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Start to Finish. We Winter Sow During the Season of WInter.
Sometimes it is hard to be patient and hold off starting your Winter Sowing. Starting seeds too early may mean that a late-season warm spell could cause some early germination. These early seedlings are not hardy enough to survive winter; they will perish. The Winter Sowing season begins with the Winter Solstice, usually on December 21st, the shortest day of the year.
It Doesn't Snow Here
It Doesn't Snow Here! We don't get snow in winter. Can I still Winter Sow?
When Can I Start?
Sow Only at Winter's Beginning?
Germination While It's Freezing
When Should I Stop?
Which seeds can I sow?
You can sow almost any annual, and most certainly all biennials and perennials that are suited to growing in your warmer zone. Your regional wildflowers are always a good choice. Look for 'sub-tropicals' when you search for seeds, you can even try a few tropical seeds, but if you do not have confidence in sowing tropical seeds then hold back some seeds to start inside or outside after spring arrives. Compare the germination and seasonal growth between your Winter Sown and warmer sown seed and learn from your efforts.
As your Winter is so very short I would suggest placing the seed flats outside where they will get direct light only in the morning or afternoon; brilliant, overhead sunlight at midday can be too intense causing the air inside the containers to super-heat which will steam the seeds in their soil, thus destroying their nucleus. They have been solarized, they will not sprout.
Winter Sowing is done during the season of winter. If you start too soon there is a concern of a late-season warm spell that will stimulate some seeds to germinate prematurely. They will not be hardy enough to survive the coming freezing temperatures and will perish.
The Winter Solstice marks the return of lengthening daylight hours. It typically falls on December 21st of each calendar year. On that calendar date the night is at its greatest length in hours.
The Winter Solstice is celebrated in many nations around the globe with feasting and ceremonies which often include candles and bonfires to guide and illuminate the way for the sun to return. Traditional foods served on the holiday often contain seeds; in ancient times the Solstice was also associated with both fertility and harvest. Cooked grains, legumes and seeded cakes should be part of your Winter Solstice holiday meal.
Our Winter Sowing season starts on the Winter Solstice. Winter Sowers can celebrate the day by sowing four sets of seeds. Each set will honor Remembrance, Life, Mother Nature, and Faith.
Do I have to sow all the seeds at the beginning of winter?
No! Certainly not! You can sow seeds all at the beginning if you like but you also don't have to do that. With Winter Sowing you can sow at your own pace throughout the winter season. I do my Solstice Sow seeds usually on December 21st but some years I've been out visiting or too busy with family festivities. So, it gets put off a bit but I still will sow a set of seeds that show my respect for this world--I do them when I get the chance.
My personal preference order is to sow the hardwoods--trees, shrubs and woody perennial vines--at the beginning of winter. Trees are part of Solstice Sow; getting these flats sown and outside early on is easy to remember, most of these are outside by end of January. After that I devote time sowing to perennials and biennials which remain semi-evergreen in winter--I like these as they are often among the earliest sprouters. Next, I sow hardy perennials and annuals and cold-season veggies, then towards end of winter I sow seeds of frost-intolerant tender annuals, marginally hardy perennials, and some summer veggies like tomatoes and peppers, squash, gourds and beans.
That's how I do it. I no longer sow as many tree and shrub seeds as I did years ago--I now have a yard full of them. I love seeing more birds and butterflies and sow more plants that attract them. Experience will be your guide as you learn what sows and transplants well for you, each year you succeed with higher germination rates because you are learning through hands-on observation.
The seeds are germinating! But we are still getting freezes!
Amazingly, just when winter is about to break, while the days are warming but you are still getting nightly freezes, the first of your flats begin to germinate. When I very first saw this I thought the seedlings were goners, that they would die, but instead they thrived. The seeds naturally know when to sprout, they know when to come up; it is part of their genetics.
Some typically early sprouters include Dianthus, Poppies, Daisies, Yarrow, Marguerite, Hollyhocks, Asters, Cornflowers, Cranesbill, Leafy Greens, Cabbages, Peas, and various seeds in Wildflower Blends.
You stop when it gets too warm at night. Some seeds really need to have that cold weather to give them a period of dormancy, they need to sleep before they wake.
How do I tell when to stop?
Go outside in the evening wearing just a long-sleeve shirt for your top. Do you feel that is you were also wearing a sweater or jacket and scarf you would feel much more comfortable? If you need that sweater and scarf you can keep on Winter Sowing.
Do you think that wearing a sweater and scarf would make you uncomfortaby too warm? If you don't need the extra layers then you can stop Winter Sowing. It is now too warm at night, seeds that need a period of dormancy in cold weather won't get it and they may not germinate.
Personally, I find the December Holdiay Season is very hectic for me, so I wait for the bulk of the parties and hoopla to be over and done before I start my Winter Sowing, that way I am not feeling rushed or bothered by other things on my mind. I like to relax while I'm making my containers and sowing them; I'll put on some favorite music, my dinner is in theslow-cooker or I will take a prepared casserole from the freezer to heat in the oven--I am calm and at ease. I don't want any stres so I can enjoy what I am doing.
So, how can you tell when Ma Nature has signaled that start of Winter where you live?
Take a look outside. Look at the deciduous trees in your neighborhood, Deciduous trees drop their leaves in autumn, rest througout winter, then in spring leaf out at that varieties own unique time. When the vast majority of these trees have dropped their leaves autumn has ended. There are some cold regions where leaves may begin to color and drop completelybefore the middle of October. Even so, just in case of a freak warm spell, hold off on sowing your seeds until the Winter Solstice which is usually on or about Decmber 21st of the calendar year.
Seeds of Remembrance should be seeds of flowers that remind us of someone we knew and loved but is now gone from our lives forever.
Seeds of Life should be seeds of plants that make fruit or nectar and invite birds, butterflies and other pollinators to our gardens.
Seeds fo Trees should be sown to honor Mother Natrure. Trees will help clean the air we breathe, reduce excess sun on the soil surface, and provide shade for our heads on any hot summery day.
Seeds of Faith are from plants that are a zone beyond ours in warmth; they thrive where winter is milder. Sowing them reminds us to take a 'Leap of Faith' in our hearts and trust that Mother Nature is capable of miracles.
Winter fun in the warmer sun!
This page last modified on Saturday, December 10, 2016
Solstice Sow ~ WinterSown's Solstice Sowing Ceremony