Winter Sowing Family Project 2013

by Julie

Lettuce March 28 2013

Lettuce March 28 2013

Lettuce March 28 2013
Lettuce April 21 2013
Wildflowers April 28 2013
Nicholas with Winter Sowing Family Project April 28 2013

Winter Sowing Family Project 2013

What is winter sowing? That was my first reaction when I stumbled upon a pin on Pinterest this past November.

The photo showed several milk containers grouped together in the snow. My inquisitive mind certainly wanted to know more.

To my amazement the pin was about a gardening concept called winter sowing. I immediately started Googling the topic and similar instructions. We decided to follow the instructions outlined in Container Gardening For You, because we were familiar with the materials and the steps seemed easiest to follow.

It described the science behind the concept and, once I explained this to my husband, he was on board. We were going to winter sow! It solved one of our biggest gardening dilemmas with living in Connecticut, the short growing season.

During the busy holiday season we marked our calendar in great anticipation of our winter sowing project. Everyone in the family saved their half gallon, 2 liter, plastic juice and 2 gallon spring water containers for us.

As the garage accumulated a stock pile of empty containers, I began rummaging through my gardening supplies trying to locate leftover seeds from the summer.

2013 was upon us and that very first January weekend the project began. There were a few skeptics, but we are known for trying strange ideas on occasion with some success.

My husband cut the containers and drilled the holes after our son helped me clean each one with hot, soapy water. He heated the drill bits in the oven, which made the process much quicker. Then the three of us added the soil, seeds and water as directed.

The containers were labeled, taped shut and placed in the sunny area we typically grow our garden. The winter was really brutal this year, with one storm dumping three feet of snow! Despite that, and some below average temperatures, we had sprouts by March. This was of course very exciting for us!

We have discovered some things with this project. First, I give my husband credit for grouping the containers in the garden by type of seed and noting them on a diagram. The permanent marker we used to label the containers wore off in most cases, so we could have been faced with the challenge of identifying the sprouts.

Next, we discovered in March that we forgot to make a large enough hole in the 2 gallon spring water container. Unlike the other containers that had a spout on top, this one was located on the bottom, so we never removed the cap. The small slit we decided to cut certainly could not have let enough moisture in!

To our delight we saw the greatest growth in that one container. We are making a point to ask my husband's grandmother to save ALL of those water containers, because they were the best. Oh, and those clear juice plastic containers did not produce any sprouts for us. These were the only containers that were not opaque ironically.

As far as what we tried to grow, the winners so far have been sweet tomatoes, regular and mixed lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, watermelon and wildflowers. The sweet peppers are struggling. Our cosmo flowers and beef steak tomatoes are missing in action.

Now that we have our containers opened for the spring, we are finding that the soil dries far more quickly. I really think it was easier to maintain a constant moisture level with the containers closed.

Next year we will wait a bit longer to open them, because a few plants, such as the carrots, wilted a bit after a day of sun exposure without the humidity it was used to in the container.

We are watching the weather and as soon as the threat of frost decreases our plants will be in their new home, the raised garden bed. Our family's number one advice is to keep an open mind and do not allow others to make you believe something cannot be done.

Experiment with different containers, a variety of seeds, and have fun observing nature's little miracles. Our next family project? A greenhouse... can't wait!

Editor's reply: we are so delighted that winter sowing has worked out this well for you.

It's great to hear from a reader. It makes us feel great to know that people are following our advice, and having success.

Please come back later in the year and show us how your wintersown plants turn out -- do they produce fruit earlier, or more of it?

We wish you luck for the growing season!

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