Like many, I'm ready for spring and gardening but I've recently learned that we don't have to wait for the ground to warm up, all you have to do is bundle up, brave the cold and start seeds in the winter, really? Yes, you can get a jump on spring planting right now! I'm sharing a friends post from her site on winter sowing and I'm curious enough to try it!
Winter Sowing: Get a Jump on Spring
By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz –
Many gardeners know the benefits of planting crops, such as garlic, in the early fall and winter months, but did you know that many common herb, flower and vegetable seeds can be treated this way, too? Winter sowing is the age-old practice of planting seeds directly in the garden sometime between late fall and mid-winter. Because they are living organisms, seeds have the ability to sense the environment around them, which allows them to determine when weather conditions are just right for germination. As a result, winter sown seeds often germinate earlier, have higher rates of germination and have less problems with seedling diseases such as damping off. They also tend to grow faster and stronger than their indoor-sown counterparts, which allows gardeners to get a jump on the growing season.
The origins of winter sowing lie in the simple and natural processes that seed-bearing plants have used for millions of years. Once a plant’s seeds or fruit are ripe, they either simply fall to the ground or are eaten or otherwise carried away by various creatures and eventually wind up on the ground where they spend the winter in a dormant state, germinating only when conditions for the growth of the new plant are just right. This is how nature gardens.
Of course, it didn’t take long for humans to recognize this natural processes and learn how to effectively mimic it.
I’ve been practicing the art of winter sowing for over twenty years. Normally, I simply sow the seed where I would like the final plant to grow, such as in an existing garden row or flower bed. When the seedlings emerge in spring, they are thinned and/or transplanted as desired.
This method has several advantages over starting seeds indoors, including less time, money, and space. Winter sowing also frees the gardener from many of the early spring chores, such as cultivating and sowing, which are now done in the slower months of early fall and winter, depending on the climate. Simply plant the seeds as directed on the seed packet and cover with a light mulch of straw or chopped leaves to help keep the soil – and the seeds – in place, and to maintain consistent levels of moisture and temperature.
If you'd like to read more about winter sowing and gardening in general, check out Jill's great gardening site at Show Me Oz, a fellow Ozark gardener and friend!