Winter Sowing Vegetable Seeds

I have the winter blues!  I decided to start my vegetable seeds over the week-end.  Planning my garden takes the blues away and gives me a head start with strong, healthy veggie plants.  Last year I used heating mats and grow lights.  I had a 90% germination rate, but it takes lots of time and space to nurture the seedlings. 

This year, I decided to try winter sowing.  I've been saving plastic liter, juice and milk bottles.  Anything that I can cut and punch holes in the bottom for drainage.  I started about 20 bottles over the week-end.  Tomatoes, dill, zucchini, squash, sunflowers and petunias.  Tomatoes, dill and petunias reseed and grow.  Research showed that the squash and zucchini will also do well.  l will continue winter sowing through-out February.  I'll do a few tomatoes, cukes and green beans inside.  Just in case I don't have a successful germination rate from the winter sowing; however, gardeners swear by this method.  I'm sold! 

If you're wondering how I created these miniature greenhouses, here it goes.  Wash your bottles in hot soapy water and rinse well.  I used a box cutter to cut around the bottles.  Leave an inch on the bottle for a hinge.  Add drainage holes in the bottom of your bottle.  I used a glue gun on the milk bottles, but this proved unsuccessful on the liter and juice bottles.  The gun wouldn't penetrate.  I used the box cutter and make slits in the bottom. 

Add 2 - 3 inches of seed starting mix to the bottom of the bottles as directed on the package.  I use Miracle Gro Seed Starting Mix.  It's a little expensive, but I had a great germination rate last year with the mix.  I also use warm water when mixing the soil.  Place your seed on top of the soil and cover lightly.  Wrap the bottle with duct tape.  I purchased mine from the dollar store.  Mark the bottles with a permanent marker, which I purchased from the dollar store too. 

Some gardeners say disregard the bottle top and some say leave the top on.  I decided to leave mine on for now.  I moved the bottles to the deck, but will eventually move them to the picnic table. If you leave the top off, place them in an area that wont' receive a lot of rain.  Let them go until to spring.  At that time you should have sprouts that will need water.  As they grow, you will have to remove the top.  These little babies will already be hardened off, which is a step you will have to take if you start seedling inside.

Stay tuned for additional posts on winter sowing.  If you are a gardener and use the winter sowing method, please share your experience.