Saturday, February 13, 2010

winter sowing of seeds

Much  like the seed ball method of  planting, winter sowing   lets the seed germinate and begin growing on its own accord, when it is ready to begin growing. It is also a good method for those of us wanting to start seeds early yet  do not want to depends on  lights, seed mats, containers, soil mixes  and other store bought stuff or  for those of us that simply cant afford all that stuff.  We are somewhere in the middle  but  our ultimate goal is to not have to  depend on electricity of any sort for our food growing. People just 75 years ago could do it so why cant we? 

The idea of winter sowing is supposedly  the brain child  of Trudi Davidoff after she had too many seeds to start and not nearly enough space. I however have a very hard time thinking that the idea of winter sowing is something that was just  thought up in 1998. I am sure she was not the first to ever figure out that  a seed left in the ground over the winter often  germinates when the time is right for it to do so. Walk out to your compost pile sometime and see what all  volunteers or what grows back from year to year if you let  over ripe fruit stay where it falls. Again, this goes back to the seed ball or Fukuoka method and permaculture practices,  therefore, I am  perdy darn sure it goes back further. However, Ms Davidoff has been accredited with the invention of winter sowing and I am   fairly positive she has made herself  a good bit of money off the whole idea.

The beauty of winter sowing is that you can   use this method, be successful with it and yet it costs literally nothing. There are no kits( there are actually) to purchase, no special soils, no fertilizers or  other special needs. All  you  need to do is use your imagination and recycle  some of the trash generated from things  we have already purchased.

Some of the more common container for winter sowing are milk jugs, two-liter soda bottles, salad take-out containers, and big plastic jars (the kind pretzels,mayo or mustard come in). Truth be known , the only real  requirements are that it must be able to hold at least three inches of soil and  must have head room for the growing plants.

Cut container in half if using milk jug, soda bottles or plastic jars.

Cut air holes or transpiration slits into the top of the container.

Make several drainage holes in the bottom of your planter.

Fill the bottom of the container with at least three inches of whatever soil you like best, and moisten it well.

 Sow your seeds according to the package directions.

Cover your container, and set it in a spot outdoors. 

 Condensation is a good thing. If there is no condensation, it either means that you have too many transpiration holes (tape over some of them if this is the case) or your soil is drying out.

As spring arrives, and the air warms up, your transpiration holes should be made bigger and bigger, until you remove the top of your container entirely. This is the winter sowing way to harden off your plants.

 After they are hardened off, transplant out in the garden.

Many people like to start annual flowers and  baby trees  with this method, I prefer herbs and veggies. Here are some  that  do well with this method of  seed starting.  

Allium family (onions, shallots, garlic, chives)
Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, etc)
Corn (select an "early" type as it can germinate at lower temps)
Curcubit family (cukes, squash, pumpkins, melons, gourds)
Herbs (edible and ornamental)
Leafy Greens
Nightshade family (eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes - from real seeds, not seed potatoes)
Oriental veggies (any)

1 comment:

  1. hey dilli,
    the yellow pear seeds i'm sending to you came from trudi & her wintersown project several years ago. i don't know if she still does this, but i sent her a sase & she sent me a bunch of heirloom seeds along with a pamphlet of instructions for wintersowing. I bet she isn't making any $ at it.

    I just brought my frozen bag of potting soil in to thaw so i can get a few containers going while we are still having below freezing temps (20's) here. looks like you've got a nice collection of seeds going there. maybe you will post some pics when things start sprouting? or have they already?