November 23, 2011

Sowing Winter Seed

When I sow seed, I usually begin in February by incubating the seed and then moving them out to the greenhouse once they've germinated.  This regular routine of mine has bugged me ALL summer and now that harvest has passed, it has bugged me even more.  How do I begin this process earlier?  I don't want to be transplanting them for the first time into individual pots when it is time to be transplanting them into the ground, but my greenhouse isn't heated (yet) and the winter days are too cold before the middle of February.

I came across this great idea that I am going to do next week after our family relaxes from celebrating Thanksgiving.  It's winter sowing for annual flowers, using recycled plastic jugs as mini greenhouses!  Kevin Jacobs posted his method, which I happened to stumble across on and I'm so excited to try it and I wanted to share it with everyone else too!

My usual way of sowing seeds is by using styrofoam cups.  I poke holes in the bottom of the cups, fill with my soil-less mix, sprinkle the seeds and cover with more mix.  The filled cups are then placed in an incubator, which is set for the correct temperature depending on what seeds are being germinated. 

After the seeds have germinated, the cups are then placed in Dollar store plastic (clean and not used by cats) cat litter boxes with about a half inch of water in the bottom of them and then they will sit in a window to adjust to the temperature change for a few days before being placed in the greenhouse.  This system has not failed me since the beginning, but it's time to improve upon it for growing my flowers!

Kevin's method surpasses mine due to his use of the plastic jugs forming mini greenhouses.  I believe it will allow me to germinate seed much earlier and also allow the new plants to be placed in the greenhouse earlier. Maybe I should still put a small heater in there with them just to be on the safe side, but Woo Hoo!!  I now have a plan that I feel good about!!

By placing holes in the bottom of the plastic jugs, it still enables me to water from the bottom up, which I have found to be essential for keeping the roots moist and growing downward.  I love how each container can be labeled with the name of the plant and the date the seed was planted.  The plastic jugs also have room on the top part to also mark the days they germinated and the days they were placed in the greenhouse and anything else I feel the need to put on them!

My tomatoes and peppers will still have to wait a while until we actually have a heated greenhouse.....hopefully by this spring we'll be able to cover our new (new to us) frame that we were blessed to get from some of our wonderful Amish friends, and I'll be harvesting tomatoes this time next year!


  1. I love hearing about what you do on the farm, such richness. Being a city girl all my life it is very fascinating, although I know it is also hard work.
    Thank you

  2. This idea of doing it outside sounds way better than my failed attempts at trying to get seedlings to grow in my dim house.

  3. Hi there, this is my first visit and I'm already impressed at the way you've set the bar a little higher and found solutions to try, and sharing what has worked for you in the past.
    I wonder how much different our weather is from yours- we're in the southern Rockies (we get more snow and you get more ice?)
    It seems that many cold-weather crops would work along with your flowers, spinach, greens, etc?
    I can't wait to start experimenting, and I appreciate being able to see your methods.
    I plan to try starting seedlings this winter using the heat from our indoor broiler room and light from a window (only supplementary light if nec.) We can't put anything outdoors until late April-May!
    Good luck!


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