What is Winter Sowing?
It's basically to start Seeds outdoors when the ground is frozen and covered with Snow (usually, the method also works without snow). The seeds will rest as long as it's cold outside and start to grow when the weather is warm enough.
What Vegetables can be used for Winter Sowing?
I'm still experimenting a lot! The Vegetables that usually are very successful for me is:
What is good about Winter Sowing?
There are of course pros and cons of Winter Sowing. The main reasons why I like this method and use it a lot:
- Seeds tend to know when to start, and generally start earlier than I would dare to start them indoors.
- Plants that grow up outdoors get stronger, hardier and more compact then indoor Plants.
- The two first bullet points together give me an earlier harvest and allows me to get a full batch of vegetables before the second batch of vegetables are ready to be transplanted to the Garden.
- Also.. usually can't wait to start my Gardening, so it's nice to be able to start with something in January already.
- Since I've already done the first batch of sowing outdoors, I can focus on the second batch of seeds started indoors in February, March and April.
What risks are involved in Winter Sowing?
There are of course some risks... I think it's worth taking the risk since it's easy to start new seeds indoors/later if the outdoor sowings doesn't sprout. The risks I know are:
- Seeds are geting to wet with first/early spring rains and are being destroyed
- Seeds sprout to early and does not survive new freezing period, to avoid this - experiment by starting your Winter Sowings at different times. I've found out that I can start in the end of January or in February where I live.
How to start Seeds during Winter
I do my Winter Sowings in three different ways.. the method is basically the same, just applied in slightly different ways.
1. Winter Sowing in Containers
This is a nice method, since I can prepare everything indoors and move it outdoors as the last thing I do.
Use any type of container, I prefer to reuse Plastic Containers from fruit deliveries since they have holes in the bottom and a built in lid. Put some regular Soil in the bottom of the container.
Add Seeds, just as you would when you start seeds anytime.
Cover the Seeds with Soil. Do not water. Mark the sowings to make sure that you remember what type of seeds you started. Move outdoors, and add a layer of Snow on top. If there is no Snow, you can add it later or water later in the spring.
Put your Winter Sowing containers in a "Greenhouse". I use my Mini Greenhouses, but if you don't have any you can place them in a large Plasic see through Box with a lid. Just make sure to drill some holes in the sides for ventilation. If you want to know more about that, just ask me in a comment and I can share more information about how to make a simple "Greenhouse" like that.
This is what it looks like in my Mini Greenhouse right now.. there might be more Winter Sowings soon..
Here's a link to another post with Winter Sowings in a Container: Winter Sowing Cabbages
2. Winter Sowing in Raised Beds
This is my favourite method, and the one that I use the most. Pick a cold and sunny day to start your Winter Sowings.
Nice snow covering the Raised Bed
Start by scraping the Snow of. It does not have to be perfectly removed, just make sure it's not a thick layer of snow there..
Now add a layer of Soil on top. I keep bags with soil indoors to be able to start my sowings even if the ground is totally frozen. The added layer needs to be about 1-2 cm thick:
Add Seeds, just as you would do in the spring.
And add a second layer of soil on top of the seeds. Make that layer 1-2 cm thick, depending on what seeds you start (follow the instruction for that variety). Then add a layer of snow.
And cover with a plastic/glass lid or a Cold Frame. (Here are some links to my previous Cold Frame topics: Building a Cold Frame, DIY, My first ever Cold Frame, Winter Sowing in a Cold Frame)
If you are curious to see more about Cold Frame Gardening, follow this post and watch the Spinach grow: Winter Sowing Spinach.
3. Winter Sowing in a Tray
This is a method that I mostly use for Lettuce and other Green Leaves. I don't put that much effort into it, but usually it give me some really nice and early greens anyway.
Simply fill a tray with soil, sprinkle Seeds and add some more Soil on top.
Add Snow on top, and place the tray in a Greenhouse or create any type of plastic or glass lid for it:
That's it for now.. Just sit back and wait for it to sprout!