Winter sowing doesn’t mean planting seeds in the snow–it’s an ingenious method of starting seeds in winter and early spring, without the need for an expensive indoor light setup. You use the sun (which is free) and repurposed containers (also virtually free).
Many types of containers can be used. They should have a vented, clear lid, drainage holes in the bottom, and a large opening for easy access to the seedlings. (The large opening can be cut into the container and then taped shut until transplanting time.)
The most commonly used container seems to be the plastic gallon milk jug. To prepare the milk jug, wash the inside thoroughly (possibly by putting a drop of dish detergent inside, filling it halfway with water, capping it and shaking it vigorously) and rinsing it out. When it’s dry, cut it according to the directions below using scissors or a sharp knife. (I actually start the cut by puncturing it with a knife, then use scissors to cut it the rest of the way.) Here’s where to make the cut:
Starting at a level just below the handle and to one side, make a horizontal cut all the way around the jug EXCEPT for the space directly below the handle itself. Leave that part uncut so that it creates a “hinge.” See the picture below.
I start saving up containers a few weeks before it’s time to use them, and have been known to raid the neigbors’ recycle cans (although at least one family member has delicately suggested that the practice is illegal). Once the jugs are cut open, they can be partially “nested” to reduce the amount of space they requre in storage:
Milk jugs are not the only option. Any of these can be turned into a WS container:
Use what you have! There’s even a way to use zip lock baggies! I plan to start this year’s Winter Sowing in a couple of days, and will document how to convert these containers into seed starting flats.
Meanwhile, for a thorough explanation of Winter Sowing, check out the website of the woman who invented it. http://www.wintersown.org
And finally, here is a picture of my absolute favorite Winter Sowing container…
…and not just because it contains a Grand Slam. Denny’s take-out containers have clear vented dome lids and styrofoam-like bottoms that are easily punctured for drainage. After its contents are consumed (yum!) and it takes a bath in the dishwasher, this container will be ready to do double duty as a seed starting flat. Can’t wait for Tomato Seed Winter Sowing Day later this week.