Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Winter Sowing

We are in the middle of a winter snow, so it is the perfect time to plant some flower seeds for spring, right?

I am going to grow a cottage garden this year. I have already established roses and will be adding more (I have to put the bareroot plants into the ground when the snow disappears). Last year, we took a visit to a lavender farm near Sequim and got lots of young starter plants that were put in the ground late summer.

So, I am adding poppies, delphium, hollyhocks, phlox, cosmos, salvia, and daisies.

Well, don't think I am crazy. I have just heard of a method of sowing seeds that is done in the winter. People have been doing this for a while and apparently it actually works. So I am going to take the plunge, take the chance, and see if any of my seeds (1) sprout, and (2) survive to spring. WinterSown.Org details how this can work.

In previous years, I have done the peat pots, the growing containers with the plastic lids, the sowing of seeds 6 weeks before our last frost, which is May 15 here. Usually I cannot wait until April 1 and make the mistake of sowing too early. My second mistake is in not having enough space to put in grow lights anywhere - space is at a premium here, and is mostly used in growing children. So inevitably my seeds sprout, get long and leggy searching for sun, and then die. The only thing that has ever survived this method are the amazingly sturdy calendulas.

The new method that I am itching to try is the winter sowing method. There are 2 online support groups that I have been reading that also detail the method, and everyone's particular variations:

I have been saving gallon-sized milk containers and water bottles. I will then sow the seeds, tape up the bottles where I have cut them to open them, and put them outside in the cold, in the snow. And then, voila, magic will happen. I hope. I have a very positive attitude about this because it couldn't be any worse than previous attempts at starting seeds. There is absolutely NOTHING! to lose. Except a few seeds.
In the Pacific Northwest, spring and summer gets going a little late. In my garden, the amount of sunlight that filters down through and around the evergreens is barely enough to grow tomatoes that are harvestable before the first frost. And corn gets around shoulder high, maybe. Even sunflowers struggle. So the sooner I can get those seedlings going, the better. I will journal how my garden grows this year and show you how the winter sowing method is working for me. Wish me luck!

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