Sow seeds outside in the WINTER??
You guys! I just found a new way to garden and I feel like my world has been turned upside down. It's called winter sowing, and I had never even heard a peep about it before until I saw it in the Jan/Feb 2014 Northern Gardening magazine in the break room at work. I was sort of puzzled and excited - could it really be true? Can you plant seeds and stick 'em outside in the winter and magically have seedlings to plant in the spring?
I googled it, and the answer is a resounding YES! I don't know how I had never heard of it before because there is tons of info about it out there. Even Bachmann's and Home Depot have info about it. Where was I - under a rock? How had I never come across this magical method before? Well, who cares - I am SUPER EXCITED about it now - can you tell? :)
I am also stoked that it will be WAY more green than using grow lights, and you generally use recyclable containers to plant the seeds. Also, seeds that say "soak overnight", "pre-chill" or "nick with a knife" you just plant and let the elements take care of that for you. I have many seeds I have never had much luck with that require this and now it'll apparently be easy as pie. I'm telling you, it seems like the best thing ever!
I don't know about you, but as a seed addict I have dozens of seed packets for flowers that I thought would be so pretty that I've never ended up with time for - or space under the grow lights for that matter. Now I can plant them out in containers and forget about them until spring!
Ok, so by now those of you like me not in the know are screaming at your screen - but how does this seemingly magical and impossible trick work??? Well, here are some resources with all the info you need to get you just as excited as I am:
Rest assured, I WILL be doing this for sure this year, and I plan on posting how to's on it as well, so stay tuned!
New Friends / Old Favorites
Here's some of the new packs I got from Seed Savers Exchange the other day. The are a rather nice place to get seeds, I might add. They had missed a pack of spinach seeds in my original order and just sent it to me today free of charge and I didn't even have to ask! Plus, they have a HUGE selection of the most exotic heirlooms. I found them when I was looking for my "tiny melons" which looked exactly like tiny watermelons in every way, but turned out to be Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumbers. Anywho, they're good. Give 'em a try.
The other seeds you see pictured here are 2 Mini Sweet Peppers (bought from a co-op and saved) and a Thai Dragon Pepper from the garden last year. (I'm crossing my fingers that it is not cross-pollinated, though it might make for an interesting surprise pepper!)
Others I planted already, but not pictured here are:
Romaesco Broccoli (better than the finest broccoli!)
Beams Yellow Pear Tomato
Amish Paste Tomato
Cherry Roma Tomato
Starlight Scentsation (fragrant night blooming flower)
And that's not all, I got lots more - stay tuned!
Update! The first pepper up this year was............The Alma Paprika! Congratulations to you!
How long do seeds keep?
That's what I was wondering as I pondered what seeds to order this year. I've got lots of bean and pea seeds left from previous years, but I noticed they didn't germinate too well last year. Is that because they're no longer good? And what about all of my beloved tomato seeds? I mean, you get so many to a pack that you never use them all in one season unless you have a whole farm. I've just got a little secret farm, so I went searching for an answer.
This is what I found:
Vegetable seed viability
beans - 3 years
beets - 2 years
carrots - 3 years
corn - 2 years
cucumbers - 5 years
lettuce - 3 years
peas - 3 years
peppers - 2 years
pumpkins - 4 years
radishes - 5 years
spinach - 5 years
tomato - 4 years
watermelon - 4 years
It also depends on how they were stored. It's best to store them in a dry, cool location away from light - however mine always seem to end up out on the 3 season porch every winter where it gets below zero for a bit every year - way colder than "cool". But last year I had some tomato seeds from 5 yrs ago germinate quite well, so I guess it all depends.
You can check the viability of your seeds by placing several out on a few layers of moist paper towels, roll up so that the seeds don't touch, and enclose the bundle in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out. Place in a warm bright location (65 to 70 degrees or so) but away from direct sun. Check the seeds every couple days, until you reach 2 weeks. If you put 10 seeds in there for instance, and 3 germinate at the end of 2 weeks, you'll probably have a 30% germ. rate. Of course then you just wasted 10 seeds, so I usually just go with the less scientific -sow more with older seeds strategy. No matter what, I always end up with more seedlings than I can use anyway.
Well, happy seed shopping!