24 February 2008

winter sowing

A few years back I read about something called winter sowing. Don’t know how I came across it, but probably through GardenWeb or Dave’s Garden or somesuch on the Internet.

A woman named Trudi Davidoff is the founder of the winter sowing movement (http://www.wintersown.org/), and she began doing it because (1) she didn’t have a lot of space in her house to start seeds indoors; (2) she didn’t have a lot of money to buy fluorescent lights, heat mats, and flats; and (3) she had a lot of seeds, many of which required stratification (in essence, they needed to “weather” a bit) in order to germinate. She thought why not sow a bunch of seeds in a more or less controlled environment outdoors and see what happened. The control came from sowing the seeds in flats, though these are not flats she bought at the garden center. She used empty plastic Chinese food containers, plastic gallon milk jugs, two-liter soda bottles . . . basically anything that could hold some soil and could be closed up a bit to form a mini-greenhouse.

As I say, I’ve been thinking about doing this for a year or two. So this year I’ve decided to take the plunge. I sent a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Trudi, and she sent me ten packets of seeds (Thanks, Trudi!), including blackberry lilies, hollyhocks, milkweed, nasturtiums, poppies, sunflowers, zinnias, lettuce, tomatoes, and watermelons. For an artist’s date on Wednesday I went to Home Depot on 23rd Street in Manhattan and spent about an hour at the seed display. And I bought more seeds: Rudbeckia, Festuca, some zinnias and marigolds, sunflowers (we had a bunch come up last year from around the bird feeders), and something called Cerinthe, which I don’t think can be winter sown, truth to tell, but I love the picture on the packet.

On Friday I called Alan and asked whether I could start some seeds on his roof. He said yes. Yesterday I went to the dump and asked to rescue some of the milk jugs people were dropping off. I loaded about 25 or so in Butch’s trunk, stopped off to buy a bag of soil, and then came home.

And today I planted the first three milk jugs with Rudbeckia, Festuca, and blackberry lily. I’ll leave them at Pleasant Hill and hope for the best. Maybe when it gets warmer I’ll bring them back to the city so I can keep a closer eye on them. Currently, the jugs are next to the herb garden, which gets a lot of sun in the morning and a little less later in the day. Fingers crossed, let’s see what happens!


  1. This is pretty cool stuff - keep us posted! Somehow seeds managed to do fine without humans around (though it is pretty amazing what we've done with hybrids) so I suspect they are up to the challenge.

  2. I know! I've got a bunch more to plant. I hope this week I'll do them all. I used to agonize when I'd the snowdrops coming up and then getting frozen again, but those plants is SMAHT.