Try Winter Sowing for a Great Garden Next Year


Amy HillMost gardeners look forward to winter as a time to rest, plan, and daydream about next year’s garden using the tempting seed catalogs that begin to fill our mailboxes in the holiday season. We don’t typically think of winter as a time to get our gardens started. But if your daydreams involve filling those annoying holes in the border where plants haven’t filled out as expected, or perhaps extend to creating that cutting garden you’ve always wanted, winter is the time to get started. If you have a seed packet, some seed-starting mix,  and a place outside where you can store a container, you can use winter sowing to get a jump on next year’s growing season.

winter sowing seed packets

Winter sowing is a technique that uses the plants’ own evolved mechanisms for reproduction. In the wild, plants reproduce by dropping seed onto bare ground, where it experiences the rain, ice, snow and temperature fluctuations of the dormant season. When spring arrives and temperatures begin to regulate, the seeds break dormancy and send out a radicle, or root hair, followed by seed leaves, called cotyledons. The plants carry on their life cycles without the intervention of a gardener.

Many plants, both annual and perennial, vegetable and ornamental, can be propagated using this technique. It can be done gradually, as the gardener has time. The best time to start is anytime after the winter solstice.

How to Winter Sow:

1. Repurpose containers found around your house. Plastic gallon or half-gallon milk jugs cut in half horizontally, takeout containers (clamshell or two-part containers with clear lids), and plastic tubs from prewashed salad greens make excellent winter sowing containers. Using a knife or pair of scissors, make several slits or holes in both the bottom and the lid of the container. The bottom holes provide drainage; the top holes allow water to penetrate while protecting your seeds from hungry foragers.

7/28/2015 3:36:26 AM

Before reading the post, I don't think winter is a season for sow. And the regular sow timing leaves a busy spring and summer. With the tips shared in this post, we can also sow in winter to leverage the unbalance of work in other seasons. Good post. Besides, biocompanies like BOC Sciences (, are developing genetically modified plants which can resist can low temprature.

4/13/2015 2:18:45 AM

Thank you! I think your idea is brilliant. Maybe I'd try this method next time.

10/9/2014 12:49:02 PM

Great idea Amy and can't wait to try. I'm having difficulty finding "soilless" mix locally. Is it packaged with that specific wording or should I be looking at the ingredients on the seed starting mix I do find? Thanks in advance.

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