Stephie McCarthy
Stephie McCarthy
  • Hometalker
  • Harpers Ferry, WV

Better Winter Sowing — Seed Trays in Storage Bins Outdoors

2 Materials
$20
1 Day
Medium

Winter Sowing can revolutionize your gardening by giving you a head start on the growing season. Plant seeds in winter, rather than wait until early Spring, and you'll find yourself hoping cold weather will last! Usually gardeners use recycled food containers for this project, but here's how I make Winter Sowing more efficient using large storage bins and ordinary nursery pots.

Winter Sowing extends you planting season.
Winter Sowing extends you planting season.

If you've ever tried winter sowing with split milk jugs, you know they are a bit clumsy to make and difficult to reuse or store in summer. That's why I put on my thinking cap and came up with a new way to Winter Sow using materials that I can easily stack and store off-season.

All sizes of bins will work for this project.
All sizes of bins will work for this project.

I use normal nursery pots and some recycled containers, and fit them inside of storage bins I've prepared for outdoor use. The bins protect the seedlings from wind, pets, and rodents. These will last for about 4 winters before becoming brittle.

Space holes evenly.
Space holes evenly.

I put several holes in the tops and one in each corner in the bin bottoms for air and drainage. I make the holes with a large soldering iron outdoors, but if you don’t have that tool, use a drill or an awl.

Seeds are safe inside, waiting to grow.
Seeds are safe inside, waiting to grow.

Snow and freezing temperatures are beneficial to the types of seeds I plant in my Winter Sowing bins. I choose winter hardy seeds, but you'll be surprised at the number of seeds that work well in these types of containers.

Bins protect seeds from all sorts of damage.
Bins protect seeds from all sorts of damage.

Even if you use plastic jugs in Winter Sowing, you can group them in a storage bin (with drainage holes) to keep them safe from strong winds and people with clumsy snow boots.

Let's see what's sprouting!
Let's see what's sprouting!

As temperatures rise toward the end of winter, be sure to check your bins regularly. Containers with lids will be at least 10 degrees warmer inside in sunlight, so you will want to make sure seedlings don't wilt.

Storage container as mini greenhouse.
Storage container as mini greenhouse.

In late winter, bring your bins indoors for a day to jump start the sprouting process. Once seeds emerge, be sure to keep the tops on outdoors if temperatures drop. Here I've used a lid to a cake carrier to warm some sprouting parsley planted in a barrel.

Round containers fit nicely over pots.
Round containers fit nicely over pots.

Here you can see how I use bins and plastic storage containers on top larger flower pots to encourage early sprouting. You'll gain about a month on the growing season using these containers wisely.

Hardy plants thrive with winter protection.
Hardy plants thrive with winter protection.

Here I've used a storage bin as a mini greenhouse over some hardy Japanese mustard. The lid is indoors, working as a plant tray.

Winter goes much faster with this hobby!
Winter goes much faster with this hobby!

This is a photo of my garden in the snow. The red arrow points to a storage bin over a patch of parsley. A hardy herb like this will grow well all winter with this type of protection.

Year-round parsley.
Year-round parsley.

Fresh parsley all winter, what's not to love! Thank you for stopping by. If you'd like to see more of my gardening ideas, please visit my Stephie McCarthy blog.

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Stephie McCarthy

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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