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Soil. Seeds. Water. That's what you need.
It doesn't take much to start a batch of seedlings. You need a sowing medium of soil, compost, or a soilless mix usually made from peat moss and vermiculite or perlite and, you also need seeds and water. Mother Nature will provide the sunshine and most often she will provide rain or melting snows to keep the soil moist.
Types of Soil
Moisture and Watering
Sowing Hybrid Seeds
What is Stratification?
Foxglove seeds are the size of dust--just pat them into the soil surface.
Using Compost ~ Use compost for sowing after you kill the weed seeds.
I have used homemade compost as a medium for sowing seeds. Compost is great; it is rich in nutrients and retains moisture very well. The only drawback is that is can also container plenty of seeds, microbiota, pathogens and insects.
It is easy to kill the weed seeds and everything else in the compost. Fill a five gallone bucket halfway up with compost. Keep the bucket of compost outside but place it close to your kitchen or exit door. In the kitchen bring a full kettle of water to full boil. When the kettle is boiling, remove it from the flame and take it outside. CAREFULLY and SLOWLY, to avoid splashing, pour the boiling water into the bucket of compost.
Put a lid on the bucket; it doesn't have to be tight--it is just there to help hold the heat and steam in as long as possible. If you don't have a lid for the bucket use a large piece of aluminum foil crimped tight or use and old towel or blanket draped over and across the bucket top.
Types of Soil ~ Any potting medium will work. Mixes with soi for potting or soilless mixes both work fine.
Avoid soil bags that say they are 'Weed Free' because they can contain chemicals mixed into soil to prevent any weed seeds in that bag from germinating. They will also prevent the germination of the seeds you sow in that same soil.
Some bags contain moisture retentive crystals which absorb extra water from rain or your watering can, as the soil dries out from evaporation and warmth it draws moisture from the crytals helping to create a more consistantly moist seed environment. If you live in a wet winter region such as the American Pacific NorthWest, then using a moisture retentive soil will be no benefit to you and may even encourage the growth of green algae or mold inside the extra humid environment in your WS container. If you live in an arid winter region such as the American Southwest then using a moisture controlling soil will help you to keep the seeds from drying out at any crucial time of germination. You don't have to check frequently for soil moisture.
Some bags of soil container mild fertilizers that do not burn seedling roots. They are safe to use for Winter Sowing. Using fertilized soil for a sowing medium is a personal preference. I like to use it so that I don't have to do any fertilizing before transplanting the seedlings into their garden beds. These bags can be found in plain and organic formulas.
As with most things, the larger bag of soil costs less per quart or pound. And last of all, avoid cheap dollar- store soils, they are inconsistant with success.
Moisture and Watering ~ How can I tell when my seeds need moisture?
Flats that are sufficiently moist will show condensation inside their lids on above freezing days. Evaporation from warm sun will cause water droplets to form under the lid. Visually, this is an easy and quick way to see which flats need a drink of water. Make it a habit to always take a bottle of water outside with you when you go to check on your flats--if you need, you got it.
Winter Sowing Hybrid Seeds ~ Growing plants from seed saved from hybrid plants is lots of fun because you sometimes get variations that are quite wonderful You NEVER get little 'Frankenstein Monster' plants, lol.
Hybrids may or may not come true from seed. The flower colors might be somewhat different, the shaoe or the count of the petals more or less, the leaves more shiny or less pointed, the height may be different, or any other physical difference--if you notice anything at all. Sometime the next generation is similar enough to the parent plant that you would think they were both sown from the same seed batch; there is very little variation in physical appearance, disease resistance, bloom set and overall growth habit. You've got a 1:3 ratio that the seedlings can show a difference from the parent plant.
Plants grown from the seeds of a hybrid parent are a lot like the children of one couple. Sometimes they are identical where each child's face has the same features as all its siblings or sometimes each child is different and looks like any combination of its grandparents and great grandparents.
Enjoy growing the seeds of hybrid plants. When the seedlings grow to maturity you may find that you are in love with the whole batch or some may be more appealing than others to you. Keep your favorites and share or compost the rest.
What is Stratification? ~ It's a means of softening the seed coat so it can germinate.
Stratification is a complicated process to break dormancy in seeds requiring mulitple periods of cold and warm temperature fluctuations while sown into a moist sowing medium to provoke germination. Sometimes it is as simple as soaking away the coating on the seed or sanding it down with a nail file. Learn more about stratification and timetables here.
From the USDA Thesaurus ~ Winter Sowing Method. A propagation method used throughout the winter where temperate climate seeds are sown into protective vented containers and placed outdoors to foster a naturally timed, high percentage germination of climate tolerant seedlings.
This page last modified on Monday, November 21, 2016