January 26, 2010

Winter sowing or recycled seed starters

Seeds in the Snow

I learned about winter seed sowing from some fellow gardeners at the Middle Tennessee Plant Swap last spring. I loved the idea and began saving clear plastic bottles as soon as I got home. Last week I received my order of heirloom seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and couldn't wait to get them started.

I got out my saved bottles. Juice bottles, 2 liter cola bottles and milk jugs all work well. Remove the labels but don't worry if you can't get them all off, they will serve as shade when the weather gets warm. Start by cutting around the bottle about 1/3 of the way down from the top. Don't cut all the way around, leave about an inch connected to form a "henge'.

Now fill the bottom with any potting soil mix - you don't need moisture additives or fertilizer. Place your seeds on top and cover with soil according to the depth recommended for the type of seeds you are planting. moisten but don't drench the soil. I made my own labels and laminated them.

Now tape the bottle back together, screw the lid on and place outside and let nature take it's course. My friends who do this every year promise that they have seen their bottles covered with snow and ice but as soon as the weather begins to warm, these little mini greenhouses will warm that potting soil and the little seedlings will pop up. Watch to be sure they don't get too hot. Open the tops on warm bright sunny days - don't forget to replace them if cold nights are expected. The bottles will get much warmer than the outside air so watch and be sure the plants don't burn. When all possibility of frost is past and your seedlings are off to a good atart, fold back the henge, harden off the seedlings for a week or two and plant in the ground or pot up to larger containers.

My husband made a rack for my bottles to keep them from blowing over. It gets pretty windy here on my hill in Tennessee. I can't wait to see how these do. I must admit I saved some seeds in case I kill all these! I'll post the pictures when the first seedlings come up. If this works, I'll never mess with lights and seed starting racks again!


  1. This is so cool! I can't wait to see how it works out for you. What kinds of seeds are you starting?

    Would you like some asters or black eyed susans I saved?

  2. Oh, I'm always open for new plants. Email me and we can arrange it. : )

    I planted a bunch of different tomatoes, sweet peppers, squash, zennias, Jobes tears and probably other things that I have forgotten.

  3. THAT is such a cool idea!! I'm gonna have to try it, as I have completely run out of room for indoor seed starting trays anyhow. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Be sure to remove the screw on lid when you plant and leave it off. The container needs some air movement and if the sunlight hits a totally closed container, it will become way too hot inside and cook the seeds or tiny seedlings.

    I had snow and ice inside a 2 liter container that had forget me nots that had already germinated and they came through just fine. It's a great way to germinate seeds and have good, strong, sturdy little seedlings.

    Best of luck with your WSown seeds.


  5. Also, don't forget to cut holes in the bottoms of your containers for proper drainage! I use my soldering iron outside to melt my holes. I also add additional holes to the top for ventilation!