for water. Open the tops, and if the soil appears dry, moisten thoroughly but gently, so as not to disturb tender root systems. Then close the tops. On warm, sunny days, I open the tops for hours at a time, and let the seedlings enjoy the fresh spring air. The tops, of course, are closed at dusk.

I can’t tell you how advantageous winter-sowing can be. Last year I produced an entire garden’s-worth of perennials this way (far too many, in fact), without the need for light-systems, heating devices, or fancy seed-starting kits. And, unlike windowsill-germinated seedlings, which more often than not are frail and spindly, winter-sown seeds grow up to be strong, sturdy plants, completely prepared for glorious careers in the open garden.

If I were you, I’d give winter-sowing a try. Honestly, it’s the easiest, most cost-effective way to achieve a beautiful garden.

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Related Posts:
From Milk-Jug to Greenhouse (detailed instructions)
What to Winter-Sow…& When
How to Transplant Winter-Sown Seedlings
Angelic Zucchini Fritters
Dreamy Cinnamon Rolls

Comments

  1. Carol says:

    Holy cow! What a way to erase the winter blahs! I've never been able to successfully grow seedlings on my windowsills. Lord knows I've tried. But they always got too big too soon, or grew tall and lanky, and then died before it was warm enough here to plant them out. Winter sowing sounds like a plan that I can manage.

  2. Eric says:

    When can I plant my tomato seeds? I'm in the same zone as you.

  3. Tom says:

    I'll have to try this. After buying poorly grown, half-dead zinnas and snaps (at no discount) from Samascott's last year, I'm determined to grow all of my own summer plants from seed.

    When, exactly, should I plant my annuals in mini greenhouses? I'm thinking zinnas, snapdragons, marigolds and the like.

  4. Tom says:

    Forgot to say that I'm in zone 5.

  5. Carol – yes, wintersowing is a good way to get an authentic sense of spring! Give it a try!

    Eric – wait until late March or early April to start your tomatoes.

    Welcome, Tom! Snap dragons are hardy annuals, and very slow to germinate. I would start them the first week in February. As for zinnias and marigolds, winter-sow these in March. They are quick to sprout, and will probably start blooming in their greenhouses in early May. However, wait until Memorial day to give them permanent positions in the garden.

  6. Erin says:

    I want to drink all my milk and soda!! I cant wait for spring…..

  7. Erin – winter-sow some delphinium seeds today, and trust me…it WILL feel like spring!

  8. Sharon says:

    Kevin, where are you finding seeds at this time of the year?

  9. Sharon – you can find seeds at almost any garden center in January. They should be stamped for the current year.

  10. Janet G. Metzger says:

    This looks like it might solve a lot of problems. Thank you for the step-by-step instructions.

    Also, over Christmas I did put herbs and plants in the kitchen window, including an African violet. You are absolutely right–the plant in the window is differnt from the plant in the room. It brought so much life and warmth to the house. Thank you, again, for all the encouragement.

    Neighbors brought me cut flowers last week, 1-2 days after the Christmas decorations were down (and when I was concerned about how to keep the house feeling lovely). Those flowers wilted today, BUT, with the snow on the ground there are green bulb shoots peeking out of the ground. Spring, indeed, is on her way!

    Thank you for all the lovely photos which got me through the winter. And also for the tips about planting. It sounds like I should start vegetables and stuff in March winter sowing rather than in the little pots. Nothing grew last year except for the green beans. Maybe this year I will get more…..

  11. Lisa Campagna says:

    Good Morning Kevin,

    Wow! I am very excited about this one. I think that even I can handle this and plan to start a couple with kids on Monday. They will make great year end gifts for the teachers.

    Have a great day!
    Lisa

  12. Janet – Glad you're going to try winter-sowing this season. It really works!

    Lisa – Great idea, get the kids involved! And, if I were a teacher, I'd be delighted to receive, in spring, a little “greenhouse” of seedlings. Let us know how your project goes!

  13. aNNE SCHOMAKER says:

    MY WINDOW GARDEN IS MAGNIFICENT RIGHT NOW. THE AFRICAN VIOLETS ARE IN FULL BLOOM AND MY ORCHIDS HAVE BUDS READY TO OPEN. I CAN SIT AT MY COMPUTER, GLANCE AS MY BLOOMS, AND SEE SNOW COVERED GROUND OUTSIDE MY WINDOW. HOW DIVINE. I TOO AM ANXIOUS TO BEGIN WINTER SEEDING FOR SUMMER FLOWERS. I REMEMBER YOUR OTHER IDEA AND WOULD SUGGEST TO EVERYONE, KEEP SCENTED CUT FLOWERS ON YOUR BEDROOM NIGHT TABLE FOR THE AROMA AND BEAUTY IT CREATES.

  14. Anne – so glad your window garden brings you great joy. Mine does, too.

    If you can, let us know which summer flowers you are going to winter-sow.

  15. Here I go… better late than never. I have pansies, cosmos, geranium pinto salmon and hollyhocks to sew.

  16. Lisa B says:

    Can I use this method with herbs?

  17. Lisa B – Yes, you can definitely winter-sow herbs. I've successfully sown thyme (including the creeping-type), basil and flat-leaved parsley using this method.

  18. erin says:

    Ahhh, this is my favorite part about winter… I can't wait for spring. Do you have a list of plants on what to sow and when? I harvested some seeds from a few plants last year.

  19. Erin – ditto on that “favorite part about winter” thing. Winter-sowing makes me thing it's spring already.

    The most important seeds to sow right now are those which require cold stratification.

  20. Holy cow how cool is this!

    I can't wait to gather some milk containers and begin.

  21. Queen of the Click – Beware…Winter-sowing is highly addictive!

    I planted at least 24 containers last winter, and in the spring, to my delight (or horror) EVERYTHING had sprouted. Everything that is, except the delphiniums (I think the seeds were old).

  22. Dana says:

    Dear Kevin, your Winter-Sowing 101 Tutorial is so charming that I cannot resist trying it for the first time on a pack of dwarf sweet peas seeds. I hope that this spring you will add a sequel to it showing the greenhouse graduation ceremony. That is to say, when and how do you plant the seedlings in the garden? How big do they need to be before they are ready to be planted? When do you do that? Best regards, Dana

  23. Dana – What a great suggestion. I did, in fact, photograph the transplanting-process last spring, and then forgot to publish the pictures. I shall correct this soon, lest I forget (again).

  24. Anonymous says:

    What an amazing concept! Can one start most vegetables in this way? Now to find some milk jugs . . . Oh & what if the temperatures fluctuate to -30 and 5 continually?

  25. Anonymous – welcome to A Garden for the House, and also to the wonderful world of winter-sowing!

    You can start all of your hardy vegetables now (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, swiss chard, spinach, etc.). For these will tolerate frost after they germinate. Wait until March to winter-sow tender vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, etc.). Otherwise you'll have to cover their milk jugs with a blanket should frost threaten after germination.

    Of course any perennial or annual which is hardy in your region (or which reseeds itself) can be winter-sown now. It doesn't matter if temperatures fluctuate. In fact, most of these seeds require such fluctuating temps in order to germinate.

    Feel free to ask other questions as they occur to you — I'm here to help! You might enjoy reading my other winter-sowing articles, too.

  26. Terri says:

    The quickest way I found to punch the holes is a soldering iron. It very quickly did all my holes so I was ready to plant. Thanks for the great idea.

  27. Terri – soldering iron…excellent. I don't have one, however, so its the red-hot screwdriver for me!

  28. Sharon says:

    This idea is excellent! Much improved upon over my method. Hope you don't mind, I'm sharing your post with my readers with links back to your site. Find it at http://www.ozarkmountainfamily.blogspot.com. I can't wait to get started!! You have solved my dilemma!!

  29. Sharon – Thanks for the link. I think you will love this method of seed-sowing in the snow. It really works!

  30. WOW!!! Thank you so much for this great bit of information!! I had no idea this was possible. I am the woman who had the spindly plants lining every single kitchen counter, and who spent hours a day transporting those seedlings in and out of the house when trying to get them ready to go into the garden!

    Is this equally effective with vegetables like tomatoes as it is flowers?

    Thank you so much for this. Found you via Pinterest and will Stumble you now too to spread the good word. Happy gardening!

  31. Tamara – Nice to meet you. Winter-Sowing in milk-jugs works for any seed which will typically reseed itself outdoors. I've used the method for a number of veggies including romaine, spinach, brussels sprouts, peas, broccoli, and yes, even tomatoes. No hurry for the veggies — you can winter-sow them in March. Flowering perennials, however, you can sow in December/January.

    The method is not only fun, but it is effective, too. I always end up with more strong, healthy seedlings than I can possibly accommodate!

  32. badger gardener says:

    I've been waiting all year to try your idea. Saving up my milk jugs!
    Hope you are having a nice start to the holidays. Somewhere along the way in reading your blog, you said that beautiful china is meant to be used. And so for the first time I bravely pulled out my Haviland china, handed down from a Great-Aunt, and set the Thanksgiving table. It was so lovely. Thanks for all of your super useful info and inspiration.

  33. Genene says:

    Fabulous!!!

  34. badger gardener – Well, food tastes better when it is served on Haviland china. This, I believe, is a generally-accepted fact :)

    Genene – Welcome aboard!

  35. Cathy Reynolds says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea, I can not wait to try this

  36. Cathy Reynolds – Welcome. Seed sowing in the snow is highly addictive. But there are worse habits, right?

  37. Paula Hunter says:

    Wow, I can't wait to try it. I have absolutely no room indoors for sowing seeds… too many cordylines and agapanthas crowding the place. I am assuming zone 5, NH is similar to your climate?

  38. Would this work with veggie plants??

  39. Paula Hunter – Your zone 5 NH location is perfect for winter-sowing (I'm 5-b). Seeds sown outdoors in mini-greenhouses always grow up to be stronger and healthier than those started indoors. Have fun, and let me know what you decide to winter-sow!

    a ragamuffin princess – Welcome. Winter-Sowing in milk-jug greenhouses works for any seed which will typically reseed itself outdoors. I've used the method for a number of veggies including romaine, spinach, brussels sprouts, peas, broccoli, and yes, even tomatoes. No hurry for the veggies — here in cold zone 5-b, I winter-sow them in March. Flowering perennials, however, can and should be sown in December/January. You can see my veggie and flowering annual schedule here.

  40. Tried this for the first time last year and got GREAT results. I always send new gardeners your way for winter sowing info, Kevin.

  41. BBI – Thanks! The only downside to winter-sowing is that it's highly addictive.

  42. Beverly says:

    I tried winter sowing for the first time in February of 2011. I was successful in growing perennial Oriental Poppies in flaming orange, Miniature Platycodon in periwinkle blue, Yellow Baptisia, Great Blue Lobelia, Montauk Daisies, and Candleabra Primroses in dark pink. It took almost no effort and was highly rewarding. All of these were perennial plants. The Lobelia was the most successful, yielding about 50 plants that I carefully upsized twice, finally installing them in my damp shady area on the north side of the house.

    Instead of taping the carton’s hinged lid, I threaded a thin piece of bamboo (from my own patch) through the handle hole, into the ground and diagonally anchored the whole shebang against wind. It worked well.

    I created holes in the base with an extra long nail and a hammer, sitting the plastic milk carton on the ground with its top open.

    I am saving my cartons as we speak to go again this coming winter. I plan to add to the list of perennials, using my own saved seed and some from friends. It’s like a new magic trick!

  43. Beverly – You came up with some terrific hole-punching and container-securing tips. I have to use tape on my miniature greenhouses, because they rest on a table, not on the ground. This because of Lily the Beagle.

    One question for you: where did you obtain the seeds of Candleabra Primroses? I have these Primula japonicas in the Woodland Garden, but last year searched for more seeds on-line and couldn’t find them.

  44. Beverly says:

    All seeds came from my own yard with the exception of my sister-in-law’s Baptisia.

    I harvested Primrose seeds from plants which were a catalog purchase about 5 years ago. I think it was Bluestone Perennials, but I am not totally sure. I noticed small seedlings developing near the parents, but they failed to thrive. I wanted more of these plants so I saved the mature seeds and tried them in traditional APS trays first, with no luck (no freeze/thaw to break dormancy). When I tried them in the winter sowing jugs I got 15 very healthy specimens. I expect them to bloom in 2012.

    http://www.nargs.org/nargswiki/tiki-index.php?page=Primula+-+Candelabra+types

    This link has a photo, first one on the right, which matches the pink ones I grow.

  45. I wanted to start making some money off of my blog, how would I go about doing so? What about google adsense or other programs like it?.

  46. Beverly – I always mean to save some of my ripened primrose seeds in summer. But then I get caught up in other garden chores. This year — assuming the plants return — I’ll try to do what you do: save and winter-sow the seeds.

  47. Laurie says:

    Do these need to be watered when you first put them in the water jug? I love this idea!

  48. Shannon Williams says:

    Can you winter plant vegetables?

  49. Laurie – Before you plant the seeds, thoroughly moisten the soil and let it drain.

    Shannon – You can plant any veggies you like, with this warning: Should the non-frost-tolerant types sprout too early in spring, you’ll have to cover their jugs with a blanket on frosty nights.

    I winter-sow my spinach and other frost-tolerant veggies any time in winter. But I wait until 8 weeks or so before the last spring frost to sow my heat-loving tomatoes, peppers, etc.

  50. Cary Bradley says:

    Reallllly hate to be a pest, but am planting winter jugs today and am unable to access your ‘winter sowing veggies and annuals’ (sic) link. Have tried to access it many ways, but unable so far. Please help me Kevin and tell me which vegs you’d plant now. I’ve got my flower packets ready, but wonder about vegetables in particular today. Thanks so!

  51. Cary – you are SO not a pest! Here is the link to the annuals/vegetables article. It’s based on my zone 5-b climate (which feels more like zone 7 this winter!).

    Although I wait until late March to WS most of my annuals (including veggies), you can, in fact, plant them now. The only drawback to such an early start is this: Should they sprout during a freakish warm spell when it is still very much winter, you’ll have to protect the not-frost-hardy ones. This means throwing a blanket over their containers, or moving them to warmer quarters at night.

    If you really want to sow annuals and veggies now, in January, go ahead with frost-tolerant types, including broccoli, cabbage, peas, and lettuces of all kinds, including spinach, kale and swiss chard.

    Hope this helps! Keep in mind that winter-sowing is not an exact science…

    Oh. You can even sow tomatoes now. They won’t sprout until the soil in their jug reaches 70 degrees or so — which, during normal years, doesn’t occur until May.

  52. Cary Bradley says:

    Thank you once again! This is exactly what I needed. Thanks too for the reminder that this is not an exact science. I’m trying winter sowing to give me more indoor seedling starting space, while reducing my hardening off tasks later in the season. Hi-ho, hi-ho, off to Spring we go :) !

    Tomatoes now? You are indeed tempting me…ooooohhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  53. Sharon Rose says:

    Kevin, I read this a few weeks ago and have saved about 8 gallon jugs for my sowing. I live in zone 7 and am wondering if I can start the first week of February?

    I enjoy your newsletter and blog very much.

    Sharon

  54. Cary – Go for it. Give tomatoes a try!

    Sharon Rose – You can certainly winter-sow in February in zone 7. However, if your temperatures are particularly mild then — meaning no below-freezing nights — any seeds which require cold-stratification will likely fail. These types need repeated freeze-thaw episodes in order to germinate.

  55. Cathy says:

    Hi There,

    I am a fairly new gardener. Typically I have always purchased seedlings from a nursery to plant in my garden. This year, I would like to try to grow some annuals from seed in order to save some money. (Also just for the experience of growing from seed.)

    I love these milk jug greenhouses. What type of annual flowers would you suggest I try in these? Would petunias work in these? They are my favorite annual. Or are they better started indoors? I have heard that they are challenging to germinate. What about inpatients or saliva?

  56. Cathy says:

    Drat… I forgot to tell you that I live in zone 5. Sorry.

  57. Welcome, Cathy. Like you, I used to spend untold dollars on nursery-grown annuals. Now I know better.

    Impatiens, petunias (one of my favorite annuals, too) and salvia are indeed very easy to winter-sow. In fact, even in zone 5 these plants will reseed themselves in the open garden if the soil is not disturbed in spring. You can sow them now or wait until March.

    The list of flowering annuals which can be winter-sown is a long one. I’ve had success with impatiens, petunias, salvia (‘Victoria Blue’ my favorite), plus snapdragons, sweet peas, morning glory, larkspur, bachelor buttons, ageratum, calendula, annual asters and marigolds. All these can be sown in January and February, or later in March.

    Wait until late March to sow nasturtiums, zinnias, sunflowers and other heat-lovers.

    Let me know what you decide to plant, okay?

  58. Janice Foster says:

    this sounds great . i am going to try it.

  59. Janice Foster – Nice to meet you. Winter-sowing is fun but I have to warn you: it is highly addictive!

  60. Hallie says:

    Kevin, this is my first try with starting seeds outdoors and I’m so excited! Sweet peas, Delphinium, Hollyhocks and Fox Gloves so far (I’m still collecting milk jugs for the next month or so). Thanks so much for this awesome idea! I’ll direct my husband to your e-mail when he wants to complain about jugs in the yard in addition to the light cart in the guest room! :)

  61. Hallie – Tell your husband to try living here for a week: milk jugs outside, light gardens and window gardens inside. Open a kitchen cabinet, and he will be as likely to find stacked clay pots as canned goods!

    Love all of the plants you are winter-sowing; hope you’ll report back on your success!

  62. Crystal says:

    Hi, Kevin – I just found a link to your site today via Pinterest and I am very interested in trying your project! We are in zone 3b and I wonder if you have any advice about the time to plant here. Thanks so much for your help.

  63. Crystal – Good news for you. Even in zone 3b your winter-sowing schedule will be the same as mine in 5-b. Consequently, plant all of your perennials and hardy annuals while it is still very much winter. Hold off on tender annuals until about 8 weeks before you’d normally transplant to the open garden (meaning late-March or early-April).

    And have fun!

  64. kim says:

    Hi Kevin, like many others here, I found you through Pinterest. I would love to start winter sowing asap. What do you suggest I try as a very new gardener. I think I’m in zone 5. Indianapolis,IN

    Thanks in advance!

  65. Kim – Nice to meet you. Probably you should follow the same planting-schedule as me.

    And have fun…winter-sowing is highly addictive!

  66. Shawnee says:

    Hi Kevin, I tried to post a comment last night, but it wouldn’t go through. Anyway, I live in N. Wisconsin, zone 3, and I’m wondering how far behind your schedule I should follow. We usually have frosts here up until June 5-10. I’m always crazy to get planting before that, so winter sowing would be great for me. Last year, we had a warm spell in March and I put my peas in. They came up a couple of week later and even though it snowed on them a couple of time, they were great. Tomatoes never go in until June 10th and I have had success starting them in my window, but I would love to have everything in jugs outside and not have to haul them in and out to harden off. I’m really excited to have found your website. Thanks for all the info. Shawnee

  67. Welcome, Shawnee. Perennials can be started any time in winter. And right now in cold zone 3 you can winter-sow your hardy annuals (including peas, kale, and spinach).

    As a rule of thumb (and it is a rule I often break!), I “winter”-sow my tender annuals (like zinnias) and veggies (like tomatoes) about 8 weeks before I’d normally transplant them to the open garden. For you, this would mean the first week in April. Most of these seeds won’t pop up until the weather warms, but at least you’ll have them planted.

    And feel free to experiment with timing. I’ll admit that winter-sowing is not an exact science!

  68. Paula says:

    Neat! Very excited to try this! Looks like I have some time to snag extra milk jugs from family and friends before I start my vegetables! We’ve had a ice/snow storm here in Michigan, so I’m gonna give it a couple of weeks before I start mine – sound good Kevin?

  69. Shawnee says:

    Thanks Kevin! I did look on a more detail zone map and I’m actually in zone 4a, but I think it is just easier to count backwards from the dates you know are true to your area. I’m super excited to try this milk jug method, especially because it seems like nature just decides for itself when to sprout and grow. I’m going seed shopping tonight and start planting seeds as I get empty milk jugs. We buy milk in bags from a local dairy, so I’m going to have to switch to store milk or ask around for empty jugs! Thanks for the link to transplanting. I like your analogies to pulling taffee and cutting brownies. I’m reading Eliot Coleman’s 4-season harvest right now and I like what he says about making gardening a year round event (so I don’t go crazy in the winter!)

  70. dave says:

    Hi Kevin. We are in zone 5b and we are getting very warm weather for this time of year. Some 80s and mostly 70s. Will the containers overheat in this weather. They still have not sprouted. Should the tops be opened during this heat spell, I have milk jugs with the cap off and have added extra ventilation holes on top.. Should I also be keeping the soil moist.? Any suggestions will be appreciated

  71. Dave – Bizarre weather, right? Since it has been hot and dry where you are, go ahead and remove tape and open tops on particularly warm days ( 70s and 80s.) Soak the soil, too. Re-close tops at dusk.

    Only a few of my winter-sown jugs have sprouted so far. But where I live (Hudson Valley, NY, zone 5-b), mid-March is still early for most seeds.

  72. Laura W. says:

    This may be a dumb question…lol…but when spring arrives what it the best way to move them to the garden?

  73. Laura – Here are the directions for transplanting winter-sown seedlings to the open garden. And…since you are a winter-sower, would you mind clicking on this post so you can tell us what you grew this year?

  74. Susie/VT says:

    I am SOOOOO excited to get started with this!!!!
    Every year at this time, my south facing windows are crowded with folding tables full of seed trays in an effort to tame a bit more of my Vermont wilderness. White Pine grows like weeds here, and I have everything I can do to keep up with the areas that I have cleared. Now I can get some pretty ground cover started, grow lots of lavender to keep the squirrels and deer away, and get tons more started as well. I’m off to the recycling center to turn my yard into a field of mini greenhouses!!! I WILL take pictures!!!
    YIPPEEEE!!!!!

  75. Susie/VT – Go for it!

  76. Guillermo says:

    I don’t know if it’s just me or if everybody else
    encountering problems with your site. It seems like some of the text in your posts are running off the screen.

    Can someone else please comment and let me know if this is happening to them as well?
    This might be a issue with my browser because I’ve had this happen previously. Appreciate it

  77. Guillermo – First time I’ve heard about text running off the screen. So probably it is your browser. Are you using Internet Explorer or Firefox?

  78. Oh my gosh! I just made my first-ever hoop house last weekend in order to winter my leeks and I thought I was done for the season but NOW I see I’m not!
    I’m in Colorado and will be trying this with peas and blue poppies!
    Thank you SO much!!

  79. Elaine says:

    I tried this last year after reading about it in your blog and had GREAT results….however! Even though I used a permanent sharpie pen to write on the jugs it was faded and unreadable by spring. I have been saving my jugs and plan on writing inside – outside – using three different pens! It was very frustrating to have such beautiful plants without a clue what they were!!

  80. Erica – Great! Winter-sowing really works. No rush to plant peas, but your blue poppies (lovely!) can be winter-sown anytime between now and February.

    Elaine – Nice to hear that your winter-sowing project was a success. I’ve never had trouble with my permanent-marker ink fading out on the jugs. But I know that others have. One solution is to mark the jugs with a paint-pen. Apparently this ink doesn’t fade in sunlight.

  81. Liliana says:

    Kevin… thank you for your posts they are a great help for someone like me who has just discovered gardening. I have a small balcony/terrace in my city flat which I would like to populate with a few plants… my first adventure would have to be an olive tree grown from the fruit I collected during a trip I made to Italy early last month. I just fell in love with those trees and now I want my very own tree grown from seed .

    When would be the right time to plant it and should I follow the winter sowing procedure? please… please… help me… I so want one of these beauties in my little terraced-city flat.
    Many thanks

  82. Hi Liliana – I have absolutely no experience with Mediterranean olive trees. Perhaps this article will help you accomplish your dream.

  83. This is GREAT!! Thank you so much for ALL the wonderful information you send to us!!!

  84. Bette DiNovo says:

    It works…I’ve done it.

  85. Bette DiNovo says:

    This works well. I tried it last year. Large pretzel containers with removable tops work too. I drilled some holes in the tops and bottoms.

  86. KimH says:

    This is so simple, I want to say DUH! Why didnt I think of that? haha.. Actually some 30 years ago, I did start my garden plants like that but I’ve not done it for probably 25 years. Sure makes a lot less work than the way Im doing it now. ;)

    Gonna have to start saving my milk jugs, me thinks.. Great post! thanks!

  87. melody says:

    Hey Kevin..
    You may have already answered this but the thread is so long! Which is a good thing!
    Once these are ready to plant, is there a special way you separate them so as not to damage roots?
    Thanks for your great newsletter. I look forward to it every week!

  88. Hi Melody – You won’t believe how hardy winter-sown plants are! You can slice through roots as if you were slicing brownies…you can rip the plants apart….they will simply yawn. More details in this post: Transplanting Winter-Sown Seedlings.

  89. Susan in MI says:

    Raising my hand tentatively to bring up a very important (well, it is to me) point concerning the “where” of where you purchase your seeds. People don’t have a clue as to how many seed companies carry Monsanto seed. When they are purchased, the profit goes back to Monsanto.
    Before going to a garden center to get seeds or purchase through a mail order catalog, Pretty Please, take a look at:
    http://www.hawkeshealth.net/community/showthread.php?t=9375

  90. Cindy says:

    I love your idea. I just need to start saving those milk jug – lots of them.

  91. trilium says:

    I did this for the first time last year and it was absolutely wonderful! SO easy. I was able to share a lot of baby plants with friends and it was so fun to see them blossoming at their homes.

    I’ve already started cleaning out and saving milk containers. Last year I picked up some 10 for $1 seed packets, insurance against it not working. This year I am going to drool over some varieties I want and either purchase or order them.

    I successfully grew seeds last year that I haven’t been able to grow in the conventional manner – and they were just so beautiful. So many beautiful plants for a fraction of my typical expense, not to mention labor!

    Thanks Kevin!

    Anyone know what they’re going to plant this year?

  92. Paula says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I’m going to try this out during this winter. I did have a question for you. We don’t drink a gallon of milk (it would be a waste in our house) so we have half gallons and 2 Litre soda bottles that i’ll be using instead. Do you reccommend doing anything different since i’ll be using smaller containers? (besides not planting as many seeds in each container?)

    thank you!

  93. Hi Paula – Half-gallon milk jugs will work. They are much easier to cut than 2-litre soda bottles.

    Two thoughts: You can always find hundreds (if not thousands!) of gallon-size milk and water jugs at the local recycling station. Friends and neighbors are another source for these containers.

  94. I love these green houses! I have used these since I saw them last summer. I have a question though. Since here in Zone 9 of Sacramento we do not get snow. or a ton of rain, do you think that I should go ahead and start these now (Nov/Dec) or wait?

  95. Hi Constance – Yes — go ahead and start the seeds now. Since your winter is extremely short, my advice is to place your mini greenhouses where they will receive only morning sun. Otherwise, the hot midday sun in your zone could potentially roast your seeds. Have fun!

  96. S. Taylor says:

    This is like a little cold frame. I put some hay bales out in a rectangle shape then laid two windows over the top. The soil is tilled and composted, underneath, and ready for seeds. You have given me the courage to try. I doubt we’ll get the snow, but it should get plenty of moisture out there. I’ll figure it out. I’m going to try all edibles and plan to garden the yard, front back and sides, in a way that we can eat as much as possible, and the neighbors will think we have a landscaper ;o) Thanks Kevin!

  97. Susi says:

    You live in the Hudson Valley, and I don’t know what zone that is, but your cold must be somewhat ameliorated by the river and valley?. We’re in CT at zone 4-5, — how cold can we go? A friend from Montana was pretty sure she couldn’t do it!!

  98. Hi Susi – I’m in zone 5-b. It’s usually very cold here in winter. But folks in even the coldest parts of the country can (and do) winter sow!

  99. Jim & Kaydene says:

    I live in Georgia and getting ready to try this method as we always buy plants to put in the garden. We have tomato & banana style pepper seeds (bought them online from a place you suggested). How many seeds should be used per gallon milk jug? We want to try flowers around our pool area, so are also trying to figure out what would be best in our area.

  100. Pam says:

    I live in zone 8 to 9. I’m in Southern California. When should I start seeds?

  101. Jim & Kaydene – For peppers, I’d plant 9 seeds per gallon-size water- or milk-jug.

    Pam – You can start your seeds right now.

  102. Elizabeth says:

    I can see this working. I’ve had tomato plants sprouting in places I hadn’t planted (I had hens at the time who had ‘treats’ from my veggie patches). It seems to me that the seeds had overwintered and germinated of their own accord when they felt it was the right time. Nature is a wonderful thing :)

  103. Diane Kratz says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Happy New Year! Received my flower seeds from Summer Hill (Hollyhocks,Zinnia, Asters, Pansies, Columbine). I received a handwritten thank you and a free packet of seeds. Wonderful customer service! I also have Stevia seeds to plant. Any idea if I can winter sow that?

  104. Hi Diane – If you live in a cold zone, as I do (zone 5-b), wait until April to sow your stevia. From what I’ve read, the herb can be tricky to start from seed — even under the best of circumstances.

  105. Donna says:

    Thanks so much Kevin! I live in zone 8a up here in Canada so I went out and planted a bunch of milk jugs up with a wide selection of the perennials I had in seed.. wish me luck! I’ll let you know what comes up.

  106. Donna – Glad to hear you started your perennials this way. Stay in touch!

  107. Rory says:

    I LOVE YOU, KEVIN! Best advice I have received all year. I am going to begin hoarding gallon jugs and know that I have a very specific purpose in the next few weeks.

    Great blog, just subscribed!

  108. Rory – Nice to meet you. You will probably find — as I have — that winter-sowing can be highly addictive. Have fun!

  109. I’m doing heirloom tomatoes, so I have to wait until March as I am also zone 5 (Syracuse) and I will direct sow a lot of things from seed in late May, but I wanted to get a head start on Romaine and cabbages — I see lettuce is March, but what about cabbages? I’m tempted to try cilantro, but it’s been such a touchy herb to grow I lost faith, though I do still have some seeds…

    We buy 5gal water at BJ’s, and it’s a big, rectangular plastic jug, and also some distilled water jugs, which are very inexpensive, at the grocery store, so those are an affordable way to get the containers.

    Sam

  110. Whoops, sorry — missed some of the comments, but I can do tomatoes, etc now in Jan? And apparently cabbages, too? Just double-checking…

    Sam

  111. Hi Samantha – In January, you can winter-sow perennials, frost-hardy annuals (incl. cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli), and also any annuals which are known to reseed themselves. (If you’ve ever had tomato seeds sprout in your compost pile, you’ll realize that they, too, can be winter-sown. Germination for tomato seeds occurs when the soil temperature reaches approx. 70 degrees.)

  112. Beth says:

    I’ve been home from work sick all week. Feeling better today and I think if I have the energy I will start some tomato plants this way. We always get volunteer tomatoes in our garden so I know tomato seeds are pretty hardy!
    I’m glad I found you site!

  113. Beth says:

    I am so gald I found you site. I have been home from work sick all week but am feeling a bit better today. You know when you aren’t 100% but are about to go stir crazy with boredom! This will be the perfect project to try. I can get my tomato plants started.

  114. sue says:

    this is SO cool! haven’t done it yet but am saving my containers and will start what I can this year and do more next year! LOVE it!

  115. Stephanie says:

    I can’t thank you enough for your wonderful and informative website! This is my first year winter sowing and I find myself frequently coming back to your posts for reference. Your pictures and commentary have been both enlightening and entertaining. I’ve taken over my kitchen with my mini greenhouse assembly line. My husband and our sweet puppy Gretchen have learned to steer clear of the crazed (but delighted) lady wielding the milk jugs and utility knife. I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to Spring so much before! Thanks again Kevin!!

  116. Kara says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I spent a lot of time trying to find what zone we live in. I finally found it because I’m interested in planting more this summer. We live in zone 4a. How would this change for me as far as winter sowing? Thanks for your blog. I really enjoy reading your recipes and about your gardens!

  117. Hi Kara – In January or February, you can start all of your perennials and also any annuals which tend to reseed themselves in your zone. Wait until the weather warms (probably mid-April) to start your tender annuals (like zinnias). And have fun!

  118. Hi Kevin

    I love your website. I found it through Pintrest. I am trying your winter sowing ideas today in three milk jugs. (I’m saving more). I’m quite excited to see if this works here (Vancouver, BC)

    Tomorrow I make your Julia Child ham steaks. Had a devil of a time trying to find Arugula.

    Thanks for the tips!

  119. Hi Chris Sherwood – You can definitely winter-sow in Vancouver, BC. Enjoy the Ham Steaks Dijon. (I hope you purchased watercress — not arugula!)

  120. I love this method and it works great, thank you so much for all the info you make available

  121. jean says:

    Hey guys,

    Just wanted to confirm that I called Starbucks locally and asked them if they would save me empty milk cartons for a day. They saved me two big bags of empty jugs. You have to tell them you don’t want them crushed as apparently that is the local way of trashing them, they crush them so they don’t take up as much space. I bet I probably have 20 milk jugs in the garage. So excited as that what was holding me back from planting more. I gave the girl a tip for saving them and she was happy too. Happy planting to all of you and thanks Kevin for a great website. Can’t wait until Spring to discover all of the new plants. Per your note, I’m planting Canterbury Bells, never planted them before and they look so cute.

  122. Kat says:

    hi kevin & fellow gardeners!! im soo excited i found you all…this will be my first gardening year and im so happy to get started, i live in michigan 48066 so i dont even know what zone i am…..so here are my silly questions for today……where are you all getting seeds already?? what type of soil do place in the milk jugs? im going to attempt perrenial flowers only this year…..and i will mostly be doing container gardening………every bit of help will be appreciated!! thank you, kat

  123. Kat says:

    o please one more thing…..im really wanting a couple pots of a short pink ornamental grass, does anyone know if they cause a problem such as re-seeding into my lawn? ty!!!!!! kat

  124. Lynne says:

    I see that all the containers in the photos are “white” – can blue containers be used?

  125. Liz Knight says:

    Hi Kevin,
    One thing that was not clear is if I should add any water to the soil/seeds after potting them in the jugs. I tried some with water and some without water.

    Thanks,
    Liz Knight

  126. Hi Kat – I order most of my seeds via mail-order. Here’s a list of my favorite seed suppliers.
    As for soil, you can use any mixture that drains well, as mentioned in the article above.

    Lynne – Not sure I’ve seen blue containers. But if light can penetrate the walls of the container, it should be suitable for winter-sowing.

    Liz Knight – Before planting the seeds, I always soak the soil and then let it drain. But not to worry — if you plant your seeds in winter, Nature will usually handle the watering chores for you.

  127. Mary Mac says:

    I just planted up broccoli, cauliflower, swiss chard and cabbage. They will go outside in a little while after they drain a bit. I’ll let you know how they turn out. I live in Michigan and last night after snowing all day the temp got down to 10 degrees. Cross my fingers;)

  128. Karen H says:

    Love this article! Like many others, I spend a small fortune at the nurseries for annuals and perennials each year. This time I’m following your directions to make my own mini greenhouses! In addition to gardening, being a handler of a certified pet therapy dog, I also work at Starbucks where we go through DOZENS of gallon milk containers. If you need milk jugs, stop by your local Starbucks and ask them to save the empty jugs for you!
    PS: be sure to pick up the jugs when you say you will; otherwise they stack up.

  129. Lori says:

    Hi again, Kevin! It’s me! You helped me with the milk cure for my roses last summer when I couldn’t find it. My house is an old house in the city – small lot. Previous owners made the yard a perennial garden and I am trying to keep it, but I am still learning. A lot of people have complimented the garden as they walk by, so I am encouraged!

    Anyway, we are zone 3a. Really flipping cold in the winter. Really flipping hot in the summer. I planted lavender, but my plants disappeared over the winter. Do you know if I need to modify your winter sowing techniques for my zone? Do you know what would be good choices of plants for my zone? I am a little lost, despite my research.

    I made some raised beds last fall, inspired by your newsletter, so thanks!

    Lori

  130. Garry Repp says:

    The winter sowing concept seems to be a good idea. I planted 8 milk jugs and I’ll see when they sprout. I am in zone 5b.

  131. Hi Lori – Here is a list of perennials (by no means complete) which are hardy in zone 3a. All of these can be winter-sown. As for lavender — it goes dormant in winter. If you plant the ‘Munstead’ variety in a protected site (against a south-facing wall, for instance), and mulch it after the ground freezes, the plant may very well return for you when the weather warms in spring.

    Gary Repp – You are in the same zone as me. Hope you’ll report your success in April/May when sprouting occurs.

  132. Heidi says:

    Hi Kevin..
    Do you recommend doing this with veggie? and how would you transfer them into a garden? I’m new to gardening so this might sounds a little stupid..I love your weekly newsletter. the recipes are amazing..thank you for your time and devotion to teach people your techniques

  133. L'il Bo Pup says:

    Don’t remember where I saw this, but someone suggested cutting in half those little round paper tubes in the center of toilet tissue and sink into soil. In your green house this should make several little individual plants that could be easily moved without so much root disturbance. Move the whole thing into the garden since the paper should rot as the plant roots grow down.

  134. Heidi and Li’l Bo Pup – In my experience, severing the roots of winter-sown seedlings does not harm the seedlings in any measurable way. The plants are super-strong, and itching to grow. Have a look: http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/04/transplanting-winter-sown-perennials-updated-bumped/

  135. Ann says:

    Do you think I would have luck here in zone 2 with the milk jug planting? I’m thinking of experimenting with hardier cole crops and lettuces to start. Any suggestions? I could put the milk jug planted seeds inside my unheated greenhouse for a bit extra insulation….what do you think?

    Thanks!

  136. Mary Mac says:

    March 24th, still not a thing sprouted. Wanted to start some more today but have to get my ceiling in my backroom put up. It has been pretty cold her in Michigan this year, maybe that’s why they aren’t sprouting?

  137. Cynthia says:

    Kevin – I’m a new veggie gardener, is it too late to start this process for lettuce in Zone 5b? Or should I wait a couple of weeks at this point and sow directly in the ground (I have a cold frame). Wish I had gotten started earlier – this is such a great idea – I will definitely put it on my calendar for next year!

  138. Joelle says:

    Wow! Too bad I didn’t read this before winter was almost over. My question though, I live in rural Utah, and my area can be very cold AND very dry…would I need to occasionally put any water in my “greenhouses”?

  139. Ann – Go ahead and plant your lettuce and hardy cole crops.

    Mary Mac – Not to worry — your seeds (and mine!) are simply waiting for a little warmth.

    Cynthia – Go ahead and plant your lettuce now.

    Joelle – Yes – you’ll have to water your seeds if a spring drought occurs.

  140. Mary Mac says:

    Baby plants came through 2 months 10 days after planting! I just planted some seeds from my England trip last year as well as tomatoes. Everything in the flower beds is starting to test the air to see if they can come out of hiding. Love Spring!

  141. Glen says:

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after browsing through some of the articles I realized it’s new to me.

    Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

  142. Renee says:

    Do you water your seedlings daily? I know I am rather late, but I would love to get ideas for this winter.
    This will be so great on my small porch of the condo!

  143. Hi Renee – I don’t water the seeds at all in winter. But after they sprout in spring, I water regularly unless Nature provides adequate rainfall. Hope you’ll try winter-sowing next year — it really works!

  144. Renee says:

    how often do you water?

  145. Mary Farrell says:

    I don’t remember how I happened to stumble upon your site, but I am so happy that I did. After raising hundreds of seedlings every year under a jerry-rigged light unit indoors, I even have neighbors saving milk jugs for me so I can try your winter planting method. It makes perfect sense when one thinks about the growing habits of plants in nature. I have, literally, hundreds of cherry tomato seedlings come up all over my yard, and even in the driveway cracks. I’m in zone 5, and the seeds of these tough birds survive our winters and thrive. Can’t wait to start planting in the jugs. I do need to find boxes to hold the milk jugs, and they are way too expensive to buy new and proceed to drill or melt holse in them. Any suggestions for a source of used and/or inexpensive plastic boxes? I don’t have a dog, but am concerned about our huge population of curious and destructive raccoons tearing the jugs apart. I’ve checked Craigslist and some discount stores with no luck.

  146. Mary Farrell says:

    HA! I really should proof-read so I’m not trying to drill holse instead of holes. I’ll blame the cataracts :)

  147. Bett says:

    Well, aren’t you just the BEST??? I’m going to share this fabulous idea with all my gardening pals as well as with the local nature center and native plant society. Is there NOTHING you can’t DO??

  148. Pat McLain says:

    this sounds like exactly what I need to do! Thanks for posting this again, I missed it last time around, I guess…gotta start saving more milk and water jugs, pronto…

  149. Ann says:

    I was wondering, would this work in a snow free area – CA? Also, does this work with Only seeds? Could this be done with cuttings? Thanks…

  150. Karen Hermansen says:

    What part of the country do you live? I live in SE Wisconsin and we don’t put cold hardy plants in until mid to late April.

  151. Kim Fletcher says:

    Kevin, how far north will winter sowing work. I live in Canada, just on the border of North Dakota and Manitoba. Our winters here can often get to 20 below farenheit or more and sometimes stay there for weeks. When it warms up a bit we often get extreme temperature fluctuations and of course lots of prairie winds that keep things cold.

  152. Karen & Kim – Here in New York’s Hudson Valley, which is zone 5-b, I plant my seeds in December and January. The seeds get buried under snow for months, and their soil stays frozen for months. In spring the seedlings emerge. It’s as simple as that! (Be sure to read the articles linked at the bottom of this post — especially “What to Winter-Sow…& When.”)

    Ann – Yes, you can winter-sow even in a mild climate.

  153. Alison says:

    Loving this for holiday gifts in lieu of endless sweets and eager to gather all my materials. I thought I saw mentioned here a delicious scented plant that releases its scent at night, but I’ve scanned this whole chat and used CTRL+F (find) to no avail. Does anyone have a name for me? I thought this might make the gift more exotic in Maine (zone 5B, coastal and southern).

  154. Hi Alison – The evening scented plant is Nicotiana. There are several varieties, but the most heavily- (and heavenly!-) perfumed is ‘Fragrant Cloud,’ with white flowers. If you type Nicotiana into the search box at the top of this site (and then scroll down a little past the Google ads) you’ll find all of my references to this great plant.

  155. Lori Savoie says:

    I belong to a Gardening Club in my town in New England and told them about Winter-Sowing 101. I’m trying it this year and can’t wait to see the results this spring. I gave them your website and I’m sure they’ll be looking you up soon.
    Thanks for all the great advice.
    Lori

  156. Alice Marty says:

    I have been winter sowing for a few years now. I’d like to use your information and photos for a winter sowing presentation to some after school children and then at the Home and Garden Show. I’m a Master Gardener living in Mobile Al. We winter sow after Jan 1st so things don’t get too far along before a freeze. Even with our short winters it gives us a gardening boost to play with soil and seeds in January.

  157. Hi Alice Marty – Go ahead and use the info and photos for your presentation. Just be sure to credit me and this website, okay? And I hope your talk is a big success.

  158. gary says:

    are these winter gardens for flowers or vegetables or both? which vegetables are not ideal for this? we are in South Western Ontario 1 hour west of Toronto.

  159. Hi Gary – I winter-sow certain flowers and veggies, just as you can. Be sure to read my article What to Winter-Sow …& When. And have fun with your project!

  160. Connie says:

    Kevin- how many seeds per jug? I have green beans, corn, spinach, swiss chard, watermelon, melons, beets, carrots, just to name a few veggies LOL plus I have flower seeds saved from last years flowers.

    I don’t want to overflood the jugs but do want to maximize the plantings. So far have saved 4 milk jugs. My other question is how translucent must a jug be? Can they be white pails with a darker color lid or no? Thinking horse feed pails here.

  161. Janice Straight says:

    Hello and Happy New Year everyone. Yay! It’s January and that means winter sowing! I did my garden this way last year and I Still have Kale growing. This week I am gathering my reused plastics to begin my Spring 2014 garden and I can hardly wait! Two things I am grateful for–Kevin’s blog and winter sowing. So get out there, get your seeds and get ready to start your garden!
    Thank you Kevin and here’s to everyone having a safe peaceful and prosperous new year!

    Janice

  162. Shawna says:

    Please re-post this EVERY January!! I tried this last year and the results were phenomenal! I do have a question though… this year has been one of the driest on record for our area (the mountains of northern California) so there is no snow and the temperatures are in the teens and single digits overnight, but rebounding to low 50s by the afternoon. Do you think this will still work?
    Thanks so much Kevin. I love your blog!!!

  163. Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says:

    My empty half gallon milk jugs are collecting in the garage, strung up through their handles with a bungee cord to hang out of the way until I am ready to cut them. I have to collate and categorize the seeds I gathered from my garden beds in the fall, then decide which varieties will go into the jugs for 2014. Those varieties needing “stratification”, the freeze and thaw cycles, will readily germinate in the jugs (when they don’t grow in my seedling trays inside the house). It’s great to have this project to look forward to, especially with the eighth storm since December 1st coming at us today.

  164. Laura says:

    I’m excited to give this a try. Especially anything to get my mind off the current weather and redirect my thoughts toward Spring. I live about 40 miles south of Chicago and have been experiencing snow for two days. I love the snow…its what’s coming overnite that I am dreading. The high tomorrow is only expected to reach -16 with a windchill of -40. So, thoughts of Spring are a great distraction. I’m getting right on this project! Plenty of empty milk jugs at my house( two teenage boys!), seeds recently bought at the store when I should have been buying groceries(I did remember the milk!), and bags of soil in the garage that never made it to the shed. I’m good to go.

  165. Hi Laura – This will be a winter to remember! Planting seeds in milk jug containers and then setting them outdoors in frightfully cold temperatures will provide an immediate sense of spring. Be sure to start with perennials and also annuals which are hardy in your area. Have fun, and stay safe!

  166. badger gardener says:

    My first seed order arrived and sat in my mailbox overnight in sub-zero temps. Hope they are still okay. I’ve heard of people putting seeds in the freezer but don’t know if that is generally considered a good idea.

  167. Anna says:

    This is so ingenious! Love it and shared it on NorthernHomeGarden. Definitely have to try this.

  168. Chris B says:

    A small soldering iron (not much good for soldering) costs well under $10 and saves SO MUCH TIME. You never have to pause and reheat, as with a screwdriver. Definitely worth it, especially since the containers themselves are free.

  169. Betty819 says:

    Warning for those who are trying Wintersowing in milk jugs for the first time. Once you see it works, you’ll be hooked until you feel you have enough to fill your flowerbeds or life starts getting in your way. I didn’t wintersow for the past two years and I miss it. Just revamped my flowerbeds this past Fall and I want to see how they will look come Spring/summer. My life is now dedicated to being my DH’s caregiver..

  170. JoAnn says:

    This sounds very crafty!! I grow micro greens indoors under lights during winter & have to stop when I start my garden seeds because of lack of room. Would love to try this instead. We don’t buy jugs of milk or water, but we do have lots of empty 3 qt. apple juice jugs & 1 gal. vinegar jugs. Would love to find a good use for them, so here I GROW…lol :~)

  171. gloria says:

    Was buying seeds today at Dollar General (hey, 4/$1.00, who can pass that up-last year all germinated and were gorgeous!) when I got into a conversation with the cashier about planting. She thought it was way too early (uh, you think? it’s 13 degrees here in western NY), sooo, I told her all about Winter Sowing. She was fascinated and wants to try it, had me write down your blog address and name. Later, in the greeting card aisle, another woman approached me and said she overheard the winter-sowing conversation and wanted to hear more about it. Sooo, another 15 minutes later and you have another convert. I hereby dub myself your official Winter-Sowing ambassador for Dollar General and western NY, in general. I’m hoping the job comes with a sash. :)

  172. Chris B. – Have fun with your project!

    JoAnn – Thanks for the soldering iron tip. I’ve been told that a glue-gun, without the glue, works well, too.

    Gloria – Thanks for being such a fine ambassador. Much appreciated.

  173. Julz says:

    Maybe I sowed too early in the mini greenhouses (December) because everything sprouted in a couple of weeks. Now there is an unusual cold snap here in the mild Puget Sound area and everything is frozen solid. My sprouts were looking shriveled and I got worried so last night I tented them with an old sleeping bag and light bulb. This morning they look great. Did I overreact? Will they survive being frozen if I remove the tent? I’m talking about poppies, calendulas and lettuce.

  174. Sheryl says:

    I don’t have much to report – I just wanted to let you know how excited I am about this winter sowing project. I got my sister (with 3 teenagers, so lots of milk drinking) to save me some jugs that I could pick up at Christmas time. I FINALLY sat down yesterday, readied my milk jugs (I picked up some potting soil on my way home from snowboarding!), filled them with soil and planted. When I took the first 2 out to the snow-covered picnic table, I noticed fresh snow was starting! That motivated me to get the other 11 out there and all settled in. Planting in February in northern Vermont – how fun is this?!?!?!

  175. Terry says:

    I planted several seeds using this method just yesterday and sure hope this works and it is I only had 6 jugs but if successful will definitely be prepared next winter. I am excited to see the result!

  176. Pat G. says:

    Hi Kevin,
    You are so right about how germinating seeds really perks one up. I am in zone 8 and started my tomato and peppers Dec. 27th. I have them in my greenhouse and always grow extras (107 tomato plants) to give away. With CA’s drought, everybody should be planting this year. It is going to be mighty expensive at the grocery store this year.

    Here to a great growing year.

  177. Rob says:

    Just a thought for those that don’t mind scavenging…last week I walked around the neighborhood on recycling day and found plenty of uncrushed gallon milk jugs in blue bins by the curb. I’ve got eight of them planted with native wildflower seeds and hoping for a few more weeks of cold weather. Kevin, thanks for your tips and responses, they’ve been very helpful.

  178. Heather Crable says:

    Im totally going to do this with the Cape Gooseberries! They took so long to come up last year I did not get their full potential! Woohoo!

  179. Amy says:

    Can I do this with veggies too? Or is it best for flowers and other garden plants? Than you!

  180. Hi Amy – If you click the “What to Winter-Sow…& When” link at the end of the article, you’ll find some of the veggies I’ve successfully winter-sown.

  181. pam says:

    Hi Kevin! love your blog! I’m going to be using Perlite & Peat Moss….can you tell me how to mix it? more peat, less perlite? or visa versa?
    thanks Kevin!

  182. Hi Pam – Feel free to experiment with your potting mix. In general, you want the volume of perlite to be equal to or less than the volume of peat moss. Keep in mind that if your peat moss is dried out, it will repel — not hold — water. To hydrate peat, pour very not (but not boiling) water into the bag, and then seal the bag for several hours. Have fun with your project!

  183. Linda Reynolds says:

    WOW! I wanted to read the whole thing, but not enough time right now. I have done this before, my problem is how do you searate out the sprouts for planting?

  184. Linda Reynolds – Click the link “How to Transplant Winter-Sown Seedlings” at the end of the article. Have fun with your project!

  185. Michelle says:

    Hi Kevin! I’m curious about watering… my jugs are out and seeds have sprouted (Hooray!) but they’re starting to get dried out. Do you water? And if so, what’s the best way to do so?

  186. Hi Michelle – Congrats on your winter-sowing success! Water from the bottom, as described in this post.

  187. Michelle says:

    Kevin Lee Jacobs – Is it too late?
    I started my early season herbs/veggies/flowers on time and they’re doing great. Then I got crazy busy finishing school and delayed the warm-season veggies. I’m worried that I got them in too late. I planted tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other warm-season fare last week (circa Apr 29) and I’m in zone 5 (Colorado – last frost date = May 24). I could still do a few more jugs but am not sure it’s worth the effort… have I waited too long?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] hobby which is gardening. This year I am trying wintersowing, you can read all about it at agardenforthehouse blog. The idea is to sow seeds outdoor in winter in anything that would protect your seeds/seedlings [...]

  2. [...] 9, 2012 by Jen Winter Sowing I got this great idea from Kevin Lee Jacobs over at A Garden for the House. He starts his garden in the winter in milk jugs! I did mine a week or two ago. Basically you take [...]

  3. [...] but that does not mean I can’t start seeds. A quick search on the internet reveals directions for handy homemade greenhouses.  “I Can’t” is not a failure, it is an invitation to be [...]

  4. [...] to go about Winter sowing. and Growing Veggies in [...]

  5. [...] a great introduction at the blog A Garden for the House called Winter Sowing 101, and a terrific follow up post about which plants are best for winter sowing, and when to plant [...]

  6. [...] read recently about using milk jugs as a greenhouse and as my seedlings were looking quite spindly, I decided to give that a try. I planted bell [...]

  7. [...] planted some peas and carrots yesterday and am planning on planting some more seeds in my greenhouses…again, pics to come. Thx for being patient! Share this:FacebookTwitterPinterestLike this:Like [...]

  8. [...] Also, I have been doing a little bit of gardening myself; I do have 1.25 acres to cover after all. I have  been doing what is called “Winter Sowing” basically you take whatever flower seed you want in your garden and plant them in milk jugs or other small clear containers. Then you set the containers outside. You are supposed to start in December or January. You leave the caps off the containers so that rain and snow can get inside. You leave them outside the entire time, through all conditions including freezing temperatures. The containers act as mini greenhouses. The seeds remain dormant until the warm weather arrives in March or April and then they begin to sprout. In the spring it will continue to freeze and maybe snow but you just leave the little sprouts outside in their mini green houses. This type of planting is supposed to create supper hardy plants because they are enduring the elements from the beginning. I only just planted mine so I don’t have any sprouts yet but I will keep you updated. If you want any more information on winter sowing you can visit this blog. http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/11/winter-sowing-101-6/ [...]

  9. [...] week I sowed carrots and peas and planted more summer crops in our milk jugs. I have not done an update on them because of the 15 or so jugs I have outside, only one has any [...]

  10. [...] was not warm enough but as soon as it warmed up, the warm-weather seeds did, indeed, sprout…just like the blogger said. I am very excited that I have pepper and tomato plants sprouted because the indoor ones flopped. [...]

  11. [...] the start of a warmer/dryer spell so I decided to plant some tomato and pepper transplants from my greenhouses. I raked back the mulch and attempted to dig a hole in which to put the [...]

  12. [...] container gardening on our deck) and I am so excited to get started again.  I was inspired by this website to try winter sowing last year using empty milk jugs and I hope to do some more this year.  I have [...]

  13. [...] peppers in the past and very little success growing tomatoes. This year, I started peppers in my greenhouses and was very pleased with the results. Still, we only had one pepper.from all of those plants. I [...]

  14. [...] referred to last Mother’s Day? I had first seen it on Pinterest, and then tracked it back to this blog. In general, Kevin Lee Jacobs describes creating miniature greenhouses in reused plastic milk jugs. [...]

  15. [...] Source : agardenforthehouse.com/winter-sowing-101 [...]

  16. [...] I first heard of winter sowing last year on Kevin Lee Jacob’s blog:  A Garden for the House:  http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/11/winter-sowing-101-6/ [...]

  17. [...] be doing winter sowing with 2 classes at my daughter’s school at the end of the month. Here’s a link from the [...]

  18. [...] goodbye to light-systems, heating devices, or fancy seed-starting kits. When you use the winter sowing method you can small greenhouse and natural weather elements to germinate your seeds. You can also start [...]

  19. [...] While I’m lovin’ the winter weather, I’m also preparing for SPRING!!  Ah, Spring, my heart doth beat for thee!  A couple years ago, I ran across the idea of winter sowing seeds in “mini greenhouses.”  I’ve tried planting seeds indoors, and it will be an experience I will never ever repeat.  Ever.  But sowing them outside in the winter in milk jugs?  Sounds crazy, but it works, and it’s simple.  And simple agrees with this girl.  (Here’s a full explanation of the process:  http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/11/winter-sowing-101-6/) [...]

  20. [...] Sowing.   Here are a couple of links if you’re wondering just what this is all about.  One, two, three and [...]

  21. [...] gathered lots of gallon milk jugs, a few other supplies, and some helpful parent volunteers to do winter sowing (check out the link to find out what that is). Watch this space for progress reports as the [...]

  22. [...] I’d like to share with you these great Winter Seed Sowing tips. I first saw this done here over at A Garden For The House blog. Of course I saw it on Pinterest. We will be using normal [...]

  23. [...] at seed starting: indoor and out can help you to decide where you would like to start your seeds. Winter-Sowing 101 shows how to start seeds in little greenhouses [...]

  24. [...] worth a try.  For much more detailed information from someone who has actually seen results, visit A Garden for the House to learn more, including what to sow and [...]

  25. [...] matter what zone they are in. But even with our ups and downs it did work. A keeper! Thank you to Kevin at a garden for the house, where I first read about it. Also The GardenWeb has some interesting discussion on winter sowing [...]

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