Container Gardening · Gardening

Winter Sowing Basics

What is that, you ask? Winter sowing is basically starting seeds in a somewhat protected environment outdoors . . .in the wintertime! This is a great time to start winter sowing. By starting seeds with this method, there is no need to harden off the seedlings, or deal with grow lights in the house. Winter sowing relies on the sun, snow and rain to naturally germinate the seeds when the time is right.

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Start your garden seeds in milk jugs outdoors in wintertime -

Seeds for Winter Sowing

Some perennial seeds can be sown during January through March, such as Black-eyed Susan, Bachelor Buttons, Hollyhocks, Columbine, Forget-me-not, Foxglove, Poppy and Shasta Daisy.

Annual seeds are sown in March or April. This a great way to start most of your annual flowers, along with most of your summer vegetables.

Winter Sowing Supplies

Are you ready to get started? You will need:

  • milk jugs without lids (or any transparent /semi-transparent plastic container)
  • seed starting mix (not potting soil)
  • a knife or scissors
  • tape or twist-ties
  • marker
  • seeds

How to Make Winter Sown Containers

  1. Starting near the bottom of the handle, cut around the milk jug about 4” up from the bottom.
  2. Leave a couple of inches uncut on the back side for a hinge. Cut or punch 8-10 holes in the bottom for drainage.
  3. Fill the bottom part with the seed starting mix and water well.
  4. When the water quits dripping out the drain holes, sprinkle your seeds on top of the soil and cover with a light sprinkling of soil.
  5. Pull the top section back in place and tape closed (duct tape works best). Or punch a couple of holes so that a twist-tie can be inserted to secure. See the video below.
  6. Label each jug with a marker on the outside and another small label of some sort on the inside.
  7. Set the planted jugs outside where they get rain, snow and a little sun, but have some protection from wind so that they won’t blow away. Against a building or fence is perfect.

These are essentially little greenhouses, so if it gets really warm outside, you may need to open the jugs up for a bit and water lightly. If it is going to be bitterly cold at night, once they germinate, you may need to throw a blanket or tarp over the jugs for added protection.

When spring arrives and temperatures remain above freezing, cut the top section off of each jug. The seedlings will be ready to transplant after they have their first true leaves (second pair).

Winter Sowing Video

The following video shows a large collection of Winter Sown containers and a handy way to close the jugs without duck tape. He also opens a container, so that you can see the growth.

If you plan on making a lot of Winter Sowing jugs, an easy way to store them until ready to use, is to tie a 6′ piece of string or rope to one milk jug handle, and tie a loop on the other end. Thread the end through the jug handles, then hang by the loop on a tree branch or a nail on a post or building. It’s easy enough to add additional jugs as they become available.

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How to start garden seed outside in wintertime -

What do you think? Have you heard of this before? Or tried it?

Happy Gardening!



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