Your 2014 Winter-Sowing Project

January 25, 2014

HAVE YOU STARTED your winter-sowing project yet? My own plantings are under way, starting (but by no means ending) with the half dozen miniature “greenhouses” pictured above. What I’ve planted in these gallon-size milk and water jugs, along with a few helpful links to articles which explain the entire winter-sowing process:

I used to kick my African violets off my fluorescent-lit shelves in order to make room for seed-starting indoors. Then I got wise, and started planting seeds outdoors — most of them during the frigid days of winter. This procedure produced strong (not spindly) plants that required no “hardening off.” Now in my seventh year of winter-sowing, I wouldn’t dream of starting seeds any other way.

I planted the following seeds today, and then set them outdoors where the temperature is currently a bikini-like 5°F.:

Bachelor Buttons ‘Blue Boy’. Plant these, and the honey bees will thank you. I enjoy the touch of sky the flowers provide for my Kitchen Garden.

Snapdragons ‘Fordhook Tall’ mixed (in two containers). I love these for cutting. Sure, they require staking, but they bloom and bloom until the first hard frost. Furthermore, because they are members of the Sage family, deer and rabbits leave them alone. (Please forgive the above picture; it’s from 2009, when I knew nothing about photography.)

Russell Hybrid Lupines. Can we all agree that one can never have too many lupines? I always winter-sow new plants to add to the existing crop (above) in the Serpentine Garden.

Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights.’ I love the ornamental contribution these red-, yellow-, rose-, gold, or white-stemmed plants bring to the Herb Garden. The beet-like leaves are delicious raw in salads, but I usually saute them in olive oil and a splash of dry vermouth. Delicious!

Spinach ‘Bloomsdale Longstanding’. Because I love spinach, and because it self-sows here (as do many other lettuce greens), I always include it in my winter planting-schedule. It usually germinates in early March, even if there is still snow on the ground.

Some helpful links:

Need proof that winter-sowing really works? Then by all means read Winter-Sowing 101.
Not sure how to turn a milk or water jug into a greenhouse? Read Making a Greenhouse & Sowing Seeds
Have questions about what to winter-sow, and when to plant the seeds? See What to Winter-Sow…& When.

And now, back to my original question: How’s your winter-sowing progressing? I hope you’ll drop me a line in the comments section below.

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Other Recent Posts:
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Kevin’s Caramelized Butternut Squash Soup
Chicken & Mushrooms in Tarragon Cream


  1. Lori says:

    It’s -26C. I don’t know when to start.

  2. Hi Lori – You are having the same kind of winter as me. Go ahead and plant seeds outside, based on the “What to Winter Sow & When” schedule linked above. Believe me — the project will make you feel that spring is here!

  3. Tracy says:

    I saved jugs for months, and planted 24 little ‘mini-greenhouses’ two weeks ago, following your directions so carefully. They’re all under inches of snow at the moment, but fingers crossed!

    If I knew how to send you a picture of them all lined up in tubs, I would!

    Thank you again for your inspiration,


  4. Tracy – Congratulations!

  5. Doris Troxell says:

    I am sooooo excited to try this! Just got my seeds this week and friends are giving me their jugs. Will let you know how it goes :)

  6. gloria says:

    I’m planting mostly tenders this year, so I’m going to wait a while. It’s been brutally cold and snowy here in the Rochester NY area–19 right now and going to be worse tomorrow. Sheesh. But I’m using your schedule of what to plant and when, so it won’t be long and I’ll be doing my sowing.

  7. Janet says:

    In northwestern Wisconsin we have 3-4′ of snow and 10 to 25 below temps yet. I put out foxgloves (3 jugs) and 2 of McKana Giants mix Columbians. Determined to grow those! Annuals and veggies later according to your schedule, thank you.I have a ton of seeds and having trouble finding them-going batty!!!! Grrrr. Love your site and tell all my friends:)

  8. Lori in Nebraska says:

    I’m gearing up to try again. I did this last year and it was an utter failure. I got some germination but our late, late, late spring really botched things up for me and everything died as I couldn’t protect the seedlings well enough.

    This year will be different. I intend to start some seeds with winter-sowing again. Also, my husband build me a small greenhouse last fall. I’m so excited I could squeal! I should be able to get most of the seedling operation out in the greenhouse and OUT of my laundry room, living room, bathroom, bedroom, you get the idea.

    Can’t wait for spring!

  9. jean says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Here in Indiana, we still have a blanket of snow and more to come with a 5 degree tonight but I have 25 milk jugs cut and prepped, will bring my soil in the house to let it thaw out from the garage and I am planting today! Can’t wait. I separated my seeds last night into January, March and April winter sowing and put them in individual containers so I would be ready, according to your charts. I was amazed at how healthy my plants were last year and it was so fun to watch them peek their little heads out of the soil when the world started warming up in the spring. All my plants that were winter sowed did so much better in the garden and had a head start on the ones I planted directly in the Spring. I did winter sowed swiss chard, then planted the second row directly in the garden and the winter sowed ones performed so much better and seemed stronger and got eaten faster. LOL Am trying to plant more bee loving plants so the bees will want to come hang out in my garden. They seemed to love the borage also last year and I planted it everywhere in the garden. Also seemed to keep some of the critters away. Someone told me it was good planted around tomatoes to keep the tomato worm off and I didn’t find any so more borage this year. Thanks so much for all your wonderful recipes and info on winter sowing. It is so much fun and I can’t wait to plant them in the garden. I have tons of chopped up leaves on my 10 beds like you said so it should only be better this year as last year was my first year for gardening. Good luck with your open garden tour, wished I lived closer as I would love to see the gardens in person and meet you and sweet Ms. Lily.

  10. Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says:

    I need cheering up today, Kevin, as there is a WATER MAIN BREAK right in front of my home. Township trucks are here digging up the street and we have full snow cover and 19 frigid degrees with wind starting to kick up. We lost our water mid-morning and are hoping to get it back soon.

    To distract myself I fetched the empty jugs from the garage along with my list of possibilities: Primula japonica (dark pink), Tragopogon (goatsbeard), Rudbeckia (Green headed coneflower), Solidago (blue stemmed goldenrod), Lavender ‘Munstead’, Papaver (pink oriental poppy) and Salvia officinalis (culinary sage). My list was forming as I recently “filed” all of the seeds collected in 2013.

    I just finished removing labels from the plastic milk jugs using my hair dryer. I also made signs from old miniblinds and am attaching them firmly to the handles of each jug. I have 11 jugs ready but only 7 possible seed varieties to go into them. I planned to research your site for suggestions for the last 4 jugs and when I sat down, here was your email with a Winter Sowing heading! Kismet!

    I have tons of seeds to choose from and deciding which ones to feature in the jugs is the current dilemma, along with thawing out the big bucket of soil I stashed in my shed in November for just this purpose. We are officially sick of snow here in eastern PA. The 12th storm since December 1st passed by yesterday. This seed project will lift the spirits.

  11. Beverly – So glad this article appeared just when you needed it. And I hope the water main in front of your house gets sooner rather than later. Bitterly cold here, too. What a winter!

  12. Mary Ann Z. says:

    I guess we are having a heat wave here in southern Wisconsin. Five days of this week will be above zero in the double digits. I am not a winter person so learning how to plant my garden seeds in this weather will definitely keep me busy and feeling better. I only have half gallon milk jugs on hand so I will use these and hope they will work for me. I will use Miracle Gro planting mix and see what happens. Kevin, thank you for your tips and your reminders. You may be responsible for saving my sanity this winter.

  13. Janice in Black Creek, BC says:

    My deepest sympathies to you all. We have frost here on the wet coast, so think it is chilly. We did have snow! Honest!
    The snowdrops are blooming in Comox and mine are above ground but not blooming yet. Give them 2 weeks. I am going to get some soil mix today from the local farm’n'feed, as I looked in my bin recently and found it empty. Milk Jugs all lined up and ready in the basement. I might chill my fingers if I fill them outside.
    We watch the news and weather and decide we are staying here.
    Love your site, Kevin, but I do not wish to move to be closer to where you are just so I can visit your lovely gardens. I’d rather save my money and take a holiday trip there–in the good weather.
    Cheers, Janice

  14. Can’t wait to winter sow, but not eager to do it in the cold garage! Anyway, Janet mentioned that she was starting McKana Giants Columbine, which I winter-sowed last year. Mine grew extremely slow, so slow that I was afraid to transplant them into the ground, so I potted them up into a 4″ pot and left them outside in a sheltered area. Who knows what they are doing under their blanket of snow right now? Also, poppies. I tried winter-sowing them last year, too, and did not get any blooms. Any hints and suggestions would be greatly appreciated! And, Kevin, I love your photos — how did you learn to do them so well?

  15. Mike Johnson says:

    I did winter sowing last year and I had a great time transplanting in the spring and early summer. I do perennials. The results were incredible. I still purchased some plants but this year I won’t have to purchase any. I am expanding what I am trying. Last year they were all seeds from packets. In the fall I harvested seeds, labeled the envelopes, and now am in the process of winter sowing. I have 3 dozen milk jugs from neighbors and they are all outside here in Salt Lake City. Red Flax and various coreopsis worked best last year. Lupines struggled and died. I will be trying a lot more varieties. I also learned that a sharpie on the outside of the jug sometime washes off with all the snow, and rain so I also wrote on the inside of the jug. I also saved the plastic containers from the purchased plants and have set them inside a sled I still have from when there were children at home. It holds about 30 containers. I covered the sled with a sheet of plastic, punched some holes in it and…..we’ll see. Being in the sled will make it easy to water all of them in the spring just by putting water in the sled. I found last year the watering to be very time consuming but yet enjoyable as I saw the growth progress each time I watered them.

  16. Mike Johnson says:

    Sara, I got some California poppies from an online seed place. They grew fine and I transplanted them. I had poppies all summer here I Salt Lake City and they were blooming right up to the first snow. In fact, they even spread.

  17. Ali says:

    I have a multitude of milk jugs (with 3 boys in the house) but the potting soil I bought at the end of the season was mistakenly left outside. It is frozen to the ground and now buried under snow. I’m going to have to seek out a nursery that has their potting soil stored indoors if I’m to get this project under way.

    I do have a question about your winter-sowed veggies — how do you separate them to plant out in the garden? I know that carrots and beets will make weird looking roots if disturbed. I tend to have very bad luck with beets anyway — they never seem to bulb up. I would love to have a lovely round beet to put on my salad this year. Any advice on that? Thank you, Kevin, for you wonderful and entertaining blog.

  18. KimH says:

    I was so thrilled with my last years Winter Sowing experiment and look forward to this years load. I’ve only just started saving my milk jugs but it wont be long before I have plenty.

    Im not sure Im quite confident enough to plant all of my tomatoes and peppers this way this year and I have loads of homemade seedling cups I made last year so I’ll do both & hopefully it will give me enough confidence to move to this method full time.

    Last year for the first time, I was able to get tomatillo seeds to germinate and they did REALLY well. I only had 4 or 5 plants but man were they loaded.. big ol sprawling beautiful babes..

    This is an amazing system with so little work.. I thank you so very much for sharing it with us and for sharing your life via these pages.. Blessings!

  19. Sigh, I wish I had Mike and Kevin’s green thumbs! Guess I will just try the poppies again–thanks for letting me know that success is possible!

  20. sidne says:

    I live in northeastern Nevada where we are undergoing a drought. Usually we are up to our eyeballs in snow at this time but it seems we have no hope of moisture in the near future. We are having days in the 40′s and nights in the single digits. Should I add water in a week or so to the things I am going to plant today? I will be putting water in the soil when I plant.Thank you for your help!!

  21. Jo-Anne says:

    Hi, Everyone…but also a big hi to Janice in Black Creek, BC….Haven’t we found the BEST website ever….thanks, Kevin! Today I will begin my seeding in the milk jugs….. have managed to gather 6 …just a start for all the seeds I am wanting to plant…… excited! Here the weather is much too mild….hardly any snow on the mountain this year and way too little rain….we are all concerned about water shortage and too dry of conditions (fires) in the summer……………….Jo-Anne Black Creek, BC

  22. Maya in CT says:

    Hi Kevin, how would you categorize pepper plants? Are they hardy or tender annuals? I’d love growing them but the season is so short here in CT, my plants are always still producing when it gets cold outside. I’m hoping that by winter sowing I can get a head start and have a longer growing season.
    Thanks, Maya

  23. HI Kevin .. well this year I took the plunge and started my own “winter sowing”!! I dumpster dove at a coffee shop to get 6 4-Litre milk jugs and then I used 9 2-Litre jugs from home. I used coir for the planting medium. And I am so excited about this project and thank you much for your inspiration and guidance!!
    Here is what I have planted: Hollyhock, Blue Gum Eucalyptus, Peppermint Eucalyptus, Luffa, Spicey Onion Tree, Spiked Zaatar, Ginseng, Saskatoon Berry, Red Orach, Spicebush-Chinese, Eggplant – Black Beauty, Mock Orange – Chinese, Miracle Tree, Silver Sunburst Trumpet (can you tell I went a little crazy at Seedy Saturday last year!) Also: leeks, Italian Peppers, Sweet Annie, Sage and Sweetpea. I also planted some green coffee beans .. they are not whole so I don’t think they will grow but I just had to try. I’ll let you know how these seeds grow! I’m not finished yet, though, and plan to start a few more containers for more veggies!

  24. Janet Livesay says:

    Here in Oregon our seeds start too early.
    I will wait a month before starting..
    But must admit I ordered a lot of half price annuals to try this year.

    Oregon’s due for a drought so i hope I won’t regret it when I am out there with a hose in hand in July.

  25. Bob says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Love your enthusiasm :-)
    I did winter sow for three years. But in my experience it’s not worth it in zone 4. Spring comes too late and our growing season is too short. So I had more failure that good luck.
    So, I either direct sow or go with plants that self sow and naturalize or grow under lights…

  26. Kirstie says:

    I have 21 containers….lots of lettuces, chard, brussel sprouts, broccoli and a few flowers.As I collect more milk jugs, I will gradually add ore things, I like to use my oldest seeds for winter sowing. I generally have about 85 percent of my containers that yield plants. I am also in NY so I will be interested to see how the plants come along this year since it has been colder than usual. (And why did Wegmans start using a solid white milk jug!!)

  27. wendy says:

    Kevin, are you using regular marker for labels, and doesn’t it fade? I use china pencil (wax) on cut up window blinds, inside my bottles (clear pop), so I can see what’s growing.

  28. Gretchen says:

    We’re in the midst of a record winter for this area . It’s snowing right now. I do love playing in the snow as much as any kid on the block, but after reading you extraordinary articles about plants and specifically your winter sowing project, Kevin, I’ve frittered the entire morning away searching Summerhill, Logee’s and Diane’s Flower Seeds building my wish list. But – oh the fun it’s been! Tomorrow I’ll start prepping the jugs and mixing the soil (choir and perlite and compost tea to soak it) Can’t wait for the goodies I’ve ordered to get here so i can get started. Thank you a thousand times over for your great site, Kevin. Love it!
    P.S. A great big thank you for giving us the source list for seeds.

  29. Helga G says:

    I did not get your Sunday e-mail today and had to look for it with IE. :-(
    I got my 8 1/2 yr old Grandson hooked on Winter sowing. We send away to for some of the free seeds. He was all excited when he got them. We have to delay to his next visit, since Daddy is on the way to pick him up. I’ll start mine next week. It amazes me every year how Mother Nature takes care of things. So it is only fair that we treat her with respect. Also found a new blue flower called “Bees Friend” (Phacelia tanacetifolia) from Uprising Seeds, which I am going to send for.

  30. Chuck at 7,600 feet above sea level... says:

    Like Bob said, I live in a cold zone, 3 here, spring comes in late, late May. Rather than attempt winter sowing again, I’ll look forward to seeing result photos of those of you that have success with this.

  31. Kate says:

    I prepared my milk jugs yesterday, and will begin planting tomorrow. I do worry about the temperature swings here in lower zone 6 Missouri. We have 65F today and down to 5F Monday night, and no snow cover. I guess I will have to keep a close eye on moisture levels with temps yoyo-ing all over the place for the rest of the winter. Thanks for the information; I can’t wait to see what happens!

  32. Eric and Isabella says:

    My Little Sweetie and I planted 32 different flowers and herbs 2 weeks ago. She’s almost 6 years old and really enjoys gardening with me. It’s very similar to how much I enjoyed working with plants with my mother. It was fun for both us.

  33. Kathy says:

    Kevin Lee Jacobs you have me hooked on winter sowing! With your help I had great results with my winter sowing in 2013. I plan on getting started this week. I gathered some oriental lily seeds from my garden this fall and am so excited to winter sow them. Thanks so much for all of your great advice.

  34. Miki Holden says:

    I feel a little silly “winter sowing” here on California’s droughty central coast–daytime temps up to 80 off and on, nights in mid 30s-40s. However my little seedlings in the past have been eaten to the ground by pesky bugs & birds, and I’m hoping the jugs will protect them out of their infancy. I’ve tried some of the more tender things as well as lettuce and spinach and kohlrabi, just to see if I can get a head start. I think I will have to keep a close eye on water needs, though.

  35. badger gardener says:

    I have spinach, kale, sage, and hollyhocks out. I love seeing the jugs sitting in the snow. Everything else in my plans for winter-sowing has to wait until March and April.

    Hope Beverly in eastern PA got her water back on! Stay warm everybody.

  36. Holly says:

    As you know I did mine already. 40 in total. I have my summer veggies and tomatoes waiting to be planted later on, along with some lettuce in my cold frame. I’m waiting and hoping now!

  37. Lori says:

    Thanks, Kevin. I will give it a go after a week in Negril.

  38. Lori says:

    Oh, and you know, I had some tomato seeds sprout up in the garden – dropped the year before, slept in the cold all winter, then popped up and produced tomatoes. They were in the flower bed. Didn’t have the heart to pluck them out, so they grew among the flowers last year.

  39. Francesca says:

    This is the smartest and most univalve use of gallon jugs I have ever seen! Awesome, and wish we had then here in holland :(

  40. Jenny says:

    we’ve got 18 jugs on the front patio, mostly hardy veggies and greens. The next 3 weekends will consist of building the additional raised beds to plant them in. We’re using recycled wood from an old building on our property and I pulled about 400 nails yesterday :) Happy planting!

  41. Sarah says:

    I love your articles about winter sowing! I got the bug last year and sowed 20 jugs – had about a 80% success rate with nicotiana, black eyed susans and such. So this year I made my seed list and realized I needed 80 jugs! We just moved out to the burbs and now have a lovely big garden.

    For anybody else who doesn’t have a lot of milk jugs, Starbucks staff are often happy to save them for you! They use jugs – Dunkin Donuts does not. My Starbucks saved me 15 jugs a day – which I then brought home in a trash bag on the commuter rail. I think I’m probably one of their more eccentric riders now!

    I also found that kitchen shears were a great way to cut them up – I liked the Wusthof ones because they come apart when you want to clean them. Also, bundling up a towel so that you have about 2 inches of soft buffer between you and the floor, put your jug on the towel, take your kitchen shears and start poking. Nice and easy!

    Kevin – thanks for helping me indulge my greed for plants, my budget, and my love of reusing things!

  42. Joan Handy says:

    That’s a wonderful way to use the milk containers! I’m going to give it a try.

  43. codi ruth says:

    Hello, Kevin! I was so glad to have this inspiration a few weeks back when you posted Winter Sowing 101. My 9 yr old daughter and I scoured the house, and couldn’t believe how many seeds we came up with! Most of them from family… I have never had much luck with seeds before, but we are following your instructions and hoping for the best. She is very excited and so am I! :)

  44. Holly K says:

    This seems like a very exciting idea. I am in zone 3, it was -45C with the windchill this morning, which is just getting ridiculous already. Anyway I read most of the comments and I read how this won’t work for our colder zones. But I noticed that you are starting spinach and swiss chard. These are things that I would direct seed anyway. So I might have to give this a try. Like my Dad used to say, Christopher Columbus took a chance.

  45. Anne in Vermont says:

    Hi Kevin, Thank you for the timely reminder about this planting. I have set out my first ever three bottle greenhouses: 12 kale seeds, 8 broccoli seeds and 5 brussels sprout seeds. I am so hoping that this will work. A friend loaned me his very fancy (and expensive) giant seed starting rack, but not only does it take up too much space, I am worried that the room is not warm enough to germinate seeds and that I would have to invest in heating mats and a thermostat. This method would solve those problems. According to the new zone map I am in 5a, but very very close to 4b and with the wind that whips along the west side of the Green Mountains I plant for 4b when I can resist. Hopefully this will not affect the bottle greenhouses. I’ll let you know what happens. Thanks again.

  46. Lulu says:

    Hi Kev,

    how does winter sowing work if we have it cold but no snow?? Seems we are not getting any this year here in Middle BC Canada. Any more flower suggestions?
    Think I could plant my garlic this way since I missed doing it in the fall?
    thanks Lulu

  47. Hi Lulu – We had no snow here during the winter of 2012. Still, my winter-sown seeds germinated and grew. Flowers: perennials and re-seeding annuals are always good winter-sowing candidates. You might like to try the sweetly perfumed Nicotiana ‘Fragrant Cloud’, or the cocoa-scented “Chocolate Flower” (Berlandiera lyrata). Then there are columbines, petunias, impatiens, hollyhocks, and…well, the list is long! As for garlic, at least where I live, the individual cloves must be planted in the fall. Winter and spring planted bulbs rarely produce a worthwhile harvest.

  48. Lisa says:

    Hi Kevin, This does indeed sound like a great way to save! I’ve been reading up on your winter sowing for months now and decided to give it a try. (We’ll see what happens…..) So far, I’ve planted Blue violas, Tri-colored violas, Delphinium, Lady’s Mantle, Black Violas, Blue Mirror Delphiniums & some Pansies. This weekend, I plan to plant some Brussel Sprouts& some Baby’s Breath. Then in March, I’ll do some Zinnias, Alyssum, Statice, Cypress vines & Nasturtium. Never tried winter sowing, but it’s worth a try. We’ll see what pops up!

  49. Lisa says:

    Kevin, Hello again. I forgot to ask : will my seeds bloom THIS year?

  50. Lisa – Your annuals, of course, will bloom this summer. But I’ve winter-sown certain perennials that have bloomed their first summer — Coreopsis is one such example.

  51. Dawn says:

    With wind chills of up to -50 degrees this week it is wonderful to dive into thoughts of spring and gardening! I am excited to try this milk jug greenhouse and am wondering if there is any special tips about the potting soil that you use for these? Recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks and stay warm!!

  52. Hi Dawn – This will indeed be a winter to remember! Soil: As I mention in my article “Winter-Sowing 101″ (linked above), almost any commercial soil-less potting mix will do. You do not need to use a special, sterile “seed-starting” mixture, because the seeds will be germinating outdoors, where conditions are definitely not sterile. Have fun with your project!

  53. Tiffany says:

    I had very little luck with winter sowing here in East Tennessee….maybe because it’s not cod enough? Or because we have crazy weather, warm then cold then warm then cold….repeat ad libitum in the spring? I did have slightly better luck with hardier things, like lettuce and spinach and perennials, but those are things I can usually just sow in the open, thanks to a long growing season.

  54. Dottie says:

    I have the seeds and need to prepare jugs but we have some big rough animals that knock everything over. I am trying to figure out how I can prevent their destruction. Am excited about winter sowing project and have love reading everyone’s experiences. Thank you

  55. Amanda says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for writing such helpful posts! This is my first year winter-sowing. I am a little confused as to which containers are NOT suitable to use. Can I use any container as long as the top is clear? For example, I have lots of good-sized aluminum baby formula cans. Could I use these, or does the container have to be plastic? Does it have something to do with holding in the heat? I also have some plastic tea containers as well as laundry soap bottles which are thick plastic and less translucent than milk jugs and 2 liter pop bottles. I have read that some people will just use whatever they have on hand, but I don’t want to take a chance and lose all of my seeds! Thanks in advance!

  56. Michelle says:

    So far, so good. I ordered several varieties of petunia seeds from one of your “favorite” seed companies and have 8 milk jugs and one 2 liter soda bottle planted. I set them out yesterday, in a trough designed to mix small amounts of concrete, to keep them upright.

    My only issue has been getting the duct tape to stay sealed and hold the top to bottom on the containers.

  57. Hi Amanda — You can use any containers you want, as long as they are clear or translucent. In other words, light must be able to pass through the container’s walls. Have fun with your project!

    Michelle – You must mean Summerhill seeds. What a collection of petunias! Duct tape: If it won’t adhere to your containers, use “gorilla” tape (available at hardware stores).

  58. Amanda says:

    Thanks for replying, Kevin!
    I have seen a few conflicting posts concerning containers. Some folks said they used cardboard, coffee cans, and other non-translucent containers. I just wanted to get your opinion.
    I put out ten of my 40 containers last Sunday- pansies, hollyhock, lavender, chamomile, columbine, daisies, poppy, wild flax and lettuce. They are in tea jugs, a couple 2 liter bottles, and a milk jug.

  59. Michelle says:

    Yes Kevin,
    They are Summerhill Seeds and Robin even sent me a “freebie” pack; excellent customer service! Thanks for the tape tip, Conveniently enough, my son works at Home Depot and I’ll have him pick up the Gorilla tape today.

  60. katy says:

    I have sown about 20 greenhouses with celery seeds, 20 with onion seeds, a few with broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, and kale. I plan on planting some more lettuce, kale, broccoli, cabbage, some spinach and then starting on the warmer veggies and of course the flowers! i did it last year (on a MUCH smaller scale) and it worked beautifully! i tell everyone i know. i get milk jugs from everyone, even though they think they’re just amusing the crazy garden lady ;) this is my first year trying celery & onion. i hope they do well!

  61. Terry says:

    I am ready to start my first winter sowing and I have a quick question.

    Do the jugs have to be in a tub? If they already have holes for draining, wouldn’t putting them in a tub cause the soil to be too wet as the weather warms?

  62. Hi Terry – The jugs do not have to be put in a box or tub of any kind. Some years I place mine in a sterile box simply to mitigate the chance of tipping. The sterlite box is peppered with drainage holes. Have fun with your project!

  63. Melanie P. says:

    Kevin, I need help. I posted on your site last year but never heard anything. I live in northern Nevada which is upper desert and followed your winter sowing advice last year. It was a failure as none of my seeds came up. I think it’s because of our low humidity (normally in the single digits) but I’m not sure. We have been in a drought the last 3 years. I did start misting them with a spray bottle last year when I realized they needed some moisture. I would love to try again but I don’t want the to lose the seeds again. Is it not possible out here? Thanks for your help and recipes.

  64. Andrea JD Pionek says:


    I’m really looking forward to trying this but have a few questions. Does it matter what spacing you use, i.e. how far apart do you plant the seeds from each other? I’m thinking ahead to the transplanting and am concerned about disrupting a lot of roots when prizing apart seedlings. Also, can you discuss the transplanting itself, please? Maybe in a newsletter of its own if necessary?

    Thanks so much,

  65. Margie S. says:

    Hi Kevin,

    How do you keep the writing on the marked jugs from fading away??? I used a permanent sharpie and by the time I was ready to plant my seedlings …the labels had completely vanished. YIKES! I noticed that a lot of the little plants in the different jugs looked alike (tomatoes!) …so I just planted them wherever .. let’s just say ‘there were surprises.’ LOL Any suggestions would be wonderful. By the way, I love your sense of humor!


  66. Tracy Ediger says:

    Hi Kevin,

    My friend Noshin and I down here in Georgia decided to give this a try today, even though we just missed what will probably be our only snowstorm this year! We have 16 jugs out on the patio table now, hoping for lots of colorful flowers to brighten both of our gardens this year. We did an assortment including your favorite bachelor’s buttons: 2 alyssums, garlic chives, lime basil, torch sunflowers, rosemary, … Like I said, an assortment. And an experiment! Thanks for the inspiration!

  67. Ann Brown says:

    I am in Georgia also….LOL. I started my jugs 6 days ago and already have Alyssum coming up. But i made the mistake and planted way to many in one jug, well with the help of my daughter sprinkling. When will i need to start separating or transplanting to individual pots? Inch high, or what? With our warm weather we are having, separating will be here soon….I am Savannah area, 70 degrees today. Enjoying every bit of it also.

  68. Rose of Sharon says:


    I am a baby gardener. I am trying my hand at a vegetable garden this year and I am very excited about this Winter-Sowing I keep reading about but can’t seem to stop freaking out about planting seeds in little plastic containers and not having them freeze and die. We have been having a particularly cold winter with temperatures in the negatives will my seeds still be okay if I put them outside or should I keep them somewhere cool and move them outdoors in a couple more weeks? Help, I just need a little reassurance. lol

  69. Hi Ann Brown – I love, love, love alyssum! No need to thin them out, unless you want to. For thickly-sown seeds, I use the simple “Brownie Technique” transplanting-method described in this post.

    Hi Rose of Sharon – Follow the What to Winter-Sow & When guide linked above, and your seeds should be fine, no matter the weather. Just hold back some seeds as insurance. Definitely do not plant zucchini, green beans, peppers and other heat-lovers until winter melts into spring. (My perennial and hardy annuals seeds have already experienced sub-zero temperatures. But they will all germinate when spring arrives.)

  70. Liza says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for introducing me to winter sowing! I tried it last year for the first time with great results. Just one question- do you ever feed your seedlings? Some of mine- basil, peppers- never grew more than 2-4 leaves, even weeks / months after sprouting. If so, what kind of fertilizer do you use?

    Many thanks! Think spring :)

  71. Judi says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I couldn’t wait to start my milk jug garden in late January, and I now have lupins, lucinato kale, romaine lettuce, thyme, and bachelor button sprouts now showing! I planted 26 milk jugs to date and planning more soon. Our average last frost is March 27th, so I have lots more to look forward to as the spring warms up. Thank you Kevin! You made normally dreary February full of gardening fun :) . I am in Vancouver, Canada (coastal), which is Zone 8b.

  72. HI Liza – I can’t recall ever feeding my winter-sown seedlings. But if you feel your peppers and basil were sluggish due to soil infertility, then by all means give them a little all-purpose plant food, or food emulsion fertilizer. Just follow the package instructions for “potted” plants. (As long as they reside in the milk or water jug, they are indeed potted!)

    Judi – Congrats!

  73. Loretta Dreznes says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I found your blog on Pintrest and am so intrigued with your winter sowing method. I promised myself to produce my own seedlings this year and have started getting ready for indoor planting with lights, shelving, etc. This looks so much easier! I am zone 5 Chicago, do I have enough on and off freezes to accomplish my goal this year?
    Thanks for all your info and interesting blog!

  74. Ann from PA says:

    This is my first year winter sowing, compliments of Kevin : ) and I just had to announce:
    THE YARROW HAS SPROUTED!!! Go Yarrow, Go Yarrow, Go-Go…. anyway…. hoping they survive until planting time. I planted them 1/22 and was uncertain the old soil I used would work. So this is encouraging. I did purchase new soil for the March sowing. I do hope Yarrow will provide motivation for the other 2 dozen-ish jugs; ) So exciting! Thank you Kevin for sharing your gardening knowledge in such a thorough,obtainable and fun way. My geraniums are all finally blooming too, which is exciting as well! Many Thanks!!

  75. Michelle says:

    Curious… how many seeds per jug? (specifically tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, and melons.


  1. [...] by one of our favorite bloggers, Kevin Lee Jacobs on his “Garden for the House” blog. Save those gallon jugs and make mini-greenhouses. Seeds and planting soil should be arriving at [...]

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