Your March Winter-Sowing Update

THIS WEEK, reader Sheila sent me the following note: Hi Kevin, I tried winter-sowing this year after reading all of your inspiring articles. So far, I have 21 gallon containers that have sprouted. I am SOOO excited! Well, Sheila, your words are music to my ears! Who else has winter-sowing news to report?

My update: Thanks to below-“normal” temperatures this month, only my tenacious spinach and hyssop have sprouted outdoors in their milk-jug containers. But I’m not worried. The January-planted Coreopsis and other perennials and hardy annuals are simply waiting for warmer weather to arrive. April, perhaps?

So what’s sprouting in your winter-sowing containers? I look forward to reading your updates.

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Related Posts:
Winter-Sowing 101
Making a Greenhouse & Sowing Seeds
Transplanting Winter-Sown Seedlings


  1. Hi Kevin, I’ve got the same situation here in 5b Indiana. A modest 8 jugs winter sown, but nothing up so far. But I did rig up a grow light system in the basement this year as well, and down there leeks, alpine strawberries, oat grass, marjoram, parsley, marigolds, calendula, and tomatoes are up.

  2. Kevin, I have 14 jugs planted about a month or so ago, and I have probably a dozen more waiting to be started here in 5b. We’re expecting some more weather tomorrow, so the jugs may be snow-covered yet again! (Last year here it was 83 degrees, so I guess I shouldn’t complain, but looking at those jugs out there makes me very impatient!) Many of the seeds are now just lying on top of the soil, and I guess that’s ok? Should I go in and poke them back in?

  3. Hi Kevin,
    I’m over in Vermont, zone 4b. I’ve got about 22 jugs/various containers planted and have more to go. I plan on planting my flowers this week, as seed is on it’s way from the Sample Seed shop you suggested (at least I think it was you?). I’ve got their veggie seeds planted so far, with a few waiting for direct seeding when the ground warms up. Those are seeds that supposedly don’t transplant well.

  4. Kevin, even tho we are under our second winter storm advisory in one week, my bachelor buttons, kale, and spinach are doing just fine. Just before first snow storm got out my cosmos and marigold seed. I love the looks on people’s faces when they hear I have things growing outside already!! Quite a party conversation last night, your name was tossed around a lot!

  5. Susi – Looking back at March 2012 photos, the honey bees were out, and all of my winter-sowing seedlings were up. But that was the winter that…wasn’t! As for your seeds, if they were initially covered with a little soil, go ahead and poke them back in.

  6. Allison K says:

    We’ve been having a very “active weather” winter in Minnesota, so I keep pushing back my winter sowing. I’ve got the dirt in the jugs, and am hoping–now that temps are supposed to reach and (stay in) the 30s by midweek–to finally get seeds planted today. The plan is to plant ~38 containers (1/2 gallon milk jugs & 2-L pop bottles) with 6 different varieties of peppers, tomatillos, ground cherries, winter squash, eggplant and 3 varieties of tomatoes. Last spring was abnormally early–I had half my garden planted by mid-April, a full 4-5 weeks early. This year my garden is still buried in snow and ice at the end of March. Sigh!

  7. This is so much fun, Kevin! Have 20 kitty litter bottles – sprouting so far are lettuce, kale, poppies, bachelor buttons, broccoli raab, scallions, stir fry mix, pak choi, radicchio, and red lupine. Growing from seed has never been more fun! We have had unusually cold temps and lots of snow with more snow coming tonite and no worries. The little plants just seem to weather it all beautifully. Looking forward to starting tomatoes, okra, and peppers in April. I even forgot to do the taping on the jugs and it didn’t seem to matter. Many thanks!

  8. Sorry – I’m writing from the northern Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

  9. hi kevin,
    this winter sowing in plastic jugs is great! overboard i went w 36 jugs — w our warm winter (and lots of new mexico sun) nearly everything is growing — in fact: what is my next step for seedlings that are now about 2″ high?! (even tho’ too cold to plant in ground for at least another 8 wks)? should i thin them? transplant to peat pots?

  10. I live in zone 4 (in California no less!!) and was very excited to find your blog and to try winter sowing. My spinach and kale are up! I can’t tell you how amazed I was to peek inside and find them sprouting! We have wild swings in temperature between highs and lows here in the mountains of northern California; it can be 22 in the morning, but shoot up to almost 60 by afternoon this time of the year. I put off planting all but the hardiest seeds, but I think today is the day. I want to try flowers, too, and bought lupine, nicotiana, and some primroses.

  11. Hi Kevin,

    Your site is terrific!

    Writing from zone 6n. Thought your winter sowing idea was very cool and sowed a dozen or so containers in first half of February. Tiny Alpine strawberry, and a few larkspur, seedlings up. Sweet peas, poppies, lupines, and cosmos yet to come. Postponing outdoor sowing of the same until weather is a bit friendlier.


  12. “Kevin the Gardening Genius” the name you are known by at our house! We are in zone 8b and we are having ALL weather lately..We call it “teenage weather” cant make up its mind as to what it wants to be…anywhere from 33 to 70 degrees lately!! We have swiss chard, spinach,cilantro, snow peas, kale,broccoli,oregano and of yesterday all are growing well!! Some just are peeking through… but this is very exciting and many friends that saved their milk jugs for us are now asking to see how things are coming along. When they see things growing outside in the wind and rain they are totally amazed….as are we! One friend exclaimed ,”Why didnt anyone ever tell me about this?” Well, because who knew?? I didnt know until this year.. and now I cant shut up about it! Have my flower seeds ready to go into the jugs this week and I’m happy to get the lettuce etc going too!! …Also your “Seed testing” is genius !!..loved it as I knew which seeds were still usable and sometimes you are surprised that it is not always the ones that you think will do the best! All I can say is THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!

  13. I am trying winter sowing on a modest scale here in Niverville, your neighbor. Would like you discuss what you do after the plants reach a modest height- how high do they have to be? I know it depends on the plant. How do you transplant them? Directly in the garden or into another pot first? What’s the best way to remove them from the receptacles or do you plant the whole clump after cutting away the container. Thanks.

  14. Janet Sklar says:

    hi Kevin:
    I tried your milk carton with rose cuttings in a very shaded spot in my zone 9 Ca. shed area. Sorry to say it did not work with rose cuttings. I was hoping that the cover would protect the cuttings from wind but I guess our heat wave ,even with the dense shade, was too much for the cuttings. Many of the cuttings around the three milk cartons that I tried did make it. Maybe I will try it with seeds instead next time.
    I enjoy your blog very much.

  15. I just got mine planted a couple days ago so there is no news here, but Im really enjoying hearing everyones results. I got 14 milk jugs planted a few days ago. Im going out of town for 2 weeks in 10 days so Im trusting that nature will take care of these babies for me.. 🙂

  16. Not a single sprout in any of my 4 milk jugs yet. But winter won’t leave us alone here in Nebraska just yet. As I type, another winter snow squall is raging outside. Not much snow to speak of but the wind is pretty fierce today. I am hopeful, however, I do have a great many seedlings flourishing in my laundry room light garden. Come on spring!

  17. Hi Kevin,

    Well I am also in zone 5 B in Indiana and this is my first try at winter sowing. It was up to almost 50 degrees so went out and pulled the duct tape like you said and gave them three hours of beautiful sunshine, then taped them back down for the night as we got a dusint of snow this morning. So much fun to peek inside and find Kale, Spinach, Lupine a few poppies, little cilantro, bachelor buttons growing so about half are showing green so far. I have about another 15 cartons ready to go with holes in them and cut in half so I can start my tomatoes, peppers, etc. This is so much fun and I am so excited. So glad you did the update as I wondered how everyone’s plants were doing. I was amazed how the winter almost washed off the names of some of the plants and I found one that I forgot to write the name on it. Like you said, at this point they all sort of look the same so important to have names on them! LOL

    Thanks for a great website. I think we start planting about the firs week or so in May so if I plant the tomatoes, etc, they should be ready in time. I can taste those homegrown tomatoes now………Yummy!!!

  18. I have 13 jugs that I started early February here in zone 7b. Spinach has already been put in the ground and growing nicely. I held off on the rest due to our change in weather even though our average last frost date is the 10th-20th of this month. Good thing I did as we have predicted lows of freezing tonight and tomorrow night. Those waiting are sweet alyssum to fill my front flower beds, hollyhocks, stock, basil, carrots, lettuce and a “hummingbird mix”. This is my first time and I just love the idea and the thrill of watching those little plants pop. Thanks.

  19. Heather Schlerf says:

    Over 300 jugs planted and NO SPROUTS 🙁 Zone 5b but we have been below normal in temps and late season snowstorms. On a positive note the maple sugar season is going to be great.

  20. I’m in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. I did my winter sowing in 4″ pots which were then put in translucent plastic tubs. So far broccoli, sugar peas, turnips, radishes, kale, leaf lettuce cosmos and some mystery plants (had a little accident….oops..) have sprouted! Thought I’d start some indoors as well to extend the season…peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and tomatillo’s have popped up!
    I’m going to need more garden space….

  21. Heather Schlerf says:

    Okay…I just uncovered some jugs from the snow and I have 2 jugs of lupines emerging. Noble maiden and Russell Mix.

  22. Kerri Kelly-McManus says:

    I read your article on winter sowing and tried it for the first time this year-the spinach and brussel sprouts that I planted in January are sprouting! No signs of life in the others yet, but it was been a cold March here in Rhode island a well- I’m not letting that stop me, added lettuce and cosmos this month! I also planted amish snap peas directing in one of my beds-it has snowed twice since so we’ll see what happens-

  23. Also in zone 5 – planted late and have no sprouts but didn’t do any lettuce, just perennials. I think they’ll appear during our next warmup – sixty degrees forecast for next Friday (a high of 26 today!).

  24. Hi Steve C. – Here’s my guide to transplanting winter-sown seedlings.

  25. Kevin, this is my first year also. My first sprouts were cabbage and lettuce, now I have spinach and my first perrenial seedling is unfolding, a Russell lupine. I hope they look as vigorous as your photos in a month or two!
    Meanwhile I’m fussing over some tomatoes, peppers, and ground cherries indoors because I’m afraid the winter sown ones won’t get an early enough start in my zone 4b garden. Hope I’m proven wrong, ws is such a beautiful system in it’s simplicity.

  26. I have a few trays of marigolds and basil growing nicely. They will go in the garden in a few weeks!

  27. Timely topic, Kevin. I had actually wanted to ask you about this. I am in 6b. I started perennials in 8 jugs mid of Jan and none sprouted. However half of the veggies I started in late Feb sprouted already. I agree unusual cold spring weather delayed the sprouting.

  28. Hi Kevin
    Vancouver girl here. I did four containers of flowers in January, and wasn’t paying attention when we had our monsoon rains a few weeks ago. I found them all floating with water. (I had them in a tub and propped up but not enough). I totally forgot about them. My excuse is I leave for work (its dark) I come home (It’s dark). Anyway I had a eek moment and realized that I had better check on them and drained the poor things and thought oh well the seeds are there maybe…..? Today I looked at them and two (the delphiniums and foxgloves have nice green sprouts. The columbine and bee balm well, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and keep my fingers crossed. I will keep you posted. Great concept, just poor planning on my part. Looking forward to trying your Spaetzel!

  29. Hi Kevin, I’m here in zone 6a, I have 8 gallon jugs going, so far I have a few carrot seedlings starting. But I’m sure this week will bring up the carrots, tomatoes and pumpkin seeds (multi cucumber and tomato selections). Thank you so much for sharing your blog, my winter sowing has kept hope alive for spring to arrive through this “real” winter. Keep on blogging 🙂

  30. Henrietta says:

    So far only my sweet peas have sprouted.

  31. I’ve got a couple dozen jugs (but some are gatorade bottles, so smaller) planted, and most of them are sprouting. Lettuces, all the brassicas, spinach, bachelor’s buttons, peas, marigolds, amaranth, delphinium, echinacea, even some tomatoes. I’m in 7b (East Tennessee), so our last frost date is April 15. Although typically I cheat the system and use milk jug cloches and row covers to plant a few tender plants at the end of March…

    It’s my first time winter-sowing, and so far I’m loving it! Thanks for all the tips, Kevin.

  32. Hi Kevin! I wrote @ my success in the contest area. Living in the mountains of NM @ an altitude of 7200 ft, it is a short growing season, often with last frost in Spring. It was 27 when we woke up this morning.
    I took your idea of the jug greenhouses, did NOT put holes in the bottom (need to keep our babies in the house til mid May) I also incorporated another “greenhouse” idea I found on the net…using toilet paper rolls, cut in half, fill with starter soil, and then place in your jugs greenhouse. Add seeds of your choice, water close up the greenhouse, & wait for the magic. You can plant the toilet paper rolls directly into the ground as they will decompose with time. We have got pumpkins, 2 tomato varieties and Armenian cucumbers all growing right now. Second leaves are in full force. I bought more seeds this weekend and have toilet paper rolls and jugs ready to start my next batch. Herbs are my target this week…basil and dill along with some chives. THANK YOU SO MUCH for all of your WONDERFUL recipes & growing suggestions & help in so many areas of interest. You have NO idea how much your site means to SO MANY people ALL OVER the country!

  33. My first time trying WS, or any sowing. Not enough jugs readily available so I went to the deli section of the local grocery and got 2 doz of the flat plastic containers they serve food in. I drilled holes in the top and bottom and added the ingredients as described for the jugs. No need to tape them as the lid snaps down. I have things sprouting so they worked fine. Mike J

  34. Enid Albat says:

    I have 18 milk jugs going with garden veggies and herbs. My husband had one method of starting plants and every year I would try something different. We’d see who could get the best return. Usually it came out about even. Last year I tried your WS method and beat him hands down. Problem is he had a milk allergy so we didn’t have milk jugs. I found I can get clean ones at our recycling center when I take my cans in. Can’t ask friends to save for me as I have been turning all of them on to WS! Anyway… My husband died this fall. I had to set up my milk jugs alone. I found I needed to make a dot where I wanted to drill my hole then cut with exacto as my wrists aren’t really strong when it came to using the drill. In fact the last few jugs I added later, I just cut little triangles with the exacto as it was easier than changing out the bit in the drill. I live in zone 7b and almost didn’t do it as I was so late getting started and it was already so warm. Planted seeds March 8. Then we had a blast of cold weather. I have even had to break ice off the horse’s water. EVERYTHING is coming up! So glad I went ahead with it as I will get a few weeks head start and save money over buying plants. So glad I found your newsletter last year and you shared this great system with us.

  35. About 15 milk jugs winter sown here in Eastern PA (6b). So far, a few spinach sprouts popping up. Anxious to see what happens the next few weeks.

  36. Love, love this method. I’ve been gardening for 5 years and have never started from seed because I felt I didn’t have what it takes. So, I’m so glad I found your blog!!

    I live in zone 8 ( North Carolina) and started brandywine tomatoes in 6 milk jugs. And used the husbands soda bottles ( liter) to sow zinnias, cilantro and snapdragons. I planted on 3.21 & today and I’m so eager to see green sprouts. We have had lots of sunshine during the days, but freezing temps during evening. I’ve been leaving them out to let them do their thing…hopefully they’ll sprout . I will report back 🙂

  37. Hey Kevin!
    I’m in 7b (Memphis, TN) and so we have had stranger than usual weather. It’s always weird here, not unusual to have a 20 or 30 degree shift in a few hours, but this year has been CRAZY! Two weeks ago some of my herbs and spinach started sprouting. It was in the 70s. The last couple of days the temps have dropped, with wind chill factors in the 20s, but everything still looks good. I am so ready to get all my little sprout babies in their beds! This year I’m doing 4 raised beds, and branching out! Thank you for all of your wonderful advice and encouragement. I love your site so much. Happy Easter and spring to you!

  38. Hello !
    I am happy to report that things are sprouting in my flats : poppies, clarkias, hollyhocks, spinach, lupines, silene, agrostemma, aubrietia… and I’m sure that as soon as the weather really warms up, there will be more ! I shall not use any other method for sowing, this one is really reliable and it doesn’t take up any space in the house !!

  39. badger gardener says:

    Nothing sprouting yet in my jugs in WI, 5b. I was happy to see my crocuses sending up leaves in the garden so Spring is starting even if the temps and snow say otherwise.

    I plan to start my early spring jugs at the end of the week for annuals, tomatos, etc. Among my seeds, I am most excited to be trying out Love-in-a-Mist and Tadifi eggplant from Baker seeds. The L-i-a-M was just too pretty to pass up. The tadifi is a little eggplant variety from Syria. Sounds yummy and I thought I’d grow it this year as sort of a prayer for all the good people of Syria displaced from their own gardens in their homeland. May they see home and peace again soon.

  40. Hi Kevin,
    Found out about your site via Pinterest. I’ll be so excited to see my little sprouts popping out soon…I’m in zone 5b. Waiting til this weekend maybe to put out my tender plant seeds. Hoping for a glorious harvest this year. Thanks for all your helpful ideas 🙂

  41. Good afternoon Kevin,
    I’m new to gardening. I live in southern maine and I think I’m zone 5. could use peat pots in the milk jugs? I wanted to start winter sowing my tomatoes. would it be easier to use the peat pots or just break apart each plant when transfering to my box garden? I love your weekly articles. I’ve learned so much

  42. Heidi – I plant 4-6 tomato seeds per gallon-size jug. (Tomato seeds germinate when the soil temp reaches 70 degrees.) At transplanting time, I pull the seedlings apart. I can tell you from my own experience that winter-sown seedlings are incredibly strong. A little mangling of roots won’t upset them. The plants are itching to grow!

  43. Diane from Boston says:

    So far I’m seeing only broccoli and spinach sprouting. Lettuce, parsley, nicotiana, and pea seeds are just sitting around freezing, I guess! What a “spring” this is shaping up to be! Brrrrrr!

    For folks who are having problems because the labels on their jugs have washed off: I wrote the seed names onto my milk jugs with a laundry marker and also taped over the names with clear packing tape (just in case). Because of that, none of the lettering has faded or washed off. An extra step, but I think it pays off!

  44. Hi, I live in zone 5b. Started WS early March. No signs of anything yet. Finally was able to check the moisture of the soil and many containers were dry, others not. I also used the clam shell containers for carry-out food and made holes in the bottom, top and all the way around the sides for water to enter. I planted mostly perennials and annuals. Also put out some tomato seeds as a trial though perhaps too soon. Will also start more tomatoes in another week or so. Just read a comment above that someone said you gave instructions on how to determine if seeds will sprout. Can you share that how to or direct me on where to find the info? I’ve got some seeds going between paper towel and in a sealed plastic bag. Several have sprouted, now to transplant to see how they work. Love your info.

  45. Carol S - Atlanta says:

    It is sure easy to get carried away with this…my first attempt and I have 16 containers including one 16 oz bottle as an experiment for a friend who is a nursery school teacher. So far cosmos and zinnia are sprouting. I saw a faint indication that one jug of basil is sprouting. Nothing from tomatoes, larkspur, bells of Ireland, coleus, impatiens, cup & saucer vine. I’ll plant pumpkins directly in the garden next week. I’m in zone 7b…

  46. Hi Barb – Your seeds are simply biding their time until Nature tells them to germinate. Only two of my jugs have shown signs of life. But based on past experience, here in zone 5-b the explosion occurs in mid- to late-April. And then the seedlings grow with gusto! Your seed-testing method seems to be the same as mine.

  47. Kevin,
    Great web site, or should I say blog? Either way, its terrific. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I garden in zone 5b, Connecticut. I enthusiastically tried winter sowing this year. On monday, I had quite a few sprouts. Whereas today, hardly any sprouts remain. There was a hard frost in between Monday and today. Will they (perennials) sprout again? Any insight would be much appreciated.

  48. Hi Leslie -Did you plant your seeds in gallon-size milk or water jugs? I only ask because my area had the same cold front you described (17 degrees one night!), but my seedlings — which are growing in jugs — showed no sign of stress. In any event, the roots of perennials are cold-hardy. You should see new growth as the weather warms.

  49. Kevin,
    Thank you so much for the quick response and for keeping my hopes up! It’s much appreciated.

  50. Hi, Jason from Winsted, CT,
    from my 77 winter sown milk jugs the following have sprouted as of 4/14: Dianthus Mix, Statice Mix, Gloriosa Daisy, Pink Malva, Scabiosa, Gaillardia Sundance, Russell Lupine Mix, Hollyhock Mix, Tiger Monkey Mix.
    First time winter sowing and i think its awesome, love checking on my jugs everyday to see if theres any new surprises! Not really sure what i’ll do if every single jug sprouts goodies for me! But it would be a problem i’ll happily deal with! Have some garden areas ready to go but feel i may need to get a few more areas set up.
    Also have a bunch sown indoors and of those I have 2 milk jugs of dahlia mix sprouting and a few individuals, can’t wait to see what the flowers look like from the big dahlia mix seed packet i bought. Also have coleus, velvet lace carnation, white carnation, Chrysanthemum Robinsons Mix, Venidium Orange & White & Snapdragon Snow sprouting in the basement under lights. And a cantaloupe milk jug in the basement just sprouted today.

    Heres a little slideshow of progress …

  51. Jason – Terrific slideshow! Congrats on your winter-sowing success.

  52. Hey again Kev, I was thinking about trying to grow some pumpkins this year, however I let the ones we bought for halloween just rot away outside, one is still loaded with seeds, so i’m wondering if they are still any good? I checked some out and them seem pretty soft. Should I forget about these or just plant them early as is and have them come early if they still germinate or clean and dry them for use later on, seems like june-ish is the time to start them? Any thoughts/suggestions would be appreciated, should have saved them in the fall but slacked on that. Thanks

  53. Hi Kevin, any idea about the pumpkin seeds I asked about? Thanks

  54. Hi Jason – Your pumpkin seeds might be okay. You can easily test them this way:

  55. My husband used your winter sowing technique and he is so fun to watch as he peeks at the sprouting plants.
    He has never really been excited about gardening until recently. I am glad your milk jug tip has gotten him even more excited about planting our own garden.
    Thanks Kevin!

  56. Melanie says:

    I was so excited to try winter sowing and studied your site, read all the info and followed the directions. But it didn’t work for me in northern Nevada. We are considered high desert (zone 5b) which is very dry. Nothing came up not my veggies or flowers. I even thought about the dryness about a week after planting and so I started misting the seeds daily (sometimes twice a day) but nothing happened. I lost money in seeds and of course time. Any thoughts or suggestions for next year? Perhaps some of your readers have thoughts considering my climate? We are typically under 20% humidity and often around 10%. My garden grows great in the summer because we have a sprinkler system. Do you suppose that winter sowing won’t work in this dry climate?

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