This year, why not skip the grow lights, heat mats, and constant babysitting of seedlings, and give winter sowing a try. The basic principle of winter sowing is to "let nature do the nurturing." All you have to do is sow your seeds in some plastic containers, set them outside in a sunny location, and Mother Nature will take care of the rest.
There's so much to love about winter sowing. There's no need for indoor space, cumbersome lighting systems, constant monitoring of moisture and temperature, and moving plants to larger pots before they ever even see the light of day. Winter sown seedlings are hardier and perfectly acclimated to outdoor growing conditions by the time they are ready to be transplanted. And because they don't have to wait for the snow to melt, they are able to get the earliest possible start once the weather starts to warm.
Once the weather starts to warm and Mother Nature sprouts your seeds, watch them carefully. If you don't see condensation on the sides of your containers, you may need to add water occasionally to keep growing conditions moist. If the soil seems too moist, or the weather is getting too warm, remove the duct tape and open the top of your containers to give the seedlings some air. When it's time to transplant, break off hunks of seedlings and plant them directly in the ground. The best part? They will already be hardened off and perfectly acclimated to your garden's growing conditions.
The best seeds for winter sowing include plants that are hardy to your zone. This includes hardy annuals, perennials, biennials, shrubs, trees, herbs, and even some vegetables. Seeds that need cold stratification to germinate or plants that self-sow easily are also good candidates. For more information on winter sowing, including a list of appropriate seeds, visit: www.wintersown.org
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com
I tried this one year but did not have a lot of luck. I belong to a gardening board and someone else in my zone tried it and they had excellent luck. So it could be that my seeds were not viable.
I live in zone 5. When do I start winter sowing? I have a huge sunny south facing deck.
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