Monday, March 2, 2009
This winter has been the coldest, longest, snowiest, blowiest that I can remember. Oh, 2002-2003 winter had a lot of snow, especially in February but 2008-2009 has it beat hands down! (Heavily gloved hands, I might add! ) Sure, we had a little mild break a couple of days ago when it flirted with 50. But temps plummeted again and it's 8F right now and only going up to 18. And at this moment a bitter wind is driving from the North at 20-30 mph with higher gusts. So what' a garden gal to do?
Plot and plan. Dream and scheme. And, believe it or not, plant seeds outside - right now!
Remember how late last Fall I stumbled into the GardenWeb forums? My first foray landed me in a real pile of crap - figuratively speaking that is. The Soil Forum is all about compost and never have I met such a nice bunch of wackos (as they affectionately refer to themselves). Near the end of the year you may remember that I next found the Cottage Garden forum. Well, as winter deepened, both forums slowed a bit, so I did some stepping out, checking out other forums. One day I found the Winter Sowing forum. Whazzat?
Come to find out Winter Sowing is a planting method that got its start at the turn of the century. (Kinda weird that 2000 could be referred to like that...all my life 'turn of the century' had always meant the year 1900). But I digress.
I spent a little time reading the wonderfully informative FAQ page on the WS forum (written by Trudi Davidoff of WinterSown.Org) and I was off (even more so than usual *heh*). What IS Winter Sowing? To quote Trudi:
"Winter Sowing is an easy germination method that starts many seedlings for just pennies. During Winter seeds are sown into mini-greenhouses that you make yourself from recyclables. After sowing, the mini-greenhouse is placed outside to wait for the end of Winter. The seeds will begin to germinate at their own right time when weather warms. "
Translation: You make a bunch of mini-greenhouses out of recycled material: milk jugs, water containers, 2-liter soda bottles, lasagna pans. If a container can hold at least 4" of potting mix and you can poke holes in the bottom and put a clear or opaque cover over the top, you're in business. (Be warned - some of us do not seem to have recyclable items at hand, so surprising forays into dumpsters are not unheard of.)
Well, what's not to like? It's got all the elements of a good time: easy, pennies, recyclables. And some real gardening to do in the dead of winter!! Woohoo. And you meet the nicest people - the WS forum gang! Thanks to these kind and generous people, through exchanges and outright gifting, I received a plethora of flower seeds (perennials and annuals), the familiar as well as the unknown to entice me into trying Winter Sowing. Ohboyhowdy!
The result is this nice collection (above) of WS containers now frozen solid on my deck. FROZEN SOLID. And yet, that's the way it's got to be. Lots of seeds need to be winter stratified (freeze, thaw, refreeze, etc.) So how is WS any different than just casting seeds right into the garden in Fall and walking away? By sowing seeds into containers the seeds are protected from critters/bugs that might eat the seed; preventing rain/snow melt from washing away the seeds, bypassing hostile garden conditions (winter traffic, etc), competition from other seeds, stuff like that.
But with bit of WS protection, a high percentage of seeds will sprout. A great bonus is that these seedlings develop into hardier plants than, say, those sprouted in a basement under grow lights then have to be 'hardened' off before going into gardens. WS babies are ready to hit the ground running!
Right now all these containers are sown with hardy perennials - tough stuff that can take winter. In a couple of weeks I'll be sowing tender perennials and hardy annuals. Then the 'regular' annuals...and..uh oh. I think I'm going to need more empty containers.
Dumpster diving - don't leave home if you can't make bail! ;-)
For more WS adventures, visit the "Plant Propagation" link on the sidebar. (Post dates are listed on the link.)