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The Magic of Winter Sowing: A Guide to Starting Seeds Outdoors

As winter comes to an end and spring is just around the corner, gardeners everywhere are itching to get their hands dirty and start planting. But what if you could get a head start on your gardening season by starting your seeds outdoors in the winter?


This is where the magic of winter sowing comes in. Winter sowing is a simple and cost-effective way to start seeds without the need for indoor space or expensive equipment. In this guide, we'll explore the benefits of winter sowing and provide step-by-step instructions to help you get started. Whether you're an experienced gardener or a beginner, winter sowing is a technique that's definitely worth trying.


Winter sowing methods with milk jugs
Photo by Janelle Dudzic Photography

Choosing Your Seeds for Winter Sowing

Choose seeds that are suitable for winter sowing. Not all plants are ideal for this method, but many annuals, perennials, and vegetables are. Look for plants that are cold-hardy and can tolerate the fluctuations in temperature that come with winter sowing. You can also refer to seed packets or consult with your local nursery for recommendations.


This year at Horse Hill Flowers we are winter sowing Cosmos, Larkspur Sweet Peas, and Teddy Bear Sunflowers.


Selecting Containers for Winter Seed Sowing

Select containers for sowing. Winter sowing can be done in a variety of containers, including milk jugs, soda bottles, plastic deli containers, or seed trays. Whatever container you choose, make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom.


At Horse Hill Flowers we like using milk jugs. To prepare our containers we cut the containers in half (leaving a small hinge) and poke several drainage holes in the bottom of each container.


Milk jugs cut open to use for winter seed sowing
Photos by Janelle Dudzic Photography

Prepare the containers. Cut the containers in half (leaving a small hinge) or poke several drainage holes in the bottom of each container.


Next we fill containers with soil. Use a good-quality seed-starting mix and fill each container about two-thirds full.


Sowing Your Winter Seeds

We recommend following the planting instructions on the seed packet and sow the seeds directly into the soil. For larger seeds, you can space them out evenly in the container. For smaller seeds, simply sprinkle them over the soil surface.


Cover with a thin layer of soil or vermiculite.


Sweet pea seeds using the milk jug winter sowing method
Photo by Janelle Dudzic Photography

Closing & Storing Your Winter Sowing Containers

Close the lid of each container (if using a milk jug or soda bottle, tape the lid closed) and label them with the plant name and the date of sowing.


Place the containers outside. Find a spot outside that is sheltered from harsh winds and extreme temperatures but still receives some sunlight. You can place the containers on the ground, on a table, or on a shelf.


Winter sowing seeding method with milk jugs
Photo by Janelle Dudzic Photography

Check the containers regularly to make sure the soil stays moist but not waterlogged. The seeds should germinate and grow slowly over the winter months. As the weather warms up in spring, you can start to gradually open the containers to acclimate the seedlings to outdoor conditions.


Once the seedlings are big enough and the weather is suitable, you can transplant them into your garden or into larger pots. Enjoy the fruits (and flowers) of your winter sowing labour!


Winter sowing is a magical and simple method for starting seeds outdoors. This technique allows gardeners to get a head start on their planting season, even in the dead of winter. With a few basic supplies and some patience, you can watch your seeds germinate and grow into healthy, robust plants. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a beginner, winter sowing is a great way to try your hand at starting seeds outdoors.


So, go ahead and give it a try - you might just be amazed at the results!

With love always,


Lynn & Janelle

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