• Wintersowing, a great January seed starting project

    by  • January 1, 2011 • Garden, How to

    Is there a gardener who doesn’t know about wintersowing? Well, now the first day of the year is a great time to start! Here is the general idea of how and why, and then tomorrow, I’ll tell about how I did with my first try.


    Sown Chocolate-scented Daisies

    Sown Chocolate-scented Daisies

    You can start seeds in January, using recyclable table grape or salad containers and easily transplant the seedlings when they germinate according to Nature’s timing. It’s a perfect project to do here in the Sierra Foothills and fun to watch the progress of your real little ‘Farmville’. The objective is that you have lots of inexpensive plants, vegetables, annuals and perennials, to transplant into your garden in the Spring!

    The wintersown method was developed by Trudi Davidoff. She didn’t have room inside to start seeds and decided to ‘go along with nature’ and place her seeds, sown in trays, outdoors to fend for themselves. Although not a novice gardener, she was a novice at growing seeds.  Being a believer in “recycle and reuse” she simply used Chinese food trays with lids to sow her seeds. She knew that many plants reseed and germinate outdoors without our intervention, but was still delighted to see that the seeds germinated at just the right time for each variety and had scads of seedlings to plant in her garden, already acclimated to the outside temperatures.

    The winter sown plants bloom right when they are supposed to. They go through less of a shock when transplanted because they’ve always been outside.

    Wintersown ‘Violet Dusk’ penstemon are tiny

    Wintersown ‘Violet Dusk’ penstemon are tiny

    From Trudi’s site:
    Winter Sowing is an easy germination method that starts many seedlings for just pennies. During Winter, seeds are sown into mini-greenhouses that you make yourself from recyclables. After sowing, the mini-greenhouse is placed outside to wait for the end of Winter. The seeds will begin to germinate at their own right time when weather warms.

    As your seedlings grow start widening the slits in the covers, once a week or so make the slits a little bit bigger, eventually you’ll have more open areas than covered and you’ll be able to transplant the seedlings into the garden because they are completely hardened off. I have put in seedlings that barely had their first set of true leaves and they thrived in the ground.

    Wintersown delphiniums

    Wintersown delphiniums

    When to start wintersowing?
    When the trees in your neighborhood have lost their leaves or after December 21, the Winter solstice, is the time to start your Wintersown project.

    Choosing seeds
    Look for seeds of flowers you normally see in your area. In the Sierra Foothills, some flowers that can be treated in this way are, wildflowers, grasses, herbs and winter vegetables like broccoli, lettuce, carrots and peas. Others are:

    • Calendula (Pot Marigold)
    • Clarkia
    • Eschscholzia (California Poppy)
    • Iberis (Candytuft
    • Lathyrus (Sweet Pea)
    • Matthiola (Stock)
    • Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist)
    • Papaver somniferum (Opium Poppy)
    • Viola x wittrockiana (Pansy)

    See more:
    Shared Photos from wintersowers
    More info?  Wintersown.org 
    On Dave’s garden Winter Sowing Forum


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.