Winter Sowing Results of 2008

January 12, 2009

Now that I’m gearing up for Winter Sowing 2009, I should reflect on how it all went last year.

I slowly started five boxes around January 27, 2008 and on May 9, 2008 they looked like this:

Looking at these boxes, I calculated that I had a 60% success rate with my seed sowing.  Not bad for not really having to do too much after initial start up.  It’s a lot less work that starting seeds indoors and having to harden them off before transplanting.  The only thing I did after setting them out was make sure they had enough water and didn’t get too hot.  Some seeds definitely responded better to winter sowing than others and the ones that really did well were the lupines, daisies, alyssum, cornflowers, squash and zucchini.

The alyssum and daisies really filled out the front planter as summer went on.

Lessons learned:

  • Shell out a couple of bucks and buy a paint pen from Micheals instead of using a Sharpie on the plastic knife label.  The writing wore off and I had no idea what was what.  Eventually, I didn’t care and just planted whatever was still growing in May.
  • Don’t leave your lovingly-drilled plastic tote boxes outside all year because they break and crack causing you to rethink your whole winter sowing approach and make you wish you lived in the US so that you could buy recyclable gallon-sized milk jugs.  Don’t get me wrong, the totes were a good idea.

I really like winter sowing for starting things that I wouldn’t normally start indoors, such as annuals, perennials and some vegetables.  I like having flowers however I’d much rather make room on my grow-op for vegetables that I’m going to eat.  Winter sowing allows me that flexibility of having vegetables and flowers too.  And you really can’t beat the root system that comes out of a winter sown pot – it’s pretty impressive.

Happy winter sowing!

11 Responses to “Winter Sowing Results of 2008”

  1. Tessa Says:

    Everything looks great- I love to see others starting their own seeds and enjoying it 🙂 I’ve been starting my own seeds for a while and you have given me a lot of ideas. I’ll be sure to read more on your blog! I’ve found some great tools that really help cut down on space and cost of pots- soil block makers! Check them out at or Johnny’s Selected Seeds!

    Happy Gardening from Blunders with shoots’ blossoms ‘n roots!

  2. I like your set up for winter sowing, with the tote bin. (It’s unfortunate about the cracking.) They seem to have done really well. What were the temperatures like when you sowed them? When did they start to sprout? How frequently did you water? Did you keep them in full sun? I’ve read about winter sowing, and I’ve wondered how they’d do in my climate (zone 3).

  3. Kathy Says:

    Hi Northern Shade,

    Looking back on the weather history, the temperatures were a low of -11°C to -14°C at the end of January. They didn’t start to sprout until the beginning of April. I can’t remember how frequently I watered – it had a lot to do with how warm it got in the bins on sunny days (usually I’d water them when the surface of the pots were dry). I kept them in full southern sun on the back deck close to the house. Once it started to be reliably warm during the day, I’d place the lid on an angle so that the hot air could get out.

    I think it’d be fine in your zone. Your seeds will germinate later than mine did due to your cold climate but you should be fine. You can always experiment with a few 2L pop bottles.

    Good luck!


  4. Ellen Says:

    Loved the photos…best I’ve seen of the progress of the seeds after a period of time. I’m trying it this year for the first time.

  5. Thanks for the information.

  6. Catherine Says:

    I love your site! How did your winter sown tomatoes do last year? You said you tried ‘Bonny Best’, ‘Earliest + Best’, ‘Moscow’ and ‘Purple Cherokee’… did they all do well? Some better than others? Thanks! (and the pictures are great)

  7. Izzy Says:

    I’m totally inspired! We have no south facing windows or space for that matter for starting seeds indoors. I’ve never heard of winter sowing before, but I’m very excitted at the prospect as in theory this could work well for us. Your success at it certainly helps me believe I could also have luck with this as I too am in Kemptville!

  8. Kathy Says:

    Hi Catherine,

    I have to admit that I don’t know which tomatoes did well last year as I used a Sharpie on my labels – with the exposure over the winter months, the writing just faded away. I did have a few tomatoes grow from winter sowing and I put them in my flower bed to ramble about. I didn’t water them as I would have if they’d been in my vegetable garden. Needless to say, they didn’t fruit – most likely due to the lack of attention I paid them. I don’t think the Moscow did well as I didn’t pull out any determinates from the flower bed at the end of the season.


  9. greenlasagna Says:

    Try painting over the labels with clear nail enamel or clear varnish. It keeps it from fading.

  10. Dena Says:

    what kinds of seed’s did you sow? I’m going to try this year…

    • Kathy Says:

      I can’t remember all of them. I seem to remember that the cucumber seeds and squash seeds did very well. You can do almost all of them. The seeds that you have to soak/nick do really well with this type of sowing.

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