WinterSown.Org

We'll help you grow.

Contact Information:

Trudi Davidoff,c/o
WinterSown Educational
1989 School Street
East Meadow, NY 11554

Phone: 516-794-3945
Fax: No. We cancelled our fax line.

Email:wintersown@optonline.net

WinterSown at Facebook:
Winter Sowers Discussion Group

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.

Sowing Depth
Using Compost
Types of Soil
Moisture and Watering
Sowing Hybrid Seeds
What is Stratification?

Sowing Depth

I have traded for many of my seed packets and sometimes the sowing depth is not included on the packet. What is the correct depth that I should sow my seeds? I sow my seeds twice as deep as their thinnest dimension.

As examples:

Foxglove seeds are the size of dust--just pat them into the soil surface.
Columbine seeds are the size of fleas--just pat them into the soil surface.
Grasses are small and narrow--you may rub them into the soil surface, barely covering them with soil.
Marigold
seed may be a half-inch long but it is narrow and flat--you may rub them into the soil surface barely covering with soil.
Cornflower seed is about a sixteenth of an inch wide--sow them an 1/8th inch under the soil surface.
Next size up would be Coneflower seed--sow those about a 1/4 inch under the soil surface.
Pea and Corn seeds are much bigger and can be a quarter inch across or wider--sow these about a 1/2 inch deep.
Lima Beans are a little bigger--sow them about 3/4 of an inch deep.
Scarlet Runner beans are quite plump--they should be sown a full inch down.
An Acorn? --Well, hmm, how deep is squirrel depth?

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.

Let the bucket of compost sit overnight so it is cool when used the next day. You can now use the compost for sowing seeds confident that the weed seeds have been sterilized and all microbiota, pathogens and insects destroyed by the heat of the boiling water.

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.

If you are not seeing condensation it could be that the lids have too many vents for air transpiration and too much moisture is escaping with the breeze. It could also be that the flat has way too many drainage holes and loses water quickly through its base. Both of these problems can be adjusted with packing tape. Rub the surface dry and then stick on a piece of tape to close some vents and/or drains.

Moist soil is dark in color, it's similar (to me) to the color of a baked very-fudgy brownie--it looks dark and moist. Dry soil looks dry. It is a lot lighter in color and it looks like the dry contents of the brownie mix box. It's lighter in both color and weight.
 
To add more water to a flat remove its cover and amd gently dribble in some cold water. Do not slosh the water onto the soil surface as that will dislodge the sown seeds or seedlings from the soil. Take the time to give the soil a good gentle soaking; any excess water will seep out through the drainage slits. Replace the lids promptly and securely. To add more water to a jug simply tilit the bottle at a slight angle and slowly dribble water into the bottle so that the water gently runs down the inside the bottle wall. Pouring slowly will keep the water from splashing the soil surface.

A large amount of flats may be watered at the same time by nesting them into a kiddie pool that has been pre-filled with a couple of inches of water. Place the flats gently into the water to avoid splashing. The flats will soak up water through their drainage slits, moistening the soil. Remove the flats after the soil is consistantly dark and moist. Afterwards, tip the remaining water out of the kiddie pool and store on its side to discourage mosquito breeding in any standing water. If you are travelling or must be away on a hot spring day you can help your plants survive the heat by moving them to a shady site and placing them in the kiddie pool with an inch of water for the day.  For longer lasting watering set-ups use an automated sprinkler set on your outdoor spigot. Hook up a hose and sprinkler to water the flats during the hottest hours of the days which will cool the seedlings and keep them moist and thriving. These automated sprinkler timers can be found in the sprinkler and hose aisle at the hardware store.

Water gently or you will splash away the seeds and seedlings.
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.
Monstraflora trudimakus

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.
 
Learn more about Mendel Genetics.

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.
 
Or you can Winter Sow.

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

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