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Nourish – May 2020

Winter Sowing Progress Report

By Tamara Premo, Extension Master Gardener

Now that the weather is getting warmer (well somewhat warmer), I thought I’d give you an update on my winter sown seeds.  I only planted half as many milk jugs this year, because I’m focusing on developing my flower beds and cutting back on some veggies.  I’ll have to get those at the Farmers Market.  Below is a picture of what I’ve done this winter, mostly planted in early March.

In the next photo you can see that I’ve used several sizes of milk jugs and some clear plastic orange juice containers.  Personally, I think the clear plastic containers work better since they get more sunlight.  Also those pill containers tied to each jug contain the seed packet. They are waterproof and I don’t have to worry about my permanent ink pen washing off during the winter…like it did last year.  (I had to wait for some jugs to start blooming because I had no idea what was planted!)

As May starts to get closer I start checking my jugs every other day, mostly to make sure they don’t dry out, and to see if anything is sprouting.  This is my favorite part of winter sowing.  Yesterday I had 11 jugs with sprouts.  The photo below is one of my Bachelor Buttons, always the first to sprout.  Some other varieties that are showing are Dwarf Morning Glories, Zinnias, China Asters, Penstemon and some Speedwell seeds I harvested from my plants last year.

I noticed that my soil was dry on top but the soil in the bottom of the jugs was still damp.  We’ve had several windy days and no snow or rain to keep things wet.  I just took my gallon sprayer jug and gently sprayed the top of the soil in each jug.  You might think that the seedlings would die with our nights below freezing, but the jugs act as mini greenhouses and everything was fine when I checked them today.To illustrate how effective this system is, the next photo is my Agastache -Autumn Sunset.  I grew it as an annual last year because I live in Zone 4b.  It didn’t start sprouting until late July so it never flowered.  And I never got it into the ground!  So this plant lived in this jug all winter and to my great surprise it’s coming back and I’m thinking it will be a perennial for my garden.  My point in telling you this, is sometimes you will think nothing is going to happen with your seeds, but trust me they will germinate when it’s right for them.  Two years ago I planted pink lavender and never saw a seedling all season.  I kept them watered and kept them with my seedlings for next season and sure enough, they germinated and are growing well in my flower beds.

Tomorrow I will start my vegetables (shallots, bunching onions, cabbage, zucchini, and squashes).  Unlike some perennials that need a period of freezing and thawing (stratification), I start these veggies now to get a jump start on my growing season.  By the time the last week in May gets here (my time to plant) the plants will be about 5” or 6” tall.  If you have an empty milk jug and some seeds, try this method, it’s not too late.

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