Winter Sowing in Milk Jugs: A Fun, Inexpensive Way to Start Seeds Indoors
This winter, try starting some seeds indoors in recycled plastic milk jugs! This method of winter sowing is often referred to as Milk Jug Winter Sowing.
Winter sowing is a simple way to propagate growing plants from seed without the use of special equipment or lots of outdoor space. You can do it cheaply and easily on your windowsill at home! Winter sowing works because the weather has cooled down enough that you don’t have to worry about your seeds getting cooked by strong sunlight, but it’s still warm enough outside that you won’t need extra heat lamps inside. If done during this time, seeds that are started into small containers will be less likely to get overwatered while their roots begin growing into the soil.
What is Winter Sowing and how does it work?
Winter Sowing is a way of planting seeds to grow outside during the cold winter months. The method uses recycled containers, such as milk jugs, that trap moisture and allows light in for germination while protecting the young seedlings from harsh winds and cold temperatures.
The benefits of Winter Sowing
Starting your own seeds indoors has many advantages over buying nursery plants. For one, you can make sure to get exactly what you want – no more settling for what’s available! In addition, starting your own plants from seed allows you to collect and save heirloom or rare varieties that might not be sold at nurseries or garden centers. You don’t have to worry about plants that are plagued with the disease since you’re growing them yourself. Finally, you can save a lot of money by starting seeds for your gardening on a budget indoors during the winter months.
How to get started with Winter Sowing
There are a few key elements that make winter sowing work – plastic containers, potting mix, and more! These items can all be found at local thrift stores or on Craigslist. You’ll also need some seeds – either ones that you’ve collected from past plantings or ones purchased online or at your local nursery. Here’s how it works:
The best plants to start with Winter Sowing
Tender perennials like tomatoes and zucchini will not likely survive outdoors once nights turn cold, so leave those out of the winter sowing game. However, many hardy annuals and perennials will work well. Here’s a list of great plants to start using winter sowing:
What to do when your plants have germinated
Once the seeds sprout, you can move everything outside! After all danger of frost has passed in the spring, be sure to harden off the seedlings before planting them into your garden or containers. Put them outside during the day and bring them back inside at night for a few days until they’re acclimatized and ready to go out full time. Depending on what type of plant, it might take anywhere from one week to many months for seeds to grow into healthy seedlings. Be patient!
Tips for keeping your plants healthy during the winter months
Choose an indoor spot that is sheltered from strong winds but still gets plenty of indirect sunlight.
Place your containers outside during the day when temperatures are above freezing. Bring them back inside at night to prevent any damage from frost. If you have a cold frame or greenhouse, you can put your plants in there for easier acclimatization to outdoor conditions. Open windows and doors periodically to keep air circulating throughout your home without letting too much cold air in.
Be very careful not to overwater plants! The warmth inside may cause plants to grow more quickly than they do outdoors, so check soil moisture regularly with your finger or a tool like this one. Let the top inch of soil dry out before watering again thoroughly.
Covering your seedlings with paper bags or a plastic dome can help protect them from particularly strong gusts of wind.
FAQs about winter sowing
Q: Where can I find more information about Winter Sowing?
A: We have an entire articles section dedicated to winter sowing with lots of great beginner resources, including this article that answers some FAQs. You can also check out the book, Planting Outside in the Wintertime by Roberta Stout Shaffer. This book is now out of print but used copies are easy to find on sites like Amazon or eBay . If you’re looking for a newer version of the book, try Planting in the Shade , also by Roberta Stout Shaffer.
Q: Where can I buy seeds for Winter Sowing projects?
A: Seeds are available from many online sources – look for heirloom varieties and make sure you can get enough seeds to complete your project with some left over for next year.
Q: How long does it take for winter sowing to work?
A: It depends on the type of plant! Some hardy annuals like celosia sprout in weeks, others like parsley can take months. Generally speaking, plan on starting your seeds 8-10 weeks before you’d like them to be in the garden – earlier is better when it comes to germination time!
Q: Can I grow perennials in winter sowing projects?
A: For best results, save perennials and other tender plants for warmer weather. However, if you’d like to try growing one inside during the winter, we’ve had success with things like kalanchoe and siberian iris.
Q: Will plants grown through winter sowing end up stunted or deformed?
A: Not at all! Plants that grow indoors during the winter months will be just as healthy as plants outside in the summertime, though they may need a bit of time to adjust to outdoor conditions once put out into the garden. It’s like having an extra head start on your plants!*
Q: How much light does my plant need to grow well indoors?
A: While you can’t guarantee 100% darkness for your plants, try to avoid direct sunlight. Indirect sunlight is great because it gives off enough light without causing the leaves to burn. Indoor plants growing under artificial light will need a minimum of 8 hours a day.
Q: My seedlings haven’t germinated yet – am I doing something wrong?
A: Not to worry! Just like it can take time for outdoor seeds to sprout, the same is true in your winter sowing containers. Keep checking your milk jugs every few days and you’ll likely see little green shoots in no time at all. Remember not to overwater them because warm conditions indoors may cause them to start growing immediately!*
Winter Sowing is a fun, inexpensive way to start seeds indoors during the winter months. It uses recycled containers, such as milk jugs, that trap moisture and allow light in for germination while protecting the young seedlings from harsh winds and cold temperatures. The best plants to start with are hardy annuals and perennials that will survive outdoors during the winter. With just a few supplies from your backyard or local thrift store along with some patience, you’ll have beautiful plants ready to be transplanted into your garden next spring – all grown from scratch!